Category Archives: Venetian Traditions

The Best Moments of Venetian Carnival

Colorful, grandiose, and one-of-a-kind Venetian Carnival of 2017 is over. Let’s remember the most important moments of this celebration of Venice’s beauty, tradition, and history that brings millions of people to Venice every year.

Boat Parade during Venice Carnival

The grand carnival opening ceremony started with Venetian Festival (Festa Veneziana), which took place on the banks of one of the most picturesque Venetian neighborhoods -Cannaregio. This was a magnificent evening show of unique floating structures with music, dancing, local food specialties, and lots of positive emotions. The canal banks were lined with people watching the amazing floats go by and trying local Venetian gastronomic specialties. Festa Veneziana continued on the second day of the Carnival in a typical Venetian fashion with a very impressive boat parade along the Grand Canal. Apart from watching richly decorated gilded boats and even brighter costumes of the boats’ passengers all the guests were treated to wine, the best creations of Venetian and Italian cuisine, and of course various entertainment.

Murano Glass Hearts for Valentine's day

Lido in Love was an event dedicated to Valentine’s Day on February 14th. The island’s main square Gran Viale was decorated for the occasion with thousands of red balloons in the shape of a heart. This special event during the Carnival took place at the Love Market in Piazzala Santan Maria Elisabetta. Special booths with Carnival props such as masks and costumes were set up at the square for adventurous couples to take selfies. The Venetian couple masks parade later in the day brought the true carnival spirit to this celebration of love and romance for those lucky enough to celebrate St. Valentine’s in Venice – the most romantic place in the world.

Venice Carnival Crowds on Piazza San Marco in Venice

Another big event was traditional “Festa delle Marie” dedicated to freeing of beautiful Venetian girls from the pirates. The history of this celebration is obscure and mired in legend but most sources point to the fact that starting some time in the ninth century Venice had a custom of celebrating the catholic day of purification of Mary, February 2nd, by selecting 12 of the poorest girls whose weddings were scheduled for that year and providing them with princely wedding celebrations. Sponsored by the church, this tradition involved dressing the girls into expensive clothes as well as giving them rich dowry along with throwing grand celebrations with the doge. Once around year 943 during such an occasion pirates broke into the church of San Pietro di Castello and kidnapped the girls along with their rich dowry and gifts right before the eyes of shocked Venetians. The Venetian fleet headed by the Doge himself quickly organized the pursuit, caught the pirates, retrieved all the stolen articles, saved the women, and threw the pirates overboard. To commemorate this occasion the Doge instituted the official annual Festa delle Marie, or Feast of the Mary’s. The feast involved finding and choosing 12 most beautiful girls among the poorest inhabitants of Venice, 2 from each Sestiere, and naming each of them Mary. Nobility was invited to sponsor this event and provide girls with beautiful clothing and fine gifts. A boat parade along Venice’s canals was held to celebrate the Feast, special religious cervices were held in churches across the city, and fun celebrations with food and music were organized for Venetians. The celebrations went on for several days, and the occasion was one of the most eagerly awaited, lavish, and expensive celebrations in Venice. Eventually in 1379 Festa delle Marie ceased to exist due to rowdy behavior during the party and inappropriateness of the nature of the celebrations to the solemn spirit of the day of the purification of Mary.

The celebration was reborn in 1999 and became one of the key events of annual Venetian Carnival. Modern-day Festa delle Marie involves the procession of twelve young and beautiful girls selected in advance of the Carnival, surrounded by others in historical costume, which parades from San Pietro di Castello to Piazza San Marco. Eagerly viewers gather on Piazza San Marco to see the introduction of Marie, which concludes the celebration. This girl, the winner of the competition of Mary’s then becomes the “angel” to take the flight of the angel during the next year’s carnivale.

San Marco Campanile in Venice

On Piazza San Marco on February 19th carnival aficionados could witness the traditional “Flight Of An Angel”. The role of the angel was awarded to Claudia Marchiori, the Marie of 2016. The “Flight of the Angel” goes back to the historical Venetian tradition when an incognito guest of Venice would descent on a rope from the Campanile of San Marco down to the piazza, offering homage to the Doge. The angel is always the winner of the previous year’s Festa delle Marie. The winner of the 2017 Festa, Elisa Costantini, will become the Angel for the Carnival 2018.

Masked and Costumed Revelers at Venice Carnival

The beating heart of Venice, Piazza San Marco, became the center of yet another important event of the Venetian Carnival – the Competition for the Best Carnival Costume. The competition judges announced the winners in two categories: the best costume and the best mask. Anybody can take part, all you need to do is just file and submit a special form, deck out in a fabulous carnival costume and show up for the contest. You will then be given a change to walk on stage showing off your costume, but be prepared for the tough fight if you wish to win. The participants costumes are extremely elaborate, featuring gorgeous detail and decorations, complete with plumage, furs, wigs, elaborate hats, and of course gorgeous masks.

It is hard to imagine more grandiose and amazing celebration than Venetian Carnival. It is a mix of the old and the new, born from unique Venetian traditions with roots deep in the centuries past, a mix of romance and adventure, which attracts people of all ages and walks of life. If you never visited this celebration of life, history, and beauty we highly recommend putting it on your bucket list and experiencing these events first-hand.

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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.
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Christmas Celebrations And Winter Holiday Traditions in Venice, Italy

Just when you were starting to think that Venice couldn’t possibly become more magical, Christmas transforms this city into a perfect winter wonderland. While cities around the world deck their streets with lights and ornaments, Venice disappears into foggy wintry sights worthy of any painting by Canaletto. For those seeking peace and tranquility during the holidays, Venice may turn out to be the perfect venue full of concerts, hot chocolate, mysterious fog and, occasionally, snow.

The month of December brings serenity and quiet to the city, due to lack of tourist crowds strolling down the streets. This is the time of year when Venice is taken over by fog and mist, turning the island into a hauntingly beautiful scene. Although Venice does not go over the top with Christmas decorations, one can still find fantasy lights and garlands adorning its main streets and gondolas. Locals take advantage of this chilly time to gather together and enjoy a cup of cioccolata calda (hot chocolate) inside cozy bars. Contrary to the typical hot chocolate we all know, cioccolata calda in this region is rich and thick and will surely keep the cold at bay.

The weather is mostly humid and cold, with occasional snow and acqua alta Iflooding) in Saint Marc’s Square. It is advisable to be well prepared when it comes to choosing appropriate clothing; the wind and rain that sometimes take over the city do not make it easy for visitors to walk around. However, there is still a chance of getting lucky with sunny days every now and then. When this happens, Venetians will be more than ready to bundle up and go out for some Christmas shopping around the city.

One of Venice’s most charming experiences during this season is visiting the joyful Christmas markets, or mercatini di Natale, as locals call them. Springing up between Rialto and Saint Marc’s Square and starting from mid-December, the Christmas markets are a cheerful exhibition of Venice’s most exquisite arts and crafts. Some of these markets offer fine handcrafted articles like purses, wallets, stationary, jewelry, and ornaments. Others offer exquisite Venetian products that range from gorgeous Murano Glass to elegant Burano lace, to hand-embroidered fabrics, to timeless antiques. Typical food and beverages are also part of this show, sometimes accompanied by live music too. It is also common to find a wide selection of Nativity scenes and objects (presepi), most of them handmade, especially near the Rialto Bridge by the church of San Giovanni Grisostomo. And in spite of it being Christmastime, the Venice Carnival is never far from people’s minds, as we see colorful hand-made masks being sold at every market. Naturally, the whole city is also adorned with countless Murano glass decorations, and it is a great idea to visit the island of Murano for the Glass Christmas Celebration (Natale di Vetro), where visitors will be charmed by unique Christmas-themed objects made of Murano Glass.

While hot chocolate may sound alluring when hopping from one bar to the other, the Christmas markets offer a wide selection of traditional and tasty foods and drinks. Roast chestnuts, chocolates, candied fruit and mulled wine are just some of the yummy treats one can find shopping along the lanes. The famous panettone, or pandoro (Christmas cake) is found in almost every Venetian home and restaurant around Christmas.

The winter season also brings music and concerts, and so the churches and opera houses are full of crowds eager to spend the evening listening to classical music masterpieces. It is easy to find the programs by reading the posters spread throughout the city, or by visiting the year’s program online. The church of La Pietà, on Riva degli Schiavone, usually holds some of the best concerts by Vivaldi, who was once that church’s composer. Some locations like Ca’ Rezzonico, Palazzo Moncenigo or the Scuola San Rocco hold concerts performing traditional Italian Christmas songs; while at world-famous La Fenice opera theater the winter program ranges from Mozart to Verdi offering priceless enriching performances. Prices and schedules always vary from place to place, some being free, some charging nominal admission, some requiring previous booking.

While walking around the city with almost no tourist crowds to obstruct the views and waiting lines, it is also advisable to keep in mind that most tourist attractions are closed on certain days around the holidays. Museums like the Doge’s Palace, the Galleria dell’Accademia, Museo Correr and Ca’ Rezzonico close on both December 26th and January 1st. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, however, is possibly the only museum in Venice to stay open on the New Year’s Day. Schedules for the vaporetto (water bus) may also vary and should be taken into consideration for moving around the city.

Hanukkah is also celebrated in Venice, in the part of sestiere Cannaregio known as the Ghetto – the site of the first Jewish ghetto in the world, where Judaism and Jewish traditions are kept alive and one can see beautifully illuminated menorahs, unique Murano Glass judaica, and delicious kosher food prepared for this special celebration.

All these joyful celebrations and performances lead Venetians to the very much awaited Christmas Eve dinner (la vigilia). During this evening, Christmas tables all over Venice overflow with traditional Venetian Christmas eve dishes mainly focused on fish and seafood: Venetian risotto, ravioli in capon broth, eel, mixed fried fish and an assortment of seafood with vegetables and polenta. When it comes to visitors, they should book the restaurant quite early, since many of them tend to run out of seats or simply close that day. Nonetheless, many great Venetian restaurants like La Zucca, Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti, Alle Testiere, and Trattoria La Furatola, are always open for this special evening. After the Christmas Eve dinner, many Venetians take a stroll down the streets and canals and head to Saint Mark’s Basilica to attend midnight Mass, starting at 11.30. The midnight Christmas mass at San Marco is a unique experience for both Venetians and foreigners. This night, the Byzantine basilica is lit with hundreds of candles and incense, the famous golden mosaics set aglow, and the entire experience echoes the celebrations of the centuries past. Families and visitors alike flock to San Marco for grand celebratory experience on this special night. But the celebrations don’t stop here; Italians keep on celebrating with the Feast of Santo Stefano, on December 26th, leading the way to the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari to enjoy a free live concert and choir.

This is the kind of luxury Venice offers, the richness of its beauty and the bliss of its peaceful wintry canals, that bring it closer to those otherwordly visions we recall from ancient paintings. This is what makes Venice an even more magical place around Christmas and winter holidays.

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Venetian Tradition Lives On In Festa del Redentore Or Feast Of The Redeemer

The Festa del Redentore, also known as the Feast of the Redeemer or Redeemer Day, is probably Venice’s most spectacular and cherished celebration. Commemorating the end of the fatal plague that hit Venice during the 1500’s, on the third Sunday of July Venice gets transformed into a magical scenery, where boats and gondolas gather in the Venetian Lagoon to take part of the most awaited night spectacle. This is without a doubt the biggest festival in Venice.

Venice Festa del Redentore Fireworks

While Carnevale (the annual Carnival) may be the most popular Venetian festivity among tourists, Redeemer Day remains the most important and authentic of local events. Tourists from every part of the world marvel while Venetians celebrate with gondola races, impressive fireworks and delicious local dishes. This feast is rich in ceremonies, performances and theatricality; it is a jolly reminder of both tragedy and gratitude.

The Feast of the Holy Redeemer takes Venetians back to 1575. Europe had been hit with one of the most deadly of plagues, making Venice loose over 50,000 people in only two years. Belief has it that it spread mainly because of rodents and the poor sanitary conditions in vessels that traveled to the East, which lead people to praise cats as a decisive solution. Others, on the other hand, turned to divine salvation, constantly praying for the plague’s extinction. The Doge of Venice, Alvise Mocenigo, went as far as promising a magnificent temple dedicated to the Savior for public devotion, should Venice survive the plague. And so it was in 1577, that the city was declared free of the plague, and the Doge commissioned famous architect Andrea Palladio to build a church in the Island of La Giudecca as a sign of humbleness and gratitude. The end of the plague was celebrated with a joyful procession that crossed a temporary bridge towards the small wooden church that would later be known as Il Redentore. The church was consecrated in 1592 by Antonio da Ponte, twelve years after Palladio’s death, but the floating bridge connecting the shores of Zattere and La Giudecca still allows visitors to reach the church during this special celebration every year. Continue reading

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Venice Carnival – A Chance to See Venice of the Centuries Past

Carnivals are costumed festivities which bring together the traditions of dress-up, masquerades, colorful fairs, and street performances. Many countries, regions and towns traditionally have held carnivals right before Christian Lent. Translated from Latin, the word Carnival itself actually means “farewell to meat”. While the roots of Christian carnivals go back to the pagan traditions of Roman Empire, the first carnivals associated with Christianity appeared in various European towns around the IX century AD.

The first mention of the Carnival in Venice dates to year 1094 AD. Most likely Venetian Carnival became an annual event after 1162, the year when people gathered in Venice’s St. Mark’s square to celebrate victory in the war with Aquilea by dancing, singing, eating and drinking.

The most famous accessory of the Venetian Carnival is, of course, the mask, so you may be surprised to learn that no masks were actually worn during Carnivals until XIII to XIV century. The creation of an authentic Venetian mask is an ancient and complicated process. The gypsum form is filled with a layer of papier-mache made using a special recipe. The resulting form is set aside to dry, then polished and the holes are cut through for the eyes. A layer of paint is then often used to make the masks look antique. The last stage of mask creation is decorating – a slow and elaborate process with use of acrylic paints, real gold and silver foils, enamel, expensive fabrics, Swarovski crystals, plumes, beads and various other elements limited only by the fantasy and talent of the artist who creates the mask. Continue reading

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The History and Present of Venice Carnival

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Venetian Carnival, an intriguing mix of gorgeous masquerades, street fairs, high-end balls, and tourist craze set against the beautiful backdrop of Venice, is one of the most famous and highly anticipated events in the world. The Venetian Carnival in its present form has been celebrated since 1979 when Italian government and Venetian civic society decided to revive it as an attempt to re-ignite interest in Venice and its rich traditions. However, the original Venetian Carnival has a long history that dates back to the 12th century, if not earlier, and many of the traditions and glamorous highlights of today’s Carnival come straight from the Middle Ages.

Origins of the Venetian Carnival

Many scholars agree that Venetian Carnival has its roots in Christian tradition and that it has likely evolved as a way for people to indulge in life’s pleasures and have fun in the days before the solemn period of Christian Lent (a time of sorrow and reflection leading up to the Holy Week). One of the theories is that the Italian word “Carnevale” comes from the two Latin words “carne” meaning meat, and “vale” meaning farewell or goodbye, signifying the fact that during Lent people had to fast, avoid temptation, and give up life’s luxuries, in order to concentrate on prayer, reflection, and self-denial.
However, the Carnival’s history likely runs even deeper. Venice was founded by Romans escaping barbarians and built on the remains of crumbling Roman Empire. As such, it has deep roots going all the way back into Roman and even Greek history. Hence, Roman celebration of Saturnalia and Greek Dionysian festival before it are thought to have played a role in Venetians’ desire for a festival that allows people to be free from social norms. Saturnalia in ancient Rome was a time of complete break from normal social order and hierarchical boundaries, when masked slaves and Roman citizens alike celebrated with music, dances, symbolic acts, and orgies. Continue reading

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