When thinking of the Carnival, two cities stand out from the rest of the world, Venice and Rio. Given the cold temperatures in Italy since the start of 2016, my pick would definitely be Rio, but as I live in Milan with my wife and two small children, let’s talk about a more realistic travel option, Venice.
The Carnival in Venice is truly unique and amazing. If you are in Italy for a limited amount of time, you should really try to live this amazing experience. You will not be disappointed, but be warned, Venice, especially during the week of the Carnival, should be planned out in advance. The cost of improvisation can transform what can, and should be, a memorable experience into a tourist nightmare, and an expensive one too!
The Venice Carnival always takes place during the ten days leading up to Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Martedì Grasso). The Carnival was first held in Venice in the 11th century and consisted of over two months of revelry, until it fell into decline during the 18th century. It was revived in 1979 with great success and nowadays it is a great excuse to don a mask and costume, parade around the city, enjoy the live music in the main squares of the city, the events are organized by the tourist board and is a wonderful open-air festival where everyone can join in.
The costumes you will see range from modern and extravagant costumes, to classical and sophisticated ones. My personal favorites are the historic centuries old costumes, complete with makeup, hats and elaborate masks. Some of these are accurate reproductions, others are originals passed on from generation to generation within Venetian families!
Unlike the carnival in Milan and most other Italian cities, that is mostly focused on kids, the Venice Carnival has a huge adult participation. In fact, dressing up is the best way to get into the mood and it is also a great way to shield yourself from the cold. Venice this time of year is quite cold and humid. I would suggest to book a hotel in the city, somewhere within walking distance to San Marco Square so you can drop in every few hours to rest and warm up if necessary. Still, if you don’t want to stay overnight, you can easily get in and out of the city by train.
Most importantly throughout the Carnival, as you pace the narrow streets (calle) of this enchanted city, prepare to be amazed, let your imagination take you back in time and surprise yourself as you realize how intriguing and piercing a set of eyes can be, as they look back at you from behind a mask.
Article by Pietro Regalini
For more information: