Let’s be honest. When you think of Venice one of the first things that comes to your mind are pictures of men and women dressed up in suits and ballgowns wearing the most beautiful masks. Wandering the streets with a regal pose to them on their way to a masked ball. In this blog post I will go over all of the details of what you can expect from carnival in Venice!
Where does this tradition come from?
If we look back at the history of this event the Venetian carnival was started in the year 1162 after the victory of the Venice Republic against the Patriarch of Aquileia. In honour of this victory the people started to dance and gather in San Marco square.
In the 17th century the baroque carnival was more of a front to show of the prestigious image of Venice to the world. However in 1797 the festival was outlawed entirely and the use of masks became strictly forbidden.
After a long absence the carnival reappeared in 1979. Since then around 3 million visitors come to Venice every year to celebrate this event and to admire the beauty of it.
All about the masks
The original Venetian masks were made of leather, porcelain or using the original glass technique. Nowadays they are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are hand-painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate.
Even though these masks are rather expensive I do encourage you to buy one in an official store and not on the street where they sell the low-quality masks produced by American factories. All of them look the same anyway, so if you want to be more original and authentic go for the real deal. Later on you can always use this mask to decorate your house.
Unfortunately the competition between the both of them declines the historical craftsmanship that is so typical to the city of Venice.
When to go
If you are visiting Venice during the carnival try to go on weekdays and avoid the weekend. When we arrived on Friday there was some kind of cosy business but nothing too crazy. This all changed on the weekend.
Once the afternoon started all of the streets were literally swarming with people, not only dressed up in nice costumes but also the more marginal ones like for instance: unicorn onesies, superheroes and a lot of very drunk people. So not the wonderful visual I had in mind unfortunately.
During the last day of the festival all of them come together on the San Marco square which is why the police also took some serious precautions there like applying a one-way direction and metal scanning upon entering.
If you do want to enjoy the magic get up early and make sure you arrive at the square around 8 in the morning. This way you will have the place almost entirely to yourself. Head over to the Canale Grande and watch the city wake up in front of you. Besides having the opportunity to take wonderful photos of the scenery you’ll also get the chance to take photos of people wearing the typical baroque costumes. If you’re lucky you’ll even spot some cute kids dressing up to the nines.
Where to stay
Boscolo – I stayed here together with my mom and both us really enjoyed this hotel. It’s located in Canaregio which is a more quiet area in Venice. Especially when visiting during Carnival, you don’t want to stay near Rialto or San Marco.