The Bare Traveller

Venice Carnival – The Ultimate Guide

Visit Venice during the carnival

Venice Carnival is just one of the world’s most popular events. How about you go to see the Venice Carnival from the inside this year?. With its mystery and tradition, it attracts a large number of tourists every year who come to enjoy the festivities in the streets of the city of Doges.

So don’t wait any longer to book your tickets: You will have an experience that you will not find anywhere else.

In this article, I will demonstate why you should go to Venice during the carnival. 

An individual dressed for Venice Carnival near Gondolas

What is the Venice Carnival and when does it take place?

The Venetian Carnival, which takes place at the end of the winter season, is a centuries-old tradition. While it now has a religious connotation, it was originally a secular celebration that allowed people to forget about their social and ethnic differences  and have a lovely time for a few days.

At the time, everyone was dressed up wearing costumes for the occasion, with no regard for who was watching.

Venice Carnival - two ladies with masks

Little by little exploited by the church, the carnival has been gentrified to the point of decline before reverting to what it was only in the 1980s. Today, the city is once again host to a large popular and touristic celebration.

It is generally celebrated during the month of February. It begins 10 days before the Ash Wednesday and ends near Mardi Gras. For five days, festivalgoers, disguised, congregate in the streets and on the islands to celebrate.

If you want to pick a date, come on the first weekend of the month, when many important celebrations take place. However, it is likely to be very crowded.

Things to see in Venice during the carnival

Festa delle Marie parade

For one year, the city’s most beautiful young woman is elected. Candidates are not competing for the title of “Miss Venise” but rather for the title of “Miss Marie”, the most important of the carnival. 

Indeed, it has been a tradition for hundreds of years to select one of the city’s young ladies and make her the symbol of Venice for the following year.

Lady dressed for Venice carnival

Each neighborhood selects a representative, and the entire procession marches through the city’s streets and along its canals before arriving at Saint Mark Square. They accompany hundreds of people to various weddings and events throughout the day.

Following that, after a final large meal, the citizens of the city elect Marie, who will play the role for a year and will inaugurate the Carnival festivities the following year.

For the record, this tradition, which generally takes place on the first Saturday of the carnival is associated with pirates. Indeed, in 973, a group of men landed in Venice to attack and kidnap the 12 young girls who were about to get married there.

When the fiancés were finally able to get rid of the attackers and reclaim their wives, it was decided to hold a celebration to honour the purity of these young girls. Marie’s election had taken place!

The Flight of the Angel

This is the traditional carnival opening ceremony, and it is simply incomparable. Indeed, every year, a young woman leaps from the top of the San Marco bell tower, the Campanile, to inaugurate the festivities. 

Impressive, the run is encouraged by a massive crowd just below. It goes without saying that the young lady must be brave: the tower is nearly 100 metres high!

Flight of the Angel Venice Carnival

The young girl, who was elected the previous year, will have the difficult task of opening the festivities the following year before returning to her title. However, it is important to note that this tradition is much older and has frequently changed form. 

The tradition was founded in the seventeenth century, and the first performance features a special guest of the city who was stranded in the void. However, in 1759, the cord snapped and the acrobat died. 

As a result, the tradition has evolved: Instead, the performance features a cardboard dove filled with conffetis is launched. In 2001, the acrobat makes a triumphant return, giving way to a prominent figure of the year. In 2010, it was decided that the acrobat will give way to Marie.

In any case, a moment of harmony with the venitians is not to be missed.

A parade with the Venetians

After witnessing the two most important carnival events, why not immerse yourself in the atmosphere and take part in the city’s parades?

Every day, costumed and masked Venetians dance and parade through the streets of the city, aided by colourful and floral tanks.

Venice Carnival - Parade with Venetians

There will be competitions, parades, and musical strolls throughout the city. The masquerade competition is also a real event that lasts all week.

Vote in the contest for the best costumes

The costume is a true Venetian tradition during the carnival. During the two weeks that this special period lasts, the venetians pay close attention to their attire. The dresses, capes, and outfits are colourful, brilliant, and puffy with their peticoats.

However, while elegance is a component of the parade, it is not the primary reason for the costumes’ popularity.

Venice Carnival a couple with Costumes

Indeed, for a while, it was a time of celebration throughout the city for people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. At the time, young and old, rich and poor, posh and slaves were all mingled and equal for the duration of the carnival. 

Wealth and money no longer mattered, and everyone was finally treated the same. Sure, things have changed since then, but costumes remain as important as ever. Then it will allow you to sink into the crowd!

Choose your best mask to wear

It is inconceivable to not wear a mask if you attend to the Venice Carnival, just as it is inconceivable not to wear a costume . They are generally of mint condition, whether they are characters or random white masks.

They are sold everywhere in the city, even outside of Carnival season, and are frequently made on the spot and hand-painted.

Venice Carnival Masks shop

Indeed, masks and costumes served to hide the identity and social origins of the Venetians. A poor, like a rich person could therefore be equipped with a Bauta, a traditional white mask whose shape was handy for eating.

Women, on the other hand, frequently wore a Moretta, a small black fabric that was wrapped around their faces. It is worth mentioning the famous comic servant character of Commedia Del’arte: Harlequin, whom is one of the most famous of the carnival. 

Explore the famous St Mark Square

The Saint Mark place, which is already very touristy during the normal season, becomes the focal point of all festivities during the Carnival. During the Angel’s Flight, the festivities are opened, and the most beautiful mask and best disguise are chosen.

To summarise, it is necessary to spend the next ten days in this location in order to see the festival’s main attractions. 

Until the end, of course: the Lion’s flight, which symbolises the end of the Carnival, takes place every year.

Visit Venice during the carnival

On this occasion, a massive banner depicting a tamed lion, Venice’s symbol, descends from the St Mark Campanile signalling the end of the festivities. You can then use the time to visit the famous Basilica of Saint Mark, the campanile, and even the world-famous Caffe Florian. 

The latter was founded in 1720, it is simply the oldest building in the entire city of Doges, and it is said to serve the best coffee in the city.

How to get to Venice for the Carnival?

While it is possible to find reasonably priced flights to Venice during the non-carnaval season, as you may expect, everything is much more expensive during the carnival season. 

Flight tickets from London and other major cities are extremely expensive, and it is best to book them well in advance. For instance, I booked my flights in November and managed to have relatively low prices using low-cost airlines such as Ryanair or Wiz.

Venice Boats

If you decide to fly to Venice, you will land at The Marco Polo international Aiport, which is located in the mainland. There are two ways to reach Venice Islands: Ferry or Bus.

Bus: From the Airport, take the bus 5 to Venezia (Venice) and from there make your way to your accommodation.  

Airport Boats: I recommend using the Alilaguna boats. The journey lasts for 40 minutes with fares ranging from 8 to 15 euros.  

If you cannot land at Venice airport, there are a few other options like booking a flight to another city, such as Verone or Milan. Venice will be few hours away! 

Where to stay in Venice during the Carnival?

Hotels,  airline tickets usually raise their prices exponentially during the Venice Carnival. It is then extremely difficult to find an affordable accommodation. My first recommendation would be AirBnb. 

I managed to find a room for two with my partner at the Allogi Gerotto Calderan, located a walking distance from the Santa Lucia Train Station. We have paid £200 for 4 nights Breakfast included. Which was a bargain for Venice during the carnival. 

So, if you want to take your partner for a romantic trip to a big palace, get ready to spend a load of money. Otherwise, you can book a room on a small island or in a town in the suburbs, this will be more affordable. . 

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