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Venice Carnival

Always one of the top ten world attractions, we are about to tell you about the prince of What to do in Venice : the “Carnevale di Venezia“.

We are certain that you already have heard about it… but are you sure you know the truth and story behind the carnival? We would like to tell you here about Carnival from the venetian perspective. The shows in the historic center are really many, beautiful and spectacular, but often the real party is among the streets, in the squares, in the inns and especially in many of the Venetian palaces. 

Mask yourself, mix with the crowd, taste fritole and galani (traditional sweets of the Carnevale in Venice) and arm yourself with confetti. 

Venice Carnival history

Like all popular holidays, this one has not always been as we know it today. Venice Carnival history date back to Roman times, but it is only with the birth of the Duchy of Venice that the tradition of the Venetian Carnival begins to acquire its own significance. The first official document that declares it a public holiday dates back to 1296, although the first written mention dates back to 1094. The more sumptuous historical period for Venice Carnival has been the 18th century with characters like Casanova. The history of the Venice Carnival has a setback of almost two centuries between the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797 and the end of the the 70s when the idea of the carnival was revived by the Mayor of Venice and the party began once more in the city of the Grand Canal!

When is Carnival in Venice: Venice Carnival dates

Let’s start from the basics: when does it start and what are the most important dates of the biggest island party? The days of Carnival change every year because they follow the liturgical calendar: starting from about forty days before Easter you will already see some masks appearing, the streets covered with confetti and the pastry shops start serving carnival specialities. But it is the 15 days before the ash Wednesday when the real party begins. Venice Carnival 2020  will be from February 9th to 25th.

Pay attention and keep an eye on the calendar when you are planning your break although more and more shows and parties are organized on Saturday nights, on Fat Thursday and shrove Tuesday (mardi gras) are the days not to miss!

carnival venice photo

Venice carnival 2020 program

The program of events gets busier every year. Below we present the most important Carnival events but on the Official website of the Carnival you will find even more!

  • Sunday, February 9th at 10:30 am: Venetian Water parade with decorated boat in rio di cannaregio
  • Saturday, February 15th, around 2:30 pm: Feast of the Mary (Feste delle Marie) from San Pietro di Castello, Via Garibaldi and Riva degli Schiavoni to the Doges’ Palace and St Mark’s Square.
  • Saturday, February 15th at 8pm: Private ball party “Ball of dreams”
  • Sunday, February 16th, 12:30 pm: Flight of the Angel
  • Saturday February 22nd: Masquerade Venice ball “The Magic Flute”
  • Sunday, February 23rd: Flight of the eagle
  • Tuesday, February 25th: Flight of the Lion and award ceremony of the most beautiful mask

From Saturday 15th February the most beautiful costumes parade every day on the stage set up in Piazza San Marco until the grand finale of the competition on 25th February with the awarding of the most beautiful mask.

Keep an eye also on the programming of the Mestre Carnival Street show: jugglers, trampolines, theater, music and other street performers will liven up the center of Mestre in the two final weekends for a series of engaging shows suitable for all ages! The mainland of Venice celebrates carnival too!

carnival costume photo

Venice masked ball

There are not only outdoor events for the Venice Carnival: but keep warm indoors too!

A masquerade ball is really a unique occasion. There are all kinds of private parties in the palaces and you will undoubtedly be in an exclusive location to say the least and see jugglers, fire eaters, dancers, and live music among the luxuries of a Venetian residence not usually open to the public.

A cruise in the San Marco basin is another experience that we can recommend: the view is nothing short of incredible and the party is just as much fun. From the sea you will escape the great noise of the city.


Venice Carnival costumes

Typical Venetian Carnival Costumes date back to the second half of the 16th century. You can find faithful historical reproductions in Venice ateliers. Among the various types of costumes available, the most famous are the Costumes Commedia dell’Arte with characters of the traditional Italian theater like the great Venetian, Carlo Goldoni. The 18th century saw the greatest splendour of Venice and its historic Carnival and it is visible in the costumes of this period. The 18th century was the century of Carlo Goldoni, but also of Giacomo Casanova and of great painters such as GianBattista Tiepolo and Canaletto. If you really want to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the party it is absolutely essential to dress up. In fact, Carnival would not be the same without masks costumes and if people did not wear masks. Don’t be shy, get out of the house already prepared and dressed with wigs, swords, wings, cloaks and confetti: the party starts on the streets!

Venetian masks

The most famous masks of the Venice Carnival are certainly those that follow the sumptuous 18th-century Venetian dresses or the sixteenth-century figures of the Commedia dell’Arte by Goldoni (Pantalone, Colombina, Arlecchino, ..): To wear a hand made dress of this kind from a sartorial atelier is truly an incredible experience. You can hire a costume by the day and have it delivered to your hotel! The important thing is to dress up, make sure to have a costume, and truly enter into the spirit of carnival! Create your own character and join the biggest party in the world!

But the carnival is just one of the events of the year to mark in the calendar, but there is so much more to do and explore in Venice!

  • Venice Events : find out about some of the other many events and traditions 
  • Venice Tourism 
  • Venice Points of Interest
  • Venice Islands : read more about some of the interesting islands to visit
  • Venice Attractions
  • How many days in Venice?