‘The Venetians first wore masks so they could engage in… sinful activities without being recognised.’
Going to Venice at carnival time seems like a bit of a cliche, but it’s popular for a reason. The history of this ancient city seems to seep through the cracks, springing to life every year when carnival hits. Carnival’s been going since 1162, and the traditions, costumes and activities (wink) date back to medieval times too.
So grab yourself a mask, gondola and a cornetto and set sail for Venice’s biggest party…
Get with the programmeSt Mark’s Square is where most of the carnival action happens. If in doubt, follow the trail of feathers and hot glue to this piazza to find where the conga line’s at...
On the 15th of Feb the 12 Marias of the Festa delle Marie parade their way through this square, showing off their costumes. It’s like a beauty pageant, but OK because it’s ancient 👀
The next day is the Volo dell’Angelo, or Flight of the Angel, where last year’s beauty pageant winner is hoisted into the air and zip-wired across the square. Sounds weird? It is!
On the 23rd of February it’s the Grand Finale, with all the fireworks and frolics you’d expect, as well as the hotly contested costume prize. This is Venice is at its rowdiest.
BallsJust like Oxbridge in Freshers’ Week, there are balls happening all over Venice Carnival.
The hefty price tag and the fact it’s a ball attract a certain kind of posho, but choose wisely and you’re in for an evening of debauchery under a chandelier.
MasksYou’re going to feel a right plonker if you’re the only one not in a mask. Head for traditional mascarei such as Ca’ Macanà for the real deal. Match your mask with a historical costume from Banco Lotto N°10 (made by the inmates of Venice’s female prisons).
Not feeling glitzy? Go for full plague doctor/crow-face to keep things freakayyy.
Should I?Have you really got to know Venice until you’ve seen her stumbling out of a gondola, twenty grappas deep wearing a wonky plague mask?
Do Venice right.