There’s no doubt Venice is a beautiful city, however the city really comes to life during the Carnivale di Venezia, which always takes place 40 days before Easter and ends on Mardi Grass, (pancake day). This year the Venice carnival will be taking place from the 11th to the 21st February.
Visitors from all over the world flock to the city to take part or simply witness this beautiful spectacle. Highlights include the parades, the free concerts, the lavish costumes, and of course the many masquerade balls.
Traditionally the carnival was an excuse to indulge before lent began. All the meat, eggs and butter had to be consumed – the world carnivale is actually believed to be Latin for ‘farewell meat’. However, whilst this has been celebrated for many centuries before, it wasn’t until the 18th century that Carnival really kicked off. With Venice’s decline in political power, the focus was turned to indulgent parties and celebrations, and so the Carnival of Venice flourished.
Under the ruling of Mussolini, the carnival was banned in the 1930’s, and it wasn’t until the late 70’s that a group of nostalgic Venetians decided to bring the Carnival back to Venice’s social calendar. Now it’s an annual event which attracts visitors in their thousands to the floating city.
Masks dominate the history of Venice and believe it or not it was common practise to wear masks for the majority of the year during the 18th century. Citizens were allowed to wear masks during two periods of the year. From 5 October to Christmas day, and then again from the 26th December (St Stephan’s day) until Mardi Grass. This meant that the people of Venice were able to be in disguise for the duration of the winter months. As you can imagine concealing identity had both disadvantages and advantages. On the one hand people were able to act freely without fear of being discovered, and on the other it meant you never really knew who the face under the disguise was. It was also customary for masks to be worn in politics and other state occasions. Mask makers were well respected and held a high status in society - they were known as ‘mascherari’.
The modern Carnevale
Nowadays the carnevale is easily Venice’s most highly anticipated social event of the year. The streets and canals come to life as both locals and visitors dress to impress in their finest ball gowns, masks and other costumes. Walking through the streets the words ‘lavish, extravagant and distinctive’ come to mind. The atmosphere is vibrant and exciting; the surreal sight of a floating city inhabited by beautifully costumed people feels more like a dream than reality.
A ticket to a ball can range anything between 30 – 400Euros. As for the costumes, there is no expense spared - the Venetians’ always display only their finest ball gowns and masks. There are also numerous concerts and for many the highlight is the Mardi Grass parade which marks the end of the carnival.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to witness this spectacle for yourself – there’s no better way to embrace the Carnevale spirit than by staying right in the heart of the city. A great option is to rent one of the many Venice apartments, this way you can save money on dining out and have more space to get ready for the parties… The Carnevale awaits you!