Venice Carnevale is Italy's top Carnival, or Mardi Gras, celebration. Carnevale season lasts about two weeks, culminating on the day of Carnival or Shrove Tuesday (called Martedi Grasso, or Fat Tuesday, in Italian). In 2020, the festivities start on Saturday, February 8 and culminate on Tuesday, February 25. The weekend before Shrove Tuesday usually sees the most parties and events, but during all of Carnevale season, the city of Venice is abuzz with costumed characters, street performers and scheduled concerts and entertainment, boat parades, and food stalls. Even if you don't attend any of the parties or fancy masquerade balls, it's definitely a fun time to visit – that is, if you can deal with the crowds and high-season prices.
Highlights of Carnevale in Venice
In an already festive atmosphere, a few events mark the highlights of Venice's biggest party season:
- Water Parade. The first Sunday of Carnevale, a parade of brightly decorated boats plies the Rio di Cannaregio starting at 11 AM. After the parade, food stalls open on the canalside promenade.
- Festa delle Marie. On the second Saturday of Carnevale, this costumed, afternoon procession recalls the tradition of 12 of Venice's fairest young women being presented to the Doge. This parade, one of the few to take place on dry land, begins at via Garibaldi and culminates at Piazza San Marco.
- Flight of the Angel. This dramatic reenactment, held the second Sunday of Carnevale, sees a costumed angel "fly", suspended on a rope, through Piazza San Marco to greet the Doge.
The official website of the Carnevale di Venezia has information on these and all other public events associated with the festivities.
Tips for Visiting Venice During Carnevale Season
- Plan ahead and book your hotel well in advance for Carnevale season. Check these top-rated Venice Hotels or look at online booking engines for Venice hotels. Hotels typically charge high season prices during Carnevale season, so the farther in advance you book, the less you're likely to pay.
- Carnevale is an elegant affair in Venice, and while it's very festive, it's not a rowdy scene, even when the city is at its most packed. There's always lots of awesome public entertainment, especially starting in the early evening.
- People wear elaborate costumes and masks all over town, so there's a lot to see just by walking around. For the best Carnevale experience, wear a costume or at least a mask yourself. You can easily find an inexpensive mask once you're in Venice, or splurge on an ornate, handpainted version. Your hotel will likely be able to arrange a costume rental or at least refer you to a vendor – again, the earlier you request this service, the better – with rental prices ranging from modest to sky's-the-limit.
- Although the main events are centered around Piazza San Marco, Carnevale events are held in every Sestiere, or neighborhood of Venice, so be sure to wander into other areas. A fireworks show held in Piazza San Marco culminates Carnevale and the fireworks can be seen from almost anywhere in Venice.
- Most high-end hotels hold masked balls, which are smaller and more private than public events. They can help you find someone to make or rent you a costume. Attending a ball, including renting a costume, can run about €500 per person, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most formal Carnevale events, private parties, and masquerade balls require reservations ahead of time.
- If you're planning to visit Venice during Carnevale, the last week of festivities, from about Wednesday through to the Saturday prior to Shrove Tuesday, is considered the best time to go. Still, there's lots going on before the actual Carnevale date, including plenty of entertainment and costumed characters. You'll avoid the biggest crowds but still enjoy the carnival atmosphere.
- Carnevale dates change every year, corresponding with Shrove Tuesday forty days before Easter. Check upcoming Carnevale dates here and go to the Venice Carnival site for updated event information.
- Carnevale is a winter event, so the weather may be cold or rainy – see our Venice weather guide for average temperatures and rainfall.
Carnevale Celebrations in Italy
Original article by Martha Bakerjian