Carnival of Venice Arts Festival / Party Every year in February/March

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Twelve solid days of costumed chaos awaits during the Carnival of Venice, an annual event that combines the proper traditions of baroque dress with the inherent nuttiness of Brazil’s own Carnival celebrations. As with... ... read more

Carnival of Venice Description

Twelve solid days of costumed chaos awaits during the Carnival of Venice, an annual event that combines the proper traditions of baroque dress with the inherent nuttiness of Brazil’s own Carnival celebrations.

As with other Carnival festivities that take place all over the world, the Carnival of Venice (Carnevale di Venezia) begins two Fridays before Ash Wednesday and lasts until Fat Tuesday. As such, Carnival of Venice is always in February and/or March.

Free-to-attend and attracting upwards of three million people every year, Carnival of Venice sees the streets awash in stunning costumed-revelers, and begins with a large procession through the city called La Festa delle Marie.

THE COSTUMES
The Carnival of Venice costumes are famous the world over, and include ornate gowns and flowing cloaks, as well as many different masks that can be purchased on the cheap from temporary stalls or for quite a bit of money from celebrated artisans who still make them painstakingly by hand.

THE EVENTS
The day after the first procession marks the official opening of the Carnival of Venice, with another masked crowd venturing from Piazza San Marco in the afternoon and marching through the streets. Following that there are jousts and mock-military tournaments, as well as the Carnival of Venice’s most famous event, the Gran Ballo delle Maschere, a traditional costume ball that takes place at a different location each year.

No matter where it is held, this Grand Masked Ball invariably sets up inside some grand Venetian palace, and anyone with the proper costume and mask is allowed in…so long as they know how to dance the quadrilles and other centuries-old moves required inside.

That isn’t all the Carnival of Venice has in store, however. Tons of musical and theatrical performances take over Piazza San Marco and several other locations throughout the city, and there’s also the insanity of the Calcio storico – normally held over the Carnival of Venice’s first weekend – which essentially combines football with bare-knuckle boxing in a district-wide competition where all the participants don period garb and beat each other senseless trying to get a ball across the field.

The Carnival of Venice rounds out with a stunning procession of decorated boats and gondolas making their way down the Grand Canal, all of which make it a signature Venice event as popular with longtime locals as wide-eyed first-time visitors.

Although its roots date back several centuries, no one is entirely sure why the wearing of masks became a staple of the Carnival of Venice. One thing is certain, however: it’s probably a good idea that past events like bull-baiting and firing live dogs out of canons have been taken off the schedule.

Carnival of Venice User Comments

Stephen R. Sep 15, 2012
Carnevale di Venezia is truly a blast into the past. Thousands of people from all over the world collect on the island of Venice once a year to celebrate the beginnings of Lent. Many people are donned in the most elaborate costumes and Venetian masks, many which I found out take years to create and are very expensive. The week-long event hosts tons of different events around the city, many of them being free or fairly cheap. If you are on the cheap side, you can spend days just walking around and taking in the costumes and sites. Also, the costumed participants are more than happy to stop and pose with you for a fantastic picture opportunity. None of them talk, but some of them are more eccentric and outgoing then others and will make you do a ridiculous pose with them. Mask shopping is also a must, and you can find masks ranging from five euro to hundreds. I was only there for three days at the end of Carnevale, so I missed most of the bigger events. However, I was able to catch a masquerade ball in Saint Marks Square late one evening. It was a paid event to get into but I was able to watch it from the gates. If I knew about it earlier I would have paid to get in just to get some of the wine that was flowing from the fountain. My last night in Venice I ended up in a random piazza joining an Italian version of a conga line and enjoying a band till the wee hours of the morning. That night was the highlight of Carnevale because so many different people joined in that random piazza. I would say it was more of the outcasts of mainstream Carnevale but it exactly my type of crowd.
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