Extraordinary costumes, weird and wacky masks, lively parades, parties and performances - these are the things that tourists flock to the Venice Carnival each year to see. As festivals go, the annual Venice Carnival offers an amazing roller coaster ride of social events, parades and opulent balls in this truly magical city, making the winter one of the best times of year to visit Venice.
The city of Venice attracts 22 million* tourists each year, making it a crowded place to visit at any time. Venice Carnival 2015 is one of the busiest times, taking place from Saturday January 31 to Tuesday February 17 2015.The Venice Carnival is actually free to attend the many public events, parades and pageants that take place in and around St Mark's Square, but you may want to splash out on VIP access to some of the more exclusive events.
If you're looking for a place at the wildest extravaganza that the Venice Carnival is known for, you need to book tickets to the Gran Ballo della Cavalchina well ahead of time on the Venice Carnevale website. This is where the VIPs hang out and is the grandest masquerade ball of the Carnival. Tickets to these magnificent masked balls start at around $500 a head so it's not for the budget-conscious.You can still be part of the Venice Carnival 2015 celebrations by joining the partygoers at other events around St Mark's and at the magnificent Arsenale, Venice's historic shipyards.
Wearing a costume for the 2015 Venice Carnival is an absolute must if you want to feel part of the lively festivities rather than just a bystander. You can hire or purchase reproduction costumes, which incidentally were once made by the inmates of the Venice Women's Prison.During the day Venice is like a surreal stage set with costumed visitors posing to be admired in historic cafes or palazzi. You may not win the Best Costume Competition but you will be glad of a swirling tabarro cloak in the chilly February mist as you stagger back to your accommodation after a night of anonymous revelry.
I mention the word anonymous, as wearing a mask is part of the Venice Carnevale tradition. Mask shops in Venice are as common as tourist cafes. Avoid the mass-market imports and browse the traditional mascarei at Ca' Macana on Calle delle Botteghe or Tragicomica on Calle dei Nomboli. It's an amazing experience!Venice Carnival Masks make a fun souvenir to take home and hang on the wall as a great talking point. These molded papier-mache, porcelain or glass creations are exquisitely decorated with velvet, feathers, sequins, gems, gold leaf and glitter and are all part of the fun.
The modern-day Venice Carnival follows a tradition that first began in this magical city over 850 years ago, in 1161, which was referred to as 'Carnevale'. The locals were celebrating a victory of the Republic of Venice and the dancing grew into a baroque-style carnival.Masks gave the wearer a disguise, allowing merrymakers of all social classes, including princes, to enjoy some mischief making, philandering or 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 in a grander-then-ever format.
The Venice Carnival takes place on different dates each year, depending upon when Easter falls, but it is always during the two weeks prior to the start of Lent marked by Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras). Known locally as Venice Carnevale, the word is derived from 'carne' which means 'meat' and 'Vale' which means 'farewell'. Traditionally Lent was a time of fasting after the festivities of Mardi Gras.
Visitors can watch the Zombie Walk from the Zattere to the Pescheria as the Living Dead gather to party, or enjoy the ice skating rink set up on Campo San Polo. The Pavilion in the Biennale Gardens hosts dance performances, events and activities and the Volo dell 'Angelo (Flight of the Angel) Beauty Pageant is awesome. The winner gets the honor of riding a zip line from the Campanile in St Mark's Square as part of the Carnival events!If staying in the heart of Venice during the Carnival is out of the question, Venice travel tips include looking for more reasonably priced accommodation on the mainland at Mestre or Jesolo. Trains run frequently to the city and connect the Venice Mestre station on the mainland with Venice Santa Lucia station right on the Grand Canal.
Since you're unable to drive in Venice, public transport around the city is excellent using vaporetti (bus-boats) along the main routes including the Grand Canal. However, most people get around on foot, so even if your mask and cloak are chosen for show, make sure your shoes are chosen for comfort!Although your rental car must remain parked while inside the city, there are many things to explore when you decide to drive from Venice to other cities in the surrounding region.
*According to the International Business Times