Fabulous! Carnival in Venice

In about 1985, I saw a photo of Venice during the Carnival (Carnevale), which included the masked and costumed revelers, it has been in my “top 10visiting list ever since.

What I don’t like about this event:

  • The beautiful city of Venice
  • A great party of 10 days in the streets
  • fantastic costumes
  • Italian food

carnival (Carnival) is the annual event in Venice during the ten days leading up to Lent, the last night being Shrove Tuesday in which there are several important balls. Of course, this is not just a Venetian tradition; Think of Mardi Gras in Rio or Trinidad during the same time of year, but my interest in fancy masquerade balls and beautiful costumes is far greater than seeing dancers in floss bikinis. The origin of the word carnevale is Latin (carnem levare or carnelevarium) and suggests a “farewell to meat”, which was traditionally renounced in the weeks of abnegation, during the period of Lent.

The history of masks and masquerade dates back to Roman times, there are records of the festival as early as 1162. The Romans celebrated the first part of the year with a fertility festival where masks were worn by all levels of society, including slaves. . The Carnevale di Venezia enjoyed a long period of infamy and notoriety during the 17th century, right up to the time of Napoleon’s conquest in 1797. At the height of this event, the festival began on December 26 and ended sometime in the spring. This period of gambling and partying coincided with the loss of prominence and wealth in the region, as the centers of power in Holland and Great Britain expanded their commercial reach. The celebration continued to decline and was actually banned by Mussolini in 1930. A group of Venetians and lovers of Venice restarted the tradition in 1979.

Today the Carnival it is limited to the period of ten days before Lent and is a huge tourist attraction. The city is very busy, hotels are expensive, restaurants are full, and the streets are sometimes just jammed. There are websites and tour groups entirely dedicated to the event. The range of party events caters to the rich and sophisticated (dance and music), families with children (chocolate and puppetry) and the college crowd (pub crawls).

You can choose to participate in the carnival celebrations in various ways depending on your tastes, energy level and budget. You can simply walk the streets or sit in a cafe and watch the amazing costumed characters that roam the streets. Spend some time in Piazzo San Marco, there are all kinds of special performances during the day and night. Choose to paint your face and have fun. Or you can buy tickets to any number of events, ranging from very affordable to very expensive.

We booked two nights in a great hotel just off Piazza San Marco. The arrival in Venice was actually easier than anticipated; there is plenty of signage, large car parks, and a central arrival point for the water transit system. Tea vaporetti (water buses) are very efficient, there are multiple routes and destinations available, at a minimum, every visitor will end up in #1 or #2 at some point, cruising the Grand Canal and Canale delle Giudecca (respectively). Buy an unlimited multi-day ticket; you will end up using the system.

Venice at any time of the year is beautiful; there are endless museums, galleries, and historic buildings to engage with all kinds of interests. Two things I would highly recommend;

  1. A visit to the island of Murano where the glass factories are located. You can take the “scenic” boat tour we did by mistake and actually see all the islands or go straight. In any case, Murano is full of glass and restaurants and is a nice break from the crowds of Venice.
  2. The Secret Itineraries Tour of the Doge’s Palace. This tour is something beyond the normal tour and it’s really fun!