Two masks are posing on Saint Mark’s quay, with the basin and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the background. Carnivals worldwide are many, but Venice’s is unique and unmistakeable. And there is no need to explain it, its history in the first place and then the scenery it takes place in, a city, quite simply, which time has not changed.
The spontaneous outdoor fête where anyone may indulge in disguises, from ones linked to the world of fantasy and fairy-tales, to ones related to historical themes and to a period, the Eighteenth century, the golden age of the ancient Serene Republic, adds itself to the pageant of shows, performances and parades.
Although a Carnival atmosphere begins to be felt from the first days in February, the actual revels, however, will only start from the second half of the month, on 17 February to be precise, with the usual “Fête on water” prologue, organised along the banks of the popular Cannaregio canal, and end on 5 March, Shrove Tuesday. Among the events already programmed – many others will naturally be added along the way – are those linked to tradition.
They begin with the Marys Fête on Saturday 23, in remembrance of the tribute that the Doge brought every year to twelve beautiful girls chosen among the populace. This re-enactment will feature a procession in costume parading from the ancient basilica of Saint Peter of Castello to Saint Mark’s Square.
This will be followed on Sunday 24 by the Angel’s Flight, a reinterpretation of the ancient Flight of the Turk, the event which officially opens festivities, with a thrilling and spectacular flight from the loggia of the bell-tower of Saint Mark.
From here until Shrove Tuesday day and the end of the event, marked by the Lion’s Flight, all other events will follow: among others, the Competition for the most beautiful mask, with its double daily rendez-vous, and the grand Fat Thursday Fête.
Among the many events following each other, in a calendar which will keep being updated until a few days before the beginning, parties and dinners inside palaces will not be lacking, as true cult moments of the Venetian Carnival. Here, the refinement, splendour and magic of ancient Eighteenth-century parties may be experienced anew.
Among them, two above all: the exclusive Doge’s Ball at the Pisani Moretta palace, defined by the well-known Vanity Fair magazine as “the event which every lover of beauty must take part in, at least once in a lifetime” (Saturday, 2 March), and The Dinner & Ball, a dinner-show presented by the Venice Casino in its premises at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi throughout the period of Carnival in the Renaissance halls overlooking the Grand Canal.
Yet other places will be a stage for the event: from the squares – for instance, an ice rink is set up at San Polo – to museums, theatres and hotels, up to the Arsenal, where a space reserved for young people will be organised. All will contribute to the fête with themed itineraries, with guided tours and special openings, with music and prose shows. Among the institutions particularly involved, there will be La Fenice Theatre, the Carlo Goldoni Theatre, the City Museums Foundation and the Venice Biennale, the last being present with its International Kids’ Carnival taking place in the areas within the central Pavilion at the Giardini.
What about the first days of the month?
Exhibitions, museums, theatres and concerts will warm up the Venetian winter… just browse through the following pages. Have a great time!