Each February, enigmatic figures adorned in silk, lace, and long-nosed Scaramouches turn the City of Canals into the stage for a mesmerizing spectacle of masks, mystery and merriment
The Venice Carnival is one of the most renowned and spectacular festivals across the globe. Its origins date back to 1296, although it reached its zenith in the 18th century when travellers, onlookers, and Baroque aristocracy from all over Europe flocked to the city of canals in search of fun and pleasure. It was during this era that the captivating tradition of wearing masks and costumes, now synonymous with Venice, took root.
The 2024 Venice Carnival will unfold from February 3rd – 13th, with festivities commencing as early as January 27th. Due to its immense popularity, booking accommodation and transport well in advance is highly recommended.
Although there are many private balls in palaces and lively street parties to choose from, certain dates and events in the Venetian Carnival calendar are an absolute must if you want to enjoy the quintessential Carnival experience. The opening parade on Saturday 4th February is a wonderfully vibrant procession of colour and light that floats along the Grand Canal, showcasing the Carnival’s rich pomp and ceremony.
During the Festa Veneziana Sull’acqua, held on the first weekend of Carnival, the Grand Canal fills with beautifully adorned boats navigating their way to the Cannaregio district. It is one of the largest and liveliest neighbourhoods in Venice, stretching from Santa Lucia station to the Rialto Bridge. It’s essential to plan ahead, though, as the festivities conclude at 1 pm.
The Festa delle Marie takes place on the second Saturday of Carnival. It pays homage to a time-honoured tradition in which the Doge of Venice would bestow magnificent jewels upon twelve beautiful maidens as bridal dowries and organize a lavish wedding far beyond their means. Today, without the actual wedding, the procession starts in Via Garibaldi and culminates in St. Mark’s Square. It remains one of the few events held on dryland.
Original Sinners’ is the title of the official carnival dinner and ball at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi held from February 11th – 12th and from February 16th – 21st. Conceptualized by renowned stylist Antonia Sautter, this event embodies the elegant tradition of grand private parties. Sumptuous gowns, captivating performances, artistic displays, and an air of transgression permeate the opulent rooms overlooking the Grand Canal. To reserve tickets visit biglietteriaonline.tm.vivaticket.com
The Volo dell’angelo (Flight of the Angel) is one of the highlights of the Venice Carnival. In the ever-crowded St Mark’s Square, an ‘angel’ (usually the winner of the previous year’s Festa delle Marie) glides on a metal cable from St Mark’s belfry down to the square’s central stage. Previously dressed in white, the angel now appears wearing an extravagant multi-coloured, themed costume, usually with wings. The event begins at noon, but it’s wise to get there early to secure a seat.
No truly immersive Venetian Carnival experience would be complete without attending one of the traditional masked balls hosted by the various palaces and prestigious hotels. They are the epitome of the opulence and luxury associated with Carnival. However, to avoid disappointment, ensure you reserve your tickets in advance. Wearing a traditional costume is de rigueur, and while they are rather costly to buy, renting them for one or two nights is a slightly more economical option. Several companies offer rentals, including Ca Del Sol, Sogno Veneziano Atelier or Atelier Flavia.
Martedi Grasso (Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday) marks the grand finale of the Venetian Carnival. This parade is conceptually equivalent to the Burial of the Sardine in the Canaries.