Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Carnival of Venice: the good and the bad

The world-famous Carnevale di Venezia, the carnival of Venice, is one of the most attended festivals in the area. Carnevale is a long-standing tradition in Venice, but nobody knows when it started and why. What we know is that it became very famous in the eighteenth century, when Venice was famous for its libertines and mask balls.

Photo I took of my friend and travel blogger Diana (Close to Eternity) at the Venice Carnival

Carnevale is celebrated everywhere in Italy, but only in Venice it acquires this characteristic aura, with traditional masks walking down the narrow calli or celebrating in St. Mark's Square. Some masks have become famous, like that of Colombina, who originally was a character from commedia dell'arte, or that of il dottore della peste (the plague's doctor), with the characteristic long nose to protect himself from the bad smells of the infected people. Some of the costumes are very expensive, others are "knocked together" from random clothes and old costumes you have at home.

Masks are sold all year around in shops in Venice, you can buy one for 5 or 50 , according to the material, the design, and the complexity of the decorations.

Masks for sell around Campo Santo Stefano
There are entertainment and music events everywhere in town, and people are up to pranks like shoving the famous coriandoli (confetti in English) up your face.

Things you can eat during Carnival: frittelle (fritters with cream or other fillings), and galani (a fritter-biscuit sprinkled with icing sugar). You can buy some in any pasticceria (pastry shop) around town.


The Carnival of Venice is the best and the worst moment to visit Venice. It is certainly a unique celebration, but it falls on a season that is relatively cold and wet, and the streets can get really crowded, to the point that you'll have to shove your way through the main streets.  The city gets flooded with a jovial atmosphere, but it's nearly impossible to get on a vaporetto (water boat). I suggest that you weigh these points BEFORE going. If you don't like crowds, don't go! If you like fancy costumes, don't mind a bit of confusion, and you have already seen the main sights in Venice, it's a fun moment to be in town.

Another picture from the Venice carnival

On two separate Sundays in St. Mark's Square you can see Volo dell'Angelo (Angel Flight) and Volo dell'Aquila (Eagle Flight), when a girl is chosen to be sent on a rope from the clock tower to the centre of the square. This year for Volo dell'Aquila the girl chosen was Carolina Kostner, a famous Italian ice skater who won a medal at Sochi Olympic Games.

Volo dell'Aquila with Carolina Kostner

I must be honest: I have never been a huge fan of the Venice carnival. I much prefer the celebrations in small towns, where you can simply enjoy the parades of allegorical floats. Perhaps I have seen the Venice carnival too many times, and perhaps it's that I don't like the crowds when I have to do my daily chores or I go out for a drink with my friends. Moreover, even though Italians celebrate carnevale all over Italy,  in Venice the celebrations  seem to be geared towards tourists rather than locals. Everything is about reviving the traditions that were almost lost, rather than observing a celebration that has been going on in the same way for centuries. As a matter of fact, the Carnival in Venice as a huge festival has been"recreated" since 1979 only.

Unofortunately, this year the Carnival has been exceptionally wet, with days when the horrible weather even stopped the concerts and the celebrations around town.

A rainy Carnival in St. Mark's Square
What do you think: would you go to the Venice Carnivel in spite of the crowds and the cold weather?


  1. I'm ashamed to say that even if I am Italian myself, I've never been to the Venetian Carnival. The amazing costumes is what attractive me the most, and I miss the 'Galani', they are delicious!!!! :)

    1. I think it's something you need to see once in your life if you're Italian, but only if you've seen Venice in a quieter period. Next year maybe!

  2. I have to agree, I would visit Venice during Carnival only after visiting during a quieter time and you've been able to enjoy the lovely sights that Venice has to offer. I must admit though, I'm really fascinated by the lovely costumes and mask worn during Carnival.

  3. Thank you for the informations,Stefania !


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