Is there anything cooler than being in Venice for Carnival? Not many events can add up the grandeur, class, fun and excitement of Carnival. As far as festivals and festivities go this is perhaps one of the most important events in the year for Venetians. Along with the Venice Film Festival and the Biennale, Carnevale di Venezia draws millions of visitors to Venice each year.
First celebrated in the 11th century
Carnevale was first celebrated in the 11th century to celebrate the victory of the Venice Republic over Ulrich II of Aquileia. With this victory the locals danced and celebrated throughout the night in San Marco’s square. Thus begins, Carnevale. The tradition grew more elaborate as the years passed. In the Renaissance the celebration became an official event. Throughout the festival’s history it become a prestigious and sought after event by many around the world.
In around 1797 the festival was banned
For Venetians it sought to show off their prestige to the rest of the world especially during the 18th Century. In around 1797 the festival was banned, and the use of the famous Venetian masks was not allowed. This decree was put into effect by Emperor of Austria Francis II. The event then became slowly an unofficial Venetian holiday to celebrate the days before Ash Wednesday.
In 1979 Carnevale was brought back
In 1979 Carnevale or Carnival in English was brought back and made an official holiday for Venetians. The festival now goes on for over two weeks ending on what we call Fat Tuesday. For Venetians the festival is a way to celebrate, food, life, partying and excess before the Lentin season when Catholics are called upon for forty days to fast and give up on particular daily luxuries.
If you come to Venice during this time, bring an empty stomach, an open mind and a willingness to party. There are a lot of amazing events throughout the Carnival in Venice, that are both public and private.
Here are a list of events and highlights that happen and to keep note of:
On the first day of the Carnival there is an amazing opening ceremony, that happens at night on the Cannaregio Canal. It is a truly magical experience with floating structures, jugglers, dance, a lightshow and music.
On the second there is normally, a water parade organized by the Venetian Rowing Associations. The parade starts from Punta della Dogana and will travel along the Canal Grande to Rio di Cannaregio. There is always loads of food stands serving up Venetian classics, from cicchetti’s (Venetian Tapas) to various Venetian desserts.
"Festa delle Marie"
The Festa delle Marie is an amazing ceremony to see brilliantly ornate beautiful traditional clothes. It is like seeing a live historical play. The parade starts from San Pietro di Castello on Via Garibaldi and the Riva degli Schiavoni to St Mark’s Square where there will be the presentation of the Marie of the Carnevale.
During the ceremony, there will be a reenactment of the tribute that the Doge used to reserve to twelve beautiful maidens from Venice, providing the maidens with jewelry for their wedding.
The day after the Marie parade is the Flight of the Angel. This marks the official opening celebrations of St. Mark’s Square during the Carnival festivities. The flight will start from St. Mark’s Bell Tower. This is a breathtaking event and certainly should not be missed.
Rent a Carnival Costume
If you are looking for a gown or traditional clothes to rent out for your big day out during Carnival, you should definitely visit the amazing shop of Nicolao Atelier located on the idyllic Fondamenta Misericordia.
This shop has provided the costumes for a variety of period pieces including the Academy Award winning Elizabeth, The Merchant of Venice, Casonova and much more. The place is a museum of Venetian historical clothing. You can visit their website here to book an appointment: http://www.nicolao.com/
Eat some “Frittelle”
Food is a big part of the Venetian Carnivale experience, you will definitely want to try the obligatory Frittelle. Only served during Carnivale. This amazing fried pastry of golden goodness filled with raisins, cream, chocolate or apple slices make doughnuts just seem rather boring.
We recommend trying all of the flavors. The traditional one is filled with spiced raisins and is simply perfect! The other variety of note is a frittelle filled with zabaglione. Eat it and worry about your diet plan later.
To get good Frittelle, we recommend trying out these wonderful places:
Best places to eat “Frittelle” in Venice
- Pasticceria Tonolo- on Calle San Pantalon, 3764
- Pasticceria del Mas- on Rio Tera Lista di Spagna, 150
- Pasticceria Rosa Salva- across for Santi Giovanni e Paolo Hospital
- Bar Pasticceria Italo Didovich- in Campo Santa Marina, 5908
You need to have wine and you need good wine during Carnevale. There are a lot of great places but we narrowed it down to our favorite coziest, locally owned and managed joint Vineria All’Amorone. Wonderful servers, an extraordinary wine list and some of the tastiest most creative cicchettis in all of Venice. Definitely, step out of the fog on your masked evening out and drop in at Vineria All’Amarone.
When in Venice especially during Carnivale, one of the most important activities to partake in is boating:
Whether it is a gondola or a classical Venetian taxi boat, seeing the lagoon from the water will complete any trip to Venice. Instead, of the gondola or the taxi boat, why don’t you try a ride on a traditional Venetian sailing boat from Classic Boats Venice.
The most authentic way to see Venice during Carnevale would be to ride on their all wooden Venetian-built boats. You can choose from the elegant Topa or the classical Sanpierota, historically a sailing boat for fisherman, as well as a rowing boat, the team at Classic Boats Venice have equipped these boats with a sustainable electric engine.
This ensures you see Venice, the way the Venetians would have seen the lagoon over a hundred years ago in silence. You can also choose the elegance of Sweet Molly, an all wooden beauty built in 1938 from Sweden, considered one of the most beautiful boats sailing in Venice. Lastly, the oldest working boat in Venice, Lady Betty. Built in 1894 this boat was built and used during the reign of Queen Victoria. The team at CBV has replaced the original steam engine with a modern quiet hybrid engine.
During Carnevale in Venice there is always something magical to capture. When you are walking through the streets at night through the fog people costumed in 18th century clothes, you really feel like you have taken a step back in time. Whether it is your first time or you have been to Venice before, Carnival in Venice is truly an unforgettable experience.