The Magnificent Venice Carnival
22 May 2020
The Venice Carnival is a magnificent festival of costumes and masks that is world famous. It is a cultural extravaganza of historic significance. People come from all over the world to see the elaborate 18th century-style costumes and masks which are the major attractions of the carnival.
The festival takes place annually in Venice and it is said to attract around three million visitors a year, making it the largest event in Venice. It marks the beginning of Lent.
The 2020 edition of Carnevale di Venezia took place between the 8th February to 25th February 2020, and the theme was ‘ll Gioco, l’Amore e la Follia’ meaning Game, Love and Folly. The parade started from San Pietro in Castello and followed Via Garibaldi and Riva degli Schiavoni and finished in San Marco.
My trip to Venice had been planned to coincide with this festival so I was able to be part of it. Unfortunately, the festival was cancelled after a couple of days because of the outbreak of Covid-19 which meant that all public gatherings were stopped. Nevertheless, I was able to enjoy the few days it was held and I was glad that I had not missed it.
The masks are said to have been worn in the past to hide the identity and status of the person wearing it, and the tradition has continued since most notably during the festival.
I loved the designs and variety of the costumes and masks. I spent time watching people watching each other. The people wearing the costumes and masks were elegant; they carried themselves well to show off their attire, almost regal! There was a kind of party atmosphere everywhere, lots of smiles and people posed readily for photos. Some of the masks were designed that the wearer could not speak, and they looked like porcelain dolls which fascinated me.
There are lots of free events that are open to the public so you are spoilt for choice. My friend and I chose to follow the carnival along the Grand Canal to San Marco Square which was the beating heart of the whole event. There was a beautiful stage erected on St Mark’s Square with the presenter announcing celebrities and each visiting carnival group from neighbouring cities as they arrive in the Square.
There was an award ceremony of the best masked costume but we didn’t get to see it. With so many beautiful costumes and masks to chose from, it must be an agonising decision for the judges.
Frittelle – Venice’s Carnival doughnut
The Venice Carnival would not be complete without trying these delicious fritters. They are sold everywhere but we liked the ones sold in a pastry shop in St Mark’s Square. And we preferred the fritters with raisins.
My very own mask!
I wanted to feel part of the festival so I could not resist buying myself a mask. Just to add here that I didn’t go as far as buying a costume!
I did not fancy any of the masks sold in the stalls as they were definitely made for tourists – and not ‘the real McCoy’. You would have thought it would have been a simple thing to buy the mask. But no – too many choices, designs and quality. The genuine masks are still produced in Italy, the old fashioned way according to the ancient art – no plastic there, I can tell you. As I wished to keep the mask as souvenir of my trip, I opted for a simple but elegant black mask made in Italy and paid the few extra Euros for the pleasure. I was complimented for looking the part – I was happy!
Carnival continued in Murano and Burano
Burano is an island in the Venetian Lagoon and it is famous for its silk work and brightly coloured homes. While Murano is famous for its glass making. We decided to visit both islands.
The hotel we stayed in offered us a courtesy ride on their boat to Murano which we initially thought was a kind gesture. But of course, nothing is free. We were ushered into the shop via a VIP entrance, watched a short glass making show and then quickly whisked into a separate section in the shop where special (and expensive) displays of items made by the master craftsmen where meticulously and beautifully displayed. They were stunning and irresistible. It is suffice to say that I bought an item, complete with its own authentification.
We enjoyed the carnival here too though it naturally had a different feel to that of Venice.
Venice Carnival 2021
Why not combine a visit to Venice with this prestigious carnival. You will have the most amazing time!
The Carnival is planned for the 6th February 2021 to 16th February 2021.