Vibrant Venice is a place of romantic lagoons, tight wound streets, beautiful basilicas, and popping prosecco. It’s that time of year again, when curious eyes turn to the famed Italian city as the annual carnival prepares to explode into the streets between January 27th until February 13th. With a rich history of courtesans, masques, gambling and grand balls this is the perfect time to see the city reveling in its most vivid moment…
A Heap of History
The Venice Carnival takes its cues from the leadup to lent. During the forty days that make lent – parties, rich foods, drinking and dancing were strictly off-limits. The bourgeoise needed to find a way to consume all their food and drink before lent hit, which is how carnival was born. Rumor has it that the term carnival comes from the Latin for Carne and Vale translating to farewell to meat.
The masks play a major role in the party scene of Venice, in the 18th century, venetians could wear their elaborate masks for six months of the year – to shield their identities when gambling or being involved in illicit behavior.
During the reign of Mussolini and during the Austrian conquest, Carnival was banned despite having been a favored celebration since the 13th century. Fortunately, in the late 70’s a band of Venetian artists started the celebrations up once more, and it grew to be the worldly event it is today.
Access; Must See Events
With a plethora of events, balls and costume extravaganzas making up the Venice Carnival, plan your time wisely. Start with the opening ceremony on Saturday at 6pm. The Cannaregio sestiere swings to life with acrobats, lights and water – setting the tone for the fun to come.
On the 3rd Feb, local artisans will gather on the cobbled square of San Marco to sculpt masques, lace tissues, and hammer out elaborate shoes. Everyday from the 3rd -11th there is also the best costume parade. Watch in awe as hundreds of ornate feathers, silks and sequins parade the San Marco stage. If you want to steal the best photos then head to Campo San Zaccaria where participants congregate waiting to be snapped.
The balls are a highlight of a visit to the Venice Carnival, be sure to book in advance if you wish to don your pearls and feathers to attend the dance. The most revered tickets in town are to attend a night at the Ca’ Vendramin Calergi palace where an eve of enchanting performances, gambling, divine decoration and 5-course dinner with wine can be enjoyed.
Eat; Delectable Dining
Nowhere does food finer than Venice, and after all – carnival is very much about fabulous feasting. Alle Testiere invites just 22 diners to experience the flavors of Chef Bruno, with his fish dishes fresh from market paired with fine wines from the passionate sommelier. Corte Sconta is a dreamy spot if the weather is on your side; boasting courtyard tables, vines, and a stunning antipasti menu with hints of lagoon fresh seafood.
Stay; Finest Accommodation
Go grand when in Venice and stay at some of the finest locales in town. The 15th century Gritti Palace sits right on the Grand Canal and is filled with precious antiques and fabulous frescoes. Sip a balsamic martini at the bar, avoid the Courtyard Suites and stay instead in the Hemmingway or Pisani Suite for the best views. If you want to be right on San Marco to watch the parades out of your window, then the Bellevue and Canaletto Suite could be the best solution. With only 11 rooms you will need to bag one fast, but it will be worth it to soak in the whirlpool bath, sleep beneath majestic Murano glass chandeliers and be in the heart of the action.
PS – Purchasing Something Special
Visitors looking to buy the finest and most authentic masks in town should head for Mondonovo Maschere. The man behind the mask is Guerrino Lovato, the most revered maker in the whole of Italy, he was even commissioned to work on the elaborate sculpted masks in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.
For those looking to transport their finery for the Venetian ball, Luggage Forward can ensure your gowns and cases arrive without a crease.