Masquerade… It’s Carnival Time in Venice

09/02/2017 Off By Deborah Welsh
Venice Carnival | Italy

One of the most eagerly anticipated and world famous events takes place this month … the Venice Carnival. This decadent, sumptuous and utterly glorious celebration of tradition, folklore and culture is the centerpiece of the Venetian calendar and attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world. It’s also a good excuse for a big party and let’s face it, there’s nothing wrong with that!

Venice, Italy.

In my opinion, Venice is magical at any time of year and La Serenissima continues to cast a spell over everyone who sets foot on her shores. It’s just so alluring and mysterious, and this is especially true during carnival time when it shakes off the post Christmas gloom. Locals and tourists alike abandon their sensible side and yield to the pleasures that will undoubtedly unfold.

Venice Carnival Masks

Venice comes alive and burts into a sea of colour and drama during ‘Carnevale’ which is all slightly surreal but that’s all part of the mystery and excitement. The Venice Carnival takes place in the days leading up to the pre- Easter period of Lent when many faithful Christians give up something they enjoy and embark on a time of sorrowful reflection and fasting. ‘Carneval’ literally translates as farewell to meat, hinting at the austere days to follow. The purpose of the Carnival celebrations is simple – indulgence. The general idea is that you could party hard and then spend the Lenten period recovering from the excesses.

Dating back centuries, Venetians have embraced this time of year with gusto, although the tradition came to a halt back in 1797 and wasn’t re-instated until 1979 after a lengthy absence from the calendar.

Different Types of Carnival Masks in Venice

The Carnival in modern day Venice is very much geared up for tourists and has become big business, especially for restaurants and hoteliers and you will find that prices can rocket at this time, reflecting the popularity of the carnival and the mystical draw it has for visitors to the city. However, regardless of the commercial success behind it, it is still undoubtedly one of the finest spectacles you could hope to see on these shores. Cloaked figures in elaborate masks weave in and out of the crowds against the atmospheric backdrop of the Venice streets, piazzas and waterways. There is a full programme of thrilling events including open-air celebrations, masked balls, parades and pageants –and don’t be afraid to join in the fun by dressing up in a dramatic costume…nobody would know it was you behind the mask!

Masked Woman at the Venice Carnival

Various explanations have been given as to why masks are so prominent in the carnival celebrations but mostly it was to hide the wearer’s identity, allowing them to be someone else, living out a fantasy perhaps? The masks allowed freedom to enjoy the excess pleasures of the season and broke down class barriers. Everyone from the Doge to the maidservants went about their business incognito as they maximized the chance to be decadent, savouring life’s pleasure before the sedate and frugal period of Lent.

St Mark’s Square, Venice.

The bulk of the action is centred around the magnificent St Mark’s Square in the heart of the city. The grand opening takes places with an event known as Il vollo dell’angelo (flight of the angel). Someone, usually a local minor celebrity or socialite swings down, harnessed to a zipwire from the bell tower (St Mark’s Campanile) right down to the piazza below. You can read all about the carnival events on the Carnevale Venezia website

Venice Italy

Of course, you don’t have to visit during Carnival time, although it would be a shame to miss it. A Venice city break at any time of year is always a good idea, especially if love and romance are on the cards. I would dare the coldest and most cynical of hearts to come to Venice and not fall in love all over again. For me, it’s one of the dreamiest and most seductive places in the world. Hailed as one of Europe’s most romantic cities, Venice continues to enchant visitors, capturing their hearts. Her maze of ancient alleyways, stunning palazzos and stylish boutiques and bars will fill your days and nights very nicely. Venice has a unique magic that draws thousands of visitors each year and it should be ticked off that bucket list right now if you’ve been dreaming of a holiday here.

Juliet's Balcony, Verona.

In fact, for me, anywhere in Italy is worth the trip, especially some of the other major cities and towns up and down the country. Nearby Verona is also a good bet for all you lovebirds out there. You can read more about my visits to the beautiful city of Verona here on talkholiday.

At this time of year, in the run up to Valentines Day, my thoughts always seem to turn to bella Italia for a romantic break away. What’s not to like? Pizza, pasta, Prosecco and plenty of passione. It has all the ingredients you’ll need for a full on assault on your senses but it’s the most likely place to rekindle your lovelife. Even if you don’t have anyone special to share it with, go anyway – you can lap up the treasures of this serene and seductive land and just enjoy la dolce vita. You never know, cupid’s arrow might just strike whilst you’re there…