venice carnival

Venice carnival, the February event in Venice city

One of the worldwide known events is the Venice carnival. The Carnival of Venice has a remarkable character, it is unquestionably best recognized for elegance and sense of mystery that it lasts after all the centuries, that is, after 900 years from the first record that describes this traditional celebration. Three hundred years ago the Carnival achieved it’s glory days. Despite the fact that Venice declined in power it persisted in having fun with it’s pleasures. As time passed the Carnival’s importance turned down until the nineteen thirties when Mussolini prohibited it. In 1979, some enthusiasts of Venice made a decision to restore the tradition.

It is a celebration having a comprehensive worldwide attraction. Year after year, a myriad of people, flowing in from all over the world, get involved in this big festivity, motivated by the need to socialize, wearing costumes, seizing the small walkways and squares of the town, in a wonderful way that only Venice can provide.

Carnival masks

carnival season in venice

The Venetian Carnival has always been special due to the masks. The reasoning being that the social position of the person wearing them is concealed by the mask. By doing this, the old Venice managed for the time being to overturn the social order. A few of the face masks portrayed Commedia dell’Arte figures. Some others were more intimidating.

What happens at Carnevale?

The historic carnival was a colourful and spectacular event with theatre shows, ropewalkers, jugglers, exhibitions of exotic animals and fireworks. The streets of Venice Carnival were full of people in masks, and no differentiation could be made between nobility and the common people. Today’s carnival still tries to convey the flair of the 18th century when the Venetian carnival was at its height. The celebrations start with water parades through the canals of the floating city, artistic performances and celebrations in San Marco square. You can still see some acrobatic arts during the Volo di Angelo (flight of the angel) when an artist flies from the clock tower down to San Marco square.

The most distinctive and popular feature of the Venetian carnival, however, are the masks. Masks have always been important in the Venetian culture and mascheraro (maskmaker) was a reputable profession. As masks were also allowed on Ascension and from October 5th to Christmas, people could spend a large portion of the year in disguise. Nowadays there is a competition every year for la maschera più bella (the most beautiful mask).

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venice carnival events

In the course of the Carnival men and women put on masks and costumes of various styles: Costumes that represent figures from mythology dresses associated with mother nature, to legend, to fashions of old times, to church personalities, and to personas from the Commedia del Arte.
venice carnival costumes

Do You Know These Curious Facts About the Carnival of Venice?

  • The Carnival Goes On No Matter What!

The quintessential festivity of the carnival is not meant to be interrupted in any way. In 1789, the Doge of Venice, Paolo Reneir suffered an untimely death and the carnival still continued with all its festive frenzy. It was only at the end of the carnival that the death was made public on 2nd March.

  • Everyone Becomes Equal In a Real Sense

The carnival provides the opportunity for all the men and women, whether rich or poor, destitute or famous, fishermen or shipwrights; to wear masks and stand as equals. The disguise allows the wanderers to climb the stairs of the majestic Palazzo Ducale and salute the Doge. What else one could want? Right?

  • Overdose of the Masquerade

The government in the country had to impose a ban on the use of masks for the rest of the year, once the carnival was finished. The intervention was the result of the excessive and adverse use of the masks throughout the year. In 1339, people were prohibited from wearing masks during night time. During the 16th century, the use of masks in churches and convents was strictly forbidden.

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event at the carnival

The main event at the masked carnival

Major events in Saint Mark’s Square
Festa delle Marie – The Parade of the Marie

The “Festa delle Marie” recalls the annual tribute which was offered by the Doge to a group of beautiful and humble Venetian maidens: the dowry for their wedding.

The “Festa delle Marie” is a unique opportunity to admire the costumes of the Venetian tradition. It is the first part of a beauty contest which is organized for the duration of the Carnival (12 girls are selected in the preceding weeks) and culminates with the proclamation of Maria of the Carnival, in the afternoon of Mardi Gras.

The prize: the Maria of the Carnival will be the Angel coming down from the bell tower of St. Mark in next year’s Carnival.

Il volo Dell’Angelo – The Flight of the Angel

The Flight of the Angel is the most spectacular event of the Venice Carnival and most probably the most photographed, admired and filmed by all international television stations.

An incredible show: everyone holds the breath and looks up at the beautiful angel coming down from St Mark’s Campanile slowly making her flight to the doge in Saint Mark’s Square.

The Flight of the Angel, wind permitting, starts at noon, after the last beat of the Campanile.

Before and after the square is animated by jugglers, historical re-enactments, and of course a great deal of beautiful masks parading on stage.

Competition: The best mask of Venice Carnival

Every day the stage of St. Mark’s Square is home to the big parade of masks with participants from around the world: an extraordinary show that combines lots of creativity with parades of individuals and groups, dotted with theatrical performances and little shows of masked entertainers.

The Flight of the Eagle

Since 2012, the last Sunday of the Venice Carnival 2017 coincides with the “Flight of the Eagle” from the Campanile of San Marco. The event, which follows the format of the Flight of the Angel, is among the most interesting shows in the square. Coming down from the bell tower this time will be a famous star belonging to the world of sports, music or entertainment.

The proclamation of the Maria and the Flight of the Lion

Fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnival, the last day of celebration before the rigors of Lent. The Maria del Carnevale, winner of the competition of the same name, elected the previous evening is proclaimed and crowned by the Doge, on the stage of Piazza San Marco. It ‘s the most important title to which a Venetian girl can aspire because it is awarded not only to her beauty, but also her ability to impersonate and interpret the spirit of Carnival and the essence of Venice.

With the “svolo del Leon” the flag with the symbol of Venice and of San Marco goes back up to the Campanile, ending the Carnival.

Major Carnival Gran Balls in Venice

One of the most sensational and amazing experiences of the Venice Carnival is to take part in a Masked Ball. Dress up in a typical Venetian Costume and for one evening feel like you have been transported back in time, enjoying the Venice of the old days.

The most enchanting and regal dance is the Ballo del Doge. The Doge was the regent of Venice, the most important authorities of the Republic. Il Ballo Del Doge is an elegant and worldly event, with guests from every country, some of them quite famous, who, for one night, hide under a mask and a traditional Venetian costumes.

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The masked balls are almost always private; those where very expensive public tickets are offered are luxurious, with romantic banquets, and with fabulous costumes you can rent daily from specialized costume shops. If you’re able to obtain tickets, spend on the Ballo del Doge, or Doge’s Ball. They organize an authentic jet-set celebration (available to all) in the 16th-century Palazzo Pisani-Moretta on the Grand Canal, nicely covered with Tiepolo frescoes and all sorts of 18th-century Venetian style. Those not invited to any masked ball will probably be in the same way satisfied having a mask and viewing the constant street show from a coffee shop.

carnival of venice costumes

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