What to see in Venice: Carnival

What to see in Venice? That is the easiest question to answer, as there are so many things to see that one visit to this magic city is never enough. The Venice Carnival is worth a trip to Italy in itself. The Carnival always starts two weeks before Ash Wednesday. This is the time when the streets of Venice fill up with people dressed in period costumes, one more magnificent than the other.

What to see in Venice
The Carnival masks

The Carnival tradition goes back to the 13th century although, with the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the ancient celebration and costumes were banned. Its revival started in the 1970s and became a huge success once again. Now the Carnival days are packed with exciting events; musicians, jugglers, acrobats, dancers take over the city’s main streets and squares. Campo San Polo turns into a beautiful skating rink. Many Venetian palaces host spectacular masked balls that rival the aristocratic galas of past centuries (expect to pay up to $3000 for a ticket to some of them). On the stage erected on Piazza San Marco, twice daily, runs a contest for the best Carnival costume, which is open to anyone. Over the years, it has proven to be one of the most popular events with hundreds of people strutting on the stage to show off their extraordinary finery.

What to see in Venice a mask shop
In a mask shop

The best way to enjoy this Venetian extravaganza is to put an elaborate costume on and get into the Carnival mood. There are many shops in the city that sell and rent historical outfits for any taste. Traditional mascarei, such as Ca’ Macanà and Tragicomica make beautiful Venetian masks, exactly like the ones that were worn by the locals hundreds of years ago. The most popular masks are Columbine, decorated with gold, silver, crystals and feathers, Medico della peste with a long beak, and the stark white Volto.

What to see in Venice Carnival
Carnival costumes

Photos by: Frank Kovalchek, James Song, JP Bennett.