Carnival Time in Venice, Italy

Venice carnival

Carnival celebrations take place around the world, but when we think of elegant masks and beautiful costumes, we think of Venice.  So in 2014 my husband and I decided to go and see for ourselves what the Venice Carnival was like.  We weren’t disappointed.

Venice carnival

People come from everywhere to see and be seen at the Venice carnival.  Many spend countless hours making their extravagant costumes, then they patiently pose in the piazzas to be admired and photographed.

venice carnival

You don’t have to wear a costume, of course.  There are plenty people in street clothes, with and without masks.  If you would like to wear a fancy costume but don’t have the time or sewing skills required to make your own, no worries! You can buy or rent costumes in Venice and you will find thousands of masks to choose from.  But if you wear glasses, like me, your selection is very limited.

venice carnival

Couples, families, and groups come in matching costumes and some bring the dog along in his own little carnival cape.   Even a lion standing outside a hotel wears a disguise.

venice carnival

Mask wearing in Venice goes back at least to the 1200s. During the Middle Ages in Venice, masks gained popularity and could be worn most of the year. They concealed the identity so a person was free to do things that he might not do otherwise.  Masks were even mandatory for certain things like gambling and voting.

venice carnival

In the late 1700s Austria conquered Venice and the Venetian Republic came to an end. The new government outlawed the carnival and mask wearing.  In fact, the Venice Carnival only regained its glory fairly recently.  In 1979, a group of art students decided to revive the craft of papier mâché mask-making which had been such a part of Venice’s past.  This was a great success and now these beautiful masks are inextricably linked with Venice, where they are still handmade and reasonably priced.

So, if you go, make sure you have extra room in your suitcase for the mask (or masks) that you will want to take home.  I had to buy a new suitcase to get mine home.

sun moon mask venice carnival
Sun and moon “mask” now adorning my wall.

venice

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Margo Lestz

Author of four books about France who enjoys travel, languages, history, writing, and experiencing other cultures.

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18 comments

  1. Hi Janet – It’s so nice to hear from you!
    It really was beautiful. And wearing a mask was fun too, I felt like a kid again. I didn’t wear a costume though – I wasn’t about to give up my coat. It was February, you know.
    xx Margo

  2. It looks fabulous – love the photos of the gorgeous costumes (naturally completed with a mask). You and your husband look the part and I adore the new wall decoration – very elegant! It is always nice to have a permanent memento of an enjoyable time.

    1. It was really lovely and we had a great time. We didn’t do costumes, only masks so no one was asking to take our picture. 🙂
      Normally, I don’t buy many souvenirs, but I fell in love with that mask and bought it even though it was bigger than my suitcase. It seems to me like I have done the same thing in Venice before. I will have to make a mental note – “when going to Venice, take extra suitcase”. 😉

  3. OK Now I am dying to go back to Venice for carnival and masked fun!
    Inspirational article.
    Grazie!
    Rose xoxo

  4. Hi Rose,
    You should definitely go to Venice for the carnival. It’s very different than the one in Nice. I think it is more elegant and of course the backdrop can’t be beat.
    Ciao -Margo

    1. But these costumes are waaaay more elegant than the costumes we see kids wear! These are couture elegant- simply gorgeous. I would love to go to a costume ball someday… (sigh)

      1. The costumes we saw in Venice were absolutely amazing! And most of them are homemade. People spend months, if not all year working on these wearable works of art. They are really impressive!

        1. Wow… that’s a serious commitment in terms of time energy and lire! You think they sell patterns for these outfits? I can sew but could never design something like these. Just gorgeous!

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