Outlandish costumes, extravagant masks, lively parades and opulent Masquerade Balls - these are only part of the allure of the annual Venice Carnival celebrations.
What's the difference between ordinary and spectacular? If you're ever able to attend the Venice Carnival, you'll realize the difference is in the details.
Arrive in the island-city of Venice by boat and pull up to one of the stunning 15th-century palaces that overlooks the left bank of the Grand Canal. Before entering the palace, make note of its elaborate Renaissance fašade, displaying the distinctive elegance of an important Venetian palazzo, which, from another vantage point, also provides some of the most enchanting views you'll ever behold.
Inside the palace, romance is in the air - masked waiters make their way around the Grand Ballroom, serving you delicious hors d'oeuvres while guests - dressed in their finest Venetian attire - mingle and wait with shared anticipation for this unforgettable Masquerade to begin.
As you're escorted to your table through the first floor of the palace, you'll hear the melodies of a skilled pianist and instantly be transported - caught up in the history of your surroundings and aware of the joy and revelry of hundreds of years of parties which have filled this very room. While basking in the graceful ambiance of the candlelit ballroom, you also breathe in the sumptuous aromas of the fine Italian wines that are being served.
This one-of-a-kind gala dinner would not be complete without the myriad of talent artists and performers who make their way around the Ballroom, adding to the whirlwind of emotion, fantasy and wonder that come together to create one of the most memorable events of Carnival.
Admittedly, not everyone has the money to attend one of Venice's elite Masquerade Balls during Carnival, but fear not! The majority of Carnival events are free to attend. Parades, pageants and performances are the name of the game in St Mark's Square, where you are invited to join other partygoers for unforgettable days filled with vibrant festivities.
Your costume during Venice Carnival celebrations is the key to an authentic carnival experience. You're on vacation, this is your time to participate, so just say no to being a spectator. Hire or purchase a costume to blend in while standing out! A little known fact about the history of reproduction costumes in Venice is that they were once made by the inmates of the Venice Women's Prison!
When the Venice Carnival first began, masks gave the wearer a disguise, allowing merrymakers of all social classes, from princes to paupers, the ability to enjoy some mischief making, philandering or downright bad behavior without fear of being identified. The French rule of Napoleon brought the Venice Carnival to a swift end in 1797, but 200 years later, the festival was revived and is now - lucky you - grander than ever.
The Venice Carnival takes place on different dates each year, depending on when Easter falls, but it's always during the two weeks prior to the start of Lent. Some know it as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras - but Venetians simply know it as Carnevale, a term derived from "carne" meaning "meat" and "vale" meaning "farewell". Regardless of what it's called, everyone can agree on one thing: the Carnival is the best time of year to visit Venice!
Since this year's Carnival is right around the corner (January 31 - February 17, 2015), tickets to the most exclusive galas and masquerade balls are likely sold out. Fortunately, there are several opportunities for you to book last-minute travel deals and accommodations in Venice. Local tour operators are even offering packages with tickets to the annual "Valentine's Day Hearts & Dreams" gala dinner party. If you require a bit more notice to plan your vacations, it's never too early to start planning your getaway to the 2016 Carnival.
In addition to the many elaborate events that happen each year at the Venice Carnival, there are plenty of slightly off-beat events that every member of your family will be able to appreciate. Watch the Zombie walk from the Zattere to the Pescheria, as the Living Dead gather to indulge in a party of their own, or make your way to the city's ice skating rink that is set up on Campo San Polo. The Pavilion in the Beiennale Gardens hosts dance performances, children's activities and the Volo dell 'Angelo (Flight of the Angel) Beauty Pageant is a spectacle not to be missed. The winner gets the dubious honor of flying down a zip line from the Campanile in St Mark's Square. Moral of the story? The Venice Carnival isn't simply for travelers with a propensity for a lavish lifestyle.
There are many things to see and do in Venice and the surrounding region and we invite you not to limit yourself to the fun festivities in the city proper. Although passenger cars are not allowed in the city, having a rental car will prove invaluable for travelers who are anxious to see the sights beyond Venice.
Are you interested in driving from Venice to Rome or any other Italian city? Check out our driving distance guides for helpful tips on touring Italy by car and to help you find the most direct route in order to maximize your time.
Your trip to Venice may be a once-in-a-lifetime affair, so rely on Auto Europe for the best travel advice, as well as great rates on car rentals in Italy. We are proud of our reputation as an industry leader, earned over the past 60 years, and we provide our clients with exceptional prices and award-winning customer service. Reservations can be made online in three, easy steps by using the secure search form on the left side of this page, or by calling us toll-free, 24/7 at 1-888-223-5555.
What will the temperature be like during this year's Venice Carnival? This climate and weather guide offers answers!