"Il Carnevale di Venezia”, the spectacular Venice festival, is an event absolutely worth seeing and a truly unique experience: it’s full of history and tradition, lots of stunning costumes and the world-famous beautifully elaborate masks to admire.
“Carnevale” is usually in February and lasts about two weeks, culminating with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, on Shrove Tuesday (in Italian “Martedi’ grasso”), the day before Ash Wednesday.
According to the legend, the Carnival of Venice started in celebration of the military victory of the Venetian Republic over the Patriarch of Aquileia in 1162, where people danced and gathered in San Marco square to celebrate the victory. The festival became an official event during the Renaissance period in the seventeenth century. The baroque carnival was a way to showcase the prestigious image of Venice to the world. Carnival was famous throughout the eighteenth century but Francis II, Emperor of Austria outlawed the festival and the use of masks were strictly forbidden. In the late 1970s the festival came back when the Italian government decided to reinvigorate the historic culture of Venice and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centrepiece of that campaign.
The world-famous masks and costumes returned with all their vast tradition and glory, and are now judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers in one of the most important events during the Carnival: the contest for “la Maschera piu bella” (“The most beautiful mask”).
“La Serenissima”, as the Republic of Venice is known in Italian, is anything but serene during carnival and the chance to watch and to be part of this unique festival is an incomparable experience that needs to be well planned in advance because the city gets very, very busy during this time of the year. Hundreds of thousands people flock to Venice to celebrate this century old tradition. Meaning that on top of the thousands of regular tourists on day trips or weekend getaways, and coupled with that most schools in one of Europe’s largest countries have their holidays during this time of the year, you can expect the city to be absolutely packed.
It is best to choose and book your hotel well in advance, also choosing where to eat early. Always, always make a reservation. My advice is to go to San Marco Square early in the morning: The Venetian Police will limit the number of people allowed onto San Marco Square and keep the crowd numbers tightly under control to keep everyone safe. The Police will start blocking alleys and streets leading into the square before each event starts. Arriving early increases your chances to get into the square before the crowd control measures are in place.You can mitigate against disappointment by deciding which particular events you wish to attend, and buy your entrance tickets before traveling to Venice. During the two weeks of carnival, there are exclusive dinners and parties which everyone wants to attend, like the Venice Carnival Gala Dinner meaning tickets are impossible to find at the last minute.
HIDDEN PLACES TO DISCOVER IN VENICE…
THE FENICE OPERA HOUSE
The building was inaugurated on 16th of May 1792, on the Day of Ascension Festivities when the Marriage of Venice with the sea was celebrated. ‘La Fenice’ is Venice and reflects all its history and traditions. The concert calendar can be found online, tickets can also be purchased online or onsite, and even for those not particularly interested in music or opera, I would highly recommend a visit this incredible theatre.
THE VENETIAN GHETTO
This is an area of Venice where the Jewish community were forced to live by the government of the Venetian Republic. The ghetto was connected to the city by two bridges only open during the day. The Jewish people were not allowed in the city at night with penalties were imposed on any Jewish resident caught outside after the curfew when the ghetto’s door where closed. The original door can still be seen. This area is where the famous William Shakespeare play “The Merchant of Venice” was set. A gem of a place and with the beautiful synagogues and interesting historical Jewish Museum, it is a ‘must see’ candidate for any visitor.
THE "FONDACO DEI TEDESCHI”
The Republic of Venice, traditionally known as La Serenissima, was a sovereign state and maritime republic that grew into a huge trading power during the Middle Ages, further strengthening this position during the Renaissance. During this time the different merchant corporations each built their own trading posts.
“Il Fondaco dei Tedeschi” was the warehouse, headquarters and living quarters for the city’s German merchants. This stunning historic building is situated on the Grand Canal, near the famous Rialto Bridge, and has a terrace located on the top floor of the building offering breathtaking views. Tickets for the rooftop terrace are free, but you must book a timed 15 minute slot in advance to be able to enjoy the view.
THE SAN GIOVANNI E PAOLO CIVIL HOSPITAL
This is the modern hospital complex with historical 18th century facades and interiors, and now a helipad suspended on the lagoon.
WHERE TO EAT….
TRATTORIA AL GAZZETTINO - Delicious food at a reasonable price! Its one of my favourite restaurants to go to when I’m in Venice, and it is easy to find, being just behind San Marco square.
TRATTORIA DA MARISA- The best place to go eaing pasta or "risotto" for luch and fresh seafood dinner.
AL BOTTEGON- It's a wine bar with a wide choice of wine and delicious homemade traditional tapas ,"cicchetti" in Venetian dialect ,at a fair price.
CAFE' FLORIAN- This stunning and iconic Neo-Baroque cafe was born in Venice in 1720, the cafè Florian offer the best coffee, cocktails and snack in town.