Carnival in Venice is the most famous carnival in whole Europe and together with the one in Rio de Janeiro, the most popular in the world. What were the origins of the carnival in Venice? How does it look like today? Is it worth taking part or is it overrated?
I still remember my class tutor from primary school and her stories about beautiful European cities. Once she was telling us about famous carnival celebrations in the world. She said she had been to Venice several times but never during the carnival. However she always wanted to go there in that time. I thought I would be a great experience. I was 8 years old and travelling was an unattainable dream but I remembered the costumes and Venetian masks very well. Even though I didn’t plan it, I made my dream from childhood come true when last year we went to Venice in carnival!
History of the carnival in Venice
There is different information about the origins of the carnival of Venice. According to some of them, the first carnival took place in 1162 while others claim that already in 1094 there were descriptions of public celebrations of last days before the Lent which gave the origin to the popular carnival. In 1296 it was officially declared a public holiday and was celebrated every year till 1797. Then Napoleon conquered the Venetian Republic and they banned carnival costumes and masks. There was no carnival for almost 200 years. In 1967 the inhabitants of Venice starts organizing parties with masks and costumes to celebrate the old tradition. Thanks to that, in 1979 the Italian government officially restored the celebrations of carnival. It was a moment when Venetian economy, tradition and tourism revived.
On the first Sunday of carnival “Flight of the Angel” takes place and it officially starts the carnival. A woman flies along the rope from the San Marco bell tower to the square. The winner of “Festa delle Marie” contest is the Angel of the next carnival. Every year, more than a hundred thousand people watch the flight live. The residents of the city and tourists from all over the world participate in the celebrations. There are parades, contests for the most beautiful masks, costume parties, street shows. Every day on the streets you can see people in various colorful costumes and masks which are real work of art.
The atmosphere is just wonderful; everyone goes out to the street, both old and young people. Even groups of pupils form nursery schools walk in their costumes. Each year there is a different theme of the celebrations. In previous years there were travels of Marco Polo, in 2013 the motto was “Live in color”, in 2014 “Fantastic Nature: and last year “Creatum: Vanity Af-fair”.
Carnival of Venice is extremely popular and every year hundreds of thousands of tourists go to Venice in this time. Prices go up, it’s difficult to find accommodation in good price, and the city is full of people. Going to Venice in this time doesn’t sound encouraging. Last year, during our first road trip around Europe we ended up in the north of Italy and we decided to go to Venice. First walk on the streets, people in colorful costumes and we realize that… it’s the carnival time! We didn’t think of dates, we were just travelling and we got to the European capital of carnival in the best possible moment.
We spent hours on the streets, looking at the ingenious costumes and masks. The production of masks is a real art. The value of the original Venetian hand-painted ones goes up to few hundreds of euro and they are unique pieces of art.
Is it worth going to Venice for carnival?
Many people say that carnival of Venice is overrated, that it’s not worth going there because of the crowd and the prices are higher. I don’t agree with that. It was one of the most amazing experiences of our travels. The unique atmosphere which cannot be described, streets full of colors, music and people from all over the world… The centuries-long tradition is still vivid in Venice. It’s an event that everyone should participate in at least once in their life. I hope we will go back to Venice for another carnival 🙂