Answering All of Your Questions About the Venice Carnival!

Answering All of Your Questions About the Venice Carnival!

Here are the answers to everything you might want to know about Venice Carnival 2019!

Here at Venice Events, we love everything to do with the Venice Carnival. It’s an incredible time of year when our beautiful city comes to life with decorations, parades, masked balls, and special events. The 2019 Venice Carnival is almost here and we’d like to answer any and all questions about it from people planning (or at least considering) to visit Venice for the Carnival. We hope this guide will answer all of your questions and that you have an incredible time at the Venice Carnival 2019!

What is the Venice Carnival?

This is one of the most common questions we get here at Venice Events. The spectacles and pageantry of the carnival are hard to ignore, but outsiders are sometimes confused about why the Venice Carnival is celebrated. The origin of the carnival is extremely removed from its modern reality. The Venice Carnival began in 1162 in celebration of the Venice Republic’s victory over its enemy: the Patriarch or Aquileia. The people of Venice gathered in Saint Mark’s Square (San Marco) to dance and celebrate their victory. Ever since then, the victory was celebrated in the streets of Venice. As time went on, the carnival was celebrated for its own sake and most revellers probably had no idea how it began. It was simply an excuse to have a lot of fun!

The Venice Carnival carried on for several centuries until it was outlawed in 1797 while Venice was under the rule of Francis II, the Holy Roman Emperor. Venetians’ use of masks to conceal their identities was also banned at the time. Occasionally, during the 19th century, the festival came back for brief periods, but it was always practised privately, lacking the huge public displays and festivities it’s known for today!

Jumping ahead to 1979… the Italian government decided to help Venice reconnect with its festival heritage in order to rejuvenate the culture and economy of Venice. The city’s tourism industry also saw a marked surge of interest. Needless to say, this was a very good idea from the Italian government and the Venice Carnival has grown and grown over the years into one of the world’s biggest and most popular celebrations.

When is the Venice Carnival?

2019’s Venice Carnival begins on Saturday the 16th of February and ends on Tuesday the 5th of March. The Carnival starts with its grand opening: the Festa Veneziana. This is a huge celebration at night on the waterways of Venice. Boats and gondolas shine hundreds of lights, creating a truly enchanting spectacle. The Venice Carnival’s date changes each year, in accordance with Lent, as Shrove Tuesday always marks the end of the Carnival as Venice calms down in anticipation for Lent and Easter. As the date for Easter (and Lent) changes each year, so too do the dates for the Venice Carnival.

How long is the Venice Carnival?

As we explained in the previous answer, the date of Venice Carnival changes each year, in accordance with Lent. This means that the carnival’s final day is always on a Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday) and the officials work back from then to figure out the best start date. This means that the full length of the Venice Carnival changes slightly from year to year. In 2019, Venice Carnival will be 17 days long, but it may last 15 or even 20 days in 2020.

When to go to Venice during the carnival?

If you’ve pretty much made up your mind that you’d like to visit Venice during the Carnival, then you’re going to need to figure out the best time to come (unless you plan to stay for 17 days). The reality is that the festivities don’t stop or slow down for the entire carnival, so there is no bad time to visit Venice. However, if you’re interested in attending one of our various Venice walking tours or Venice boat tours, then you may like to choose a time in the middle of the carnival as the beginning and end tend to attract more tourists and it may make getting around the city and appreciating some of its beautiful buildings and fascinating history a little more difficult.

However, if you’re only visiting Venice for the Carnival and are looking for the complete experience, you may like to choose your dates based on whichever Venice Carnival balls and parties you plan on attending or which Venice Carnival tours you’d like to take! It’s also a good idea to look through the entire Venice Carnival Schedule and figure out which events interest you most. Perhaps you simply can’t miss the grand opening on the night of Saturday the 16th of February, or perhaps you don’t want to miss the Festa delle Marie Parade the following Saturday. Make a hit list of all of the events that interest you most and choose the dates that allow you to see as many of these activities as possible!

What happens during the Venice Carnival?

This is another question we hear a lot. Often, people have heard about the Venice Carnival but they don’t really know what kinds of events and festivities occur. If you figure out exactly what happens during the Venice Carnival, you’ll have the answer to the previous question: when to go to Venice during the carnival. As we said above, make sure you take a look at the schedule to see which events interest you most. Here’s a short, non-exhaustive list of the kinds of things you can expect to happen during the Venice Carnival:

  • The Festival on the Water Part Two takes place on Sunday, February 17th at 10.30am. Unique boats, music and traditional carnival delicacies along the way!
  • The Festa delle Marie parade is on Saturday the 23rd of February and it’s essentially a re-enactment of a traditional Venetian beauty contest, judged by the Doge (a modern judge acting as the Doge).
  • The Best Mask Contest starts on the 24th of February and continues every day until the 3rd of March. This is exactly what it sounds like. Everyone wears a mask and they are judged. The winner of each day’s contest makes it to the final on the 3rd of March!
  • The Flight of the Angel is another iconic Venice Carnival event and it takes place this year on Sunday the 24th of February. The Flight of the Angel happens at St Mark’s Square each year, and it consists of a person flying on a rope from St Mark’s Clocktower. The ‘angel’ is usually last year’s winner of the Festa delle Marie competition.

How do you make Venice Carnival masks?

Venice Carnival masks used to be made from glass, or sometimes leather, but most modern masks are made from modern plastic materials that are easier to make and last much longer. Venice Carnival is especially famous for its ornate masks. Carnival masks are given elaborate decorations and details, with no two masks looking quite the same! For centuries, Venetians used masks to hide their identities while they gambled, drank, and got up to no good. The masks offered a simple way to protect your reputation without having to abstain from any less than reputable activities. If you’d like to learn more, you should check out our complete guide to Venetian masks!

How to dress for the Venice Carnival?

The Venice Carnival costumes are just as famous as the masks and lots of visitors ask us how they should dress during the carnival. The quick answer is that you should dress in whatever makes you feel comfortable. Whilst lots of people dress up for the Venice Carnival, there is no standard dress code and no one is expected to dress a certain way.

If you’re just walking around Venice, enjoying the spectacle of the carnival and taking in a few tours, then you may not want to be encumbered with a full costume. It’s usually enough to wear a mask if you want to join in and look the part.

However, if you’re attending one or two Venetian masked balls or parties during the Venice Carnival, you will want to look your best and to fit in with the crowd. For this, most revellers dress in the kinds of traditional clothing worn by Venice’s aristocracy during the Renaissance, between the 14th and 17th centuries. Obviously, this period occurred over a long time and styles changed throughout, but there is a unifying aesthetic to Venetian clothing during this time that continues to be appealing in the 21st century. Expect long, ornate dresses with ruffled sleeves and elegant velvet cloaks and capes. You don’t need to buy your own outfit, however, as you can rent your Venice Carnival costume from us directly!

Is the Venice Carnival worth visiting?

We’ve heard this question a few times now, and the only sensible answer is YES! Venice is a fantastic city, full of history and culture, and it completely overflows with atmosphere and festivities during the carnival. Ultimately, how much fun you have in Venice during the carnival completely depends on your personality. Are you the kind of person who loves parties and parades, and to be part of communal activities? Do you like dressing up and dancing and trying new things? Do you like experiencing another culture in an authentic, fully immersive way? If your answer to some or all of these questions is yes, then the Venice Carnival is most definitely worth visiting!

Where to stay during the Venice Carnival?

There is no shortage of hotels in Venice, so you shouldn’t find any difficulty when you start organising your trip. However, there are simply too many hotels to list in this blog. We will advise you to not worry too much about securing a spot right in the centre of the city, as Venice is not a huge city and a hotel outside of the centre won’t force you to walk too far to find all of the best spots. The plus side of choosing a hotel that is outside of the city centre is that you will find it much quieter when carnival revellers party late into the night.

That’s all we have time for in this guide. We hope we’ve answered all of your big questions about the Venice Carnival. If you have any questions for us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! There’s still plenty of time to start planning a spectacular trip to the 2019 Venice Carnival!