Venetian Carnival 2016: Top Tips For Enjoying Your Time In Venice (In Mask Or Not)

Venice is buzzing with expectation and joy as this year’s Carnival draws near. With countless events, concerts and parties, Venice has the perfect scenario for an epic celebration. This year, the city’s Carnival will start in late January, offering immersive experience, festivities, and great food for locals and visitors.

Just like every year, the city chooses a theme for the Carnival, and this year’s theme is “Creatum”. It encompasses the appreciation and knowledge of various trades and crafts practiced in all of Venice’s districts, showcasing them to locals and foreigners. To honor these crafts, the city is organizing an exhibition of historic archives at the Archivio dello Stato di Venezia (Venetian State Archive) opening from January 30th to February 9th. The stage will also support the Carnival’s theme, presenting the play I Rusteghi directed by Giuseppe Emiliani on February 3rd at the Carlo Goldoni Theater. Culinary talents join the feast and present Il Campo dei Sapori e delle Tradizioni (The Square of Tastes and Traditions) from February 4th to the 9th at Campo San Geremia. This will be an explosion of flavors and traditions all mixed together in a small pavilion near the train station (Ferrovia), offering the region’s most typical and representative dishes, a story being told through flavors of unique artisan delicacies.

The Carnival officially kicks off on January 23rd, with an astonishing spectacle on water. At 6pm, the show “L’Incanto delle Arti Ritrovati” (The Charm of the Rediscovered Arts) transports spectators into Venice’s history through a performance over the Cannaregio River, telling the evolution and importance of the city’s arts and trades. Music, colors and artists all blend together in a magical aquatic event. And this is only the first part, because January 24th offers the most colorful water parade full of adorned gondolas, costumes, and cheerful spectators all along Cannaregio district. The whole display will end near the gastronomic pavilion full of Venetian dishes and specialties.

Venice Carnival Masked Revelers
If Venice’s most characteristic display is the never-ending parade of beautiful handmade masks, it is only suiting that the city will host an annual competition for the most beautiful mask of the year. Il Concorso della Maschera Piú Bella (The Most Beautiful Mask Contest) starts on January 30th at Saint Mark’s Square at noon with a parade of exotic characters marching down the square to show every inch of their intricate costumes. Competitors share their unique handcrafted outfits by gracefully showcasing the rich and beautiful dresses, masks and wigs carefully chosen and crafted to win the final prize. Each day will offer a runway show allowing the public to vote for their favorite costume, leading to the announcement of the winners on February 7th.

Apart from the usual parade of masks and costumes the city is also overflowing with endless events and traditional celebrations. One of these is the Festa delle Marie (January 30th), a historical homage to the Doge’s humble gesture of presenting 12 young ladies with magnificent jewels as a bridal dowry. An awaiting crowd will assemble around Saint Mark’s Square while the 12 Marias start parading from San Piero di Castello at 2:30pm until they reach the main square to greet the public. The judges of the event will choose one winner out of the 12 girls, who will then be a part of the next great event: Il Volo dell’Angelo. The Flight of the Angel is another traditional celebration, in which the winning girl (from the previous year) plays the part of the Angel, a fairy-like vision that descends upon Saint Mark’s Square among the hundreds of spectators. It is a representation of the famous embrace between the Angel and the Doge of Venice, a historical reenactment told with accurate costumes and scenographic effects.

vanice carnival Lion Mask on Piazza San Marco
Fascinating gala events, dinners, and balls are of course all the rage during the Carnival of Venice, and the most famous of all is Il Banchetto del Re (The King’s Banquet). A dinner that offers the most exclusive cuisine and entertainment, this gala allows guests to experience Venice as it was in the 1500’s when the Arsenale of Venice was full of statues and decorations celebrating King Henry III Valois. This gala takes place every night from January 30th to February 9th at 9pm (tickets starting from €400 can be bought online at carnevale.venezia.it). The most sumptuous and luxurious of all balls is definitely the Carnival Grand Masquerade Ball. Taking place on February 6th, this masquerade ball welcomes guests into the most lavish and extravagant Venetian atmosphere. With Casanova greeting every guest, the 16th century palazzo will be full of actors, dancers, entertainers, historical characters, and a D.J; all of them dressed in professionally crafted costumes and masks. This is sure to be a feast for the eyes, a spectacular party full of mystery and glamour. Dinner will include the finest of Venetian specialties, accompanied by excellent Italian wines, while the music and night bar will continue to serve guests until the early hours (normal and VIP tickets can be bought at book-my-palace.com). You can never get enough masquerade balls in Venice, and that’s why the city offers so many choices. Another ball is the Mascheranda (January 7th) also offering a night of music, dance and entertainment for the guests. For those who enjoy a more romantic theme, the Fifty Shades of Casanova Grand Ball inaugurates its third edition on February 2nd and celebrates love as its main theme.

For those who choose to celebrate Carnevale in family and with the little ones, the city has also plenty of activities for children. For example, the Seventh International Carnival for Kids (part of the Venice Biennale) starts on January 30th, offering a laboratory full of didactic and sensorial experiences thought just for kids. Masks and dressing up should not only be for adults: La Mascherina Piú Bella del Carnevale is a contest in which children are encouraged to parade in their very own costumes and masks, competing to win first place.

Whether you’re planning on celebrating Carnevale with family or friends, Venice offers a world of parties and festivities that let you live its history and traditions through fascinating and sumptuous events. If you ever set out to find a beautiful city immersed in historic charm and grace, Venice during Carnival season is definitely it.

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