Inundate yourself with the mystery, romance, and history of the world’s illustrious Carnival of Venice. The festival is in one of the most enchanting and alluring cities in Italy. You will be nonstop fascinated by the breathtaking ancient architecture, dreamy canals, and timeless passageways.
During the carnival’s eighteen days from February 8 to February 25, 2020, the city’s beauty intensifies with the display of; traditional rituals, parades of exuberant costumes, masquerade balls, feasts, and be-masked odalisques throughout the city featuring the unique Venetian masks.
You will be enchanted by the jubilee of the thousands of visitors and locals that flock every year to Venice to participate in the festival’s unparalleled events such as the following:
Carnival of Venice Key Events
“Festa Veneziana,” is a show that promises to enchant your emotions with the array of costumes, Venetian masks, music, and rituals this magnificent city offers.
When? Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 6:00 pm in St. Mark’s square.
The Grand Opening continues with a water parade at the “Canal Grande.” Everyone will be delighted by the artistic boats parading the windy waters accompanied by alluring music.
When? Sunday, February 9, 2020 at 12:00 noon in the Grand Canal.
After the Grand Opening, the rest of the week enjoys the grand variety of activities in Venice such as historical sites, museums, and shopping this ancient city offers.
“Festa delle Marie”
Happening the second week of the Carnival of Venice this traditional parade and beauty queen contest features the twelve young Venetian ladies receiving spectacular jewels as their bridal dowry.
When? Saturday, February 15, 2020 at 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm in San Pietro di Castello.
While awaiting for the flight of the Angel, witness the gorgeous parade enchanting the crowd with their magnificent rhythms, costumes and Venetian masks. At noon, taking you back to the Serenissima period, the angel comes flying down a rope from the San Marco bell tower to meet the Doge and pay homage.
This ceremony is dazzling as the procession wears their gallant traditional costumes. Everyone will be delighted by this historical Carnival of Venice re-enactment.
When? Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 12:00 pm in St. Mark’s square.
The festivities continue all week long with costume contests and masquerade balls where everyone is welcome to participate. It is an amazing opportunity to be photographed and flaunt your extraordinary costumes and Venetian masks. The conclusion of the carnival is marked by the following event:
“Leone di San Marco”
The ritual of the immense lion canvas, the city’s symbol, waving up to the bell tower over the wowed eyes of the square audience signals the conclusion of the Venice carnival followed by a magnificent firework’s show that can be seen from almost in every spot in the city.
When? Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at 3:00 pm.
The Best Time To Visit Venice Italy
The carnival of Venice is not a myth but a one of a kind surreal experience that will captivate all your senses. No doubt, this festivity will take you back in time of the glamourous life of the Venetians, a must experience for those adventurous lovers of tradition and romance.
The beauty of the carnival is that almost everyone parades the streets in their elaborate costumes, mostly ball gowns. Nevertheless, you can wear any costume you want.
2# Wear A Venetian Mask
while in Venice you will find so many mask choices at every budget with the most popular: the bauta, plague doctor, and colombina, just to name few.
3# Plan Your Day Ahead
Check the daily activity program as it is not surprise that a new event can be added last minute.
What to Do?
The city of Venice is along the coastline of the Adriatic Sea in the northeast region of Italy called Veneto. During the 6th century Venice was the hub of the arts including music, theatre and public performances.
For many centuries, the Republic of Venice enjoyed prosperity but in 1470 started experiencing its decline due to a major naval battle lost at Negroponte against the Ottoman Turks. Nevertheless, its rich cultural past and alluring location still exists today welcoming thousands of visitors every year to parade the unique streets and participate in the grandiose Venice Carnival.
The main events of the Venice Mask Carnival are held in St. Mark’s Square. During Carnival, a huge stage is usually erected within the square and it becomes a centre of activity and a staging point for parades.
The Arsenale (old shipyard) is also commonly used to host water-pageants and historical re-enactments. Throughout the city, you will bump into locals and tourists dressed in full costume; complete with spectacularly detailed face masks – the effect is quite astounding!
Explore the city
When staying in Venice for the Carnival, we strongly recommend exploring the city and surrounding islands. Venice, after all, is a historic and unique settlement renowned for its beautiful waterways and opulent Renaissance architecture. The below is a list of three must-see attractions/locations we advise visiting when staying in this city:
Most tourists either stay on the main island of Venice or visit Murano and Burano – whilst there is plenty to see at these locations, don’t overlook the Lido! This stretch of land acts as a barrier between Venice and the Adriatic Sea and has a gorgeous stretch of beach.
It is possible to travel to the Lido via Vaporetto (water bus) and the main stop is located on the eastern coast of the Lido at San Nicolo. From here you can amble through the pleasant town and head on over to the beach. Enjoy some relaxation, Italian sun, and maybe a delicious ice-cream – perfection!
St. Mark’s Basilica
Although St. Mark’s is one of the main sights in Venice; you simply cannot miss experiencing this magnificent Basilica. You can purchase tickets either online, at one of the tourist offices, or in the Basilica itself. One thing to mention is that queue times can be lengthy – you may want to consider purchasing a fast track ticket to avoid hours of waiting.
The exterior of the Basilica is truly beautiful with a series of ornate frescos that still retain much of their original colour despite their old age. What really sets this triumph of architecture apart, however, is the interior.
Every inch of the interior walls, ceilings and arches is decorated with opulent artwork that is laced with gold and bright colours – the effect is quite breath-taking! Consider viewing the exterior of the Basilica and St. Mark’s square at night too as the buildings are lit up with fantastic spot-lights.
The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal is a marvel of waterway engineering and serves as the main thoroughfare through the island of Venice. It is possible to cross this immense canal via the traditional gondola, or via the Vaporetto taxi system.
We advise exploring this beautiful stretch of water and enjoying a gondola ride – if you have a little spare cash, consider taking a private water taxi from the Rialto Bridge right through to St. Mark’s Square. Additionally, be sure to head on up to both the Ponte de L’Academie and the Rialto Bridge to take some iconic shots of the canal!
Where to Stay?
Venice is one of the most popular tourist locations in Italy (and indeed the world). Millions of visitors flock to this island city even during the winter months. The history, architecture, canals and lifestyle that Venice exhibits is a huge draw.
Due to this fact, finding good quality accommodation in Venice is quite easy – there is a multitude of hotels, b&b’s and hostels to choose from.
The only thing to remember when picking a hotel during this period, however, is that prices will usually be higher and availability will be scarce – book in advance to avoid disappointment! To help hasten the process, we have selected three accommodation choices for your Venice Carnival experience:
First, we have the moderately priced Casa Favaretto. Located directly on the Grand Canal, this hotel benefits from a fantastic location – you can reach St. Mark’s square within 10 minutes on foot! Furthermore, there is a Vaporetto station directly outside – perfect for travelling to the other islands or airport. The rooms are basic but comfortable, and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes on the adjacent Via Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Next, we have the budget option for the price conscious traveller – The Generator Hostel. Located on Giudecca Island (opposite side of the Grand Canal to St. Mark’s), from this hostel you can reach the main attractions in less than 10 minutes via water bus. The hostel itself has a boutique feel with richly decorated rooms and communal areas. For less than £40.00 per night, there really is no better option in Venice for those looking to save their cash!
Last, we have the luxury Hotel Casanova complete with rooftop terrace and finely decorated suites. You can find this charming hotel just a few metres from St. Mark’s Square and the Palazzo Ducale. Everything about this establishment speaks of style and class and the furnishings are superb. With free WiFi, air conditioning and a daily breakfast, Hotel Casanova is a top pick!
What and Where to Eat?
The Carnival of Venice is encompassed with the renown delicious Italian cuisine. Surely, everyone will enjoy the eno-gastronomic (an expression of the local culture through food and wine) restaurants, osterias, and more offering delicious traditional dishes, such as the ancient regional ‘Risi I Bisi, a combination of peas andrisotto (rice) and soup cooked with chunks of Italian bacon, a favourite among Venetian’s homes.
From the Sea
In addition, there is a great variety of fresh seafood dishes as ‘sarde in saor,’ a sour-sweet fried sardine marinated in vinegar, raisings, nuts and onions, a true middle age dish still predominant in Venice 21st century cuisine.
For dessert, try the Venice Carnival’s favourite ‘frittelle,’ a fried sweet doughnut with choice of plain or filled with Nutella, cream, or chocolate, so creamy everyone will want more and of course you cannot go without tasting the incomparable Italian gelato, an ice cream so delicious hard to find outside Italy.
Wine and more
Drinking options are endless, however, a carnival specialty is Mulled wine, a warmed red wine containing orange peel, spices and sugar, worth trying. Another must drink while in Venice is “Bellini,” a sparkling wine mixed with Prosecco and peach juice or drink just Prosecco, widely available in this Veneto region, a sign of great Venetian life.
Topping our list, we have the sublime Ristorante Riviera – this establishment is located on Fondamenta Zattera opposite the island of Giudecca. Serving traditional Venetian cuisine with a modern twist, this restaurant is renowned for its quality and dishes such as gnocchi, pappardelle and of course spaghetti.
Trattoria Alla Rampa
If you enjoy a rustic and homely atmosphere, consider eating at the Trattoria Alla Rampa. This quiet but inviting restaurant is tucked away at the end of Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. The Trattoria serves some absolutely delicious pizza varieties – the taste and texture are virtually perfect! You can also enjoy some local ales and of course a gorgeous homemade lasagne.
Finally, if you enjoy vegetarian or vegan cuisine, Frary’s is one of the top choices in the city. Although this restaurant does serve meat dishes, it has a dedicated vegetarian menu serving concoctions such as vegetable tagines, fessenjun and dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice). Each meal is prepared using fresh produce and the service is second to none!
How to Get There?
If you want to experience the true spirit of the Venice Mask Carnival, you simply have to stay in the city itself. You could stop in one of the neighbouring cities such as Treviso, Padua or Vicenza, but nothing beats actually stopping on the main Island of Venice. For those travelling to Venice during Carnival, we have provided a brief guide to the cities transport system:
Venice is served by two main airports – Marco Polo and Treviso. Both airports are located on the mainland and require additional transport to reach Venice itself.
Aeroporto Marco Polo di Venezia
Marco Polo airport is the largest airport serving Venice and is located next to the small coastal town of Tessera. This airport is actually the fifth busiest in Italy and accounts for some 9 million passengers per year.
Airlines servicing Marco Polo include Aer Lingus, Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Airlines, EasyJet, Emirates, Jet2, Lufthansa, KLM, Ryanair, Qatar Airways and United Airlines.
From the airport
As this airport is located on the mainland, it benefits from a direct waterbus service into the centre of Venice. This Vaporetto service is the easiest and quickest way to reach Venice – the boats travel frequently, and have numerous stops along the Grand Canal, and at neighbouring islands such as Murano and Burano. The Alilaguna waterbus service is the most prominent and reliable and tickets range from 14 Euros for a one-way trip.
Aeroporto di Treviso
Treviso is the smaller airport servicing Venice and mainly deals with budget airlines. If you are looking for a cheaper flight, consider searching for inbound options to Treviso – the cost is often less than Marco Polo. Airlines servicing this airport include Albawings, Pobeda, Ryanair and Wizz Air.
From the Airport
To reach Venice itself from Treviso you can travel via bus or train. The train service starts at Treviso Centrale and travels directly to the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia – tickets typically cost approximately 9 Euros each. Shuttle bus services are operated directly from the airport and take approximately 40 minutes to each Venice – notable bus companies include Barzi, Ryanair and ATVO.
There is also a public bus network leaving from Piazza Roma that connects the historic center to the Mainland and more destinations, the best part is the bus cost is very reasonable.
Venice itself is a pleasant city to travel around and offers a unique transportation system not available in other locations. There are no cars or roads within the city, so forget about driving and parking!
The best way to travel is via Gondola and Vaporetto, or simply on foot. If you are staying in a hotel on the main island, you can reach most of the Carnival festivities on foot – we advise taking a map with you at all times however as the canals and walkways can be confusing!
If you want to travel longer distances, we advise making use of the Vaporetto service. This service is operated by ACTV and is the main form of transport within Venice. The waterbus service is extremely well organised and reliable. You can purchase tickets from any of the stations and it is possible to purchase single fares, or daily/weekly passes. Fares range from a few Euros for short single trips, up to 10+ Euros for multitrip passes.
Carnival Of Venice History
The Venice Carnival started as a celebration of the ‘Serenissima Repubblica’ victory in the year 1162, some historians proclaimed that the people in jubilee started gathering and dancing in the San Marco Square but the carnival became official in the Renaissance period continuously taking place until the 18th century.
The history behind the use of Venetian masks was the result of the town’s people desire to defy the rigid caste system and become someone else, the mask gave them the highly desired anonymity in this populated city.
Nevertheless, in 1797 the King of Austria, forbidden the use of masks, therefore, outlawing the festival. The carnival came back in full swing in 1979, when the Italian government decided to attract visitors to the city during a not so popular time resuming the carnival.