Mystery, intrigue and drama against the backdrop of the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’ or Venice as we know it; exquisitely designed masks in gold and vibrant hues, and music, dance and revelry– that’s the Venice Carnival for you. Turn back the pages of history and go back in time to the 15th century as you celebrate one of the most lively pre-Easter festivals in the world.
Photo Credit: Nemodus photos / Flickr
The annual Carnival of Venice started out as an event to mark the beginning of the spring season; citizens wore elaborate masks to hide their identity and live freely without any fear in one of the most rigid hierarchies. Today, the carnival is a celebration of life and has become one of the most awaited festivals in all of Europe. Being incognito and dancing the night away without a care in the world seems like a seductive proposition and the one place you can do it all is at the Venice Carnival.
The Big Cover Up!
The most important event at the carnival is the Contest for the Best Mask, La Maschera piu bella, judged by an international jury consisting of costume and fashion designers. So, the first thing on your agenda once you land in Venice should be to scout for a beautiful, ornate Venetian mask to wear at the event. Choose from a wide range of traditional Venetian masks, from the simplistic Moretta, to the quintessential Venetian Volto or the rather ominous Medico della Peste (The Plague Doctor) variety. The next thing you need to do is rent a period costume to go with your mask, and heading to an atelier would be a wise step. Masks of traditional characters like the famous comedians, Harlequin and Pierrot, are quite popular at the event. In the past few years, ‘fantasy masks’ created on the whims and fancies of the designer have gained popularity and are worth exploring. Pick what fancies your imagination – plain ones or masks embellished with beads, diamantes, feathers or stucchi.
Put on Your Dancing Shoes…
…and dance away the blues! Face it, we live in a world that revels in misery produced by the busy lives we lead; we wear our troubles like medallions. But you can throw all that stress out at the Venice Carnival and dance your troubles away. Once you’ve gotten your mask and costume in place, all you need to do is to step out on to the streets and step in to a night of private parties, public balls and masquerades. Here are some of the best places to have a grand time:
The Doge’s Ball (Il Ballo del Doge): this exclusive masquerade ball features performances by opera singers, musicians, comedians and others
The Arlecchino & Pulcinella Ball: set in an authentic 14th century Venetian Palace, the ball is atmospheric with performances of Harlequin and Pulcinella, popular characters belonging to the commedia
Ball Il Ridotto: a resplendent evening which involves a theatrical performance based on the life of Casanova as well as waltzes involving the guests
When you want a break from all the balls and gala events, there are other interesting activities worth attending. Street entertainment, concerts and gondola parades along the Grand Canal, and St. Mark’s Square’s masked parade are some of the events that you cannot afford to miss. Don’t leave without watching the grand fireworks show on the final evening of the carnival that can be seen from anywhere in Venice– a sight to behold and a fitting end to this memorable event.