Oscar Wilde’s quote “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth” can help in understanding the real origins of the Carnival in Venice. While the modern version of the Venice Carnival dates back only to the end of the 1970s, with the Most Serene Republic of Venice, it was nothing but several grand weeks (from December to right before Easter) of parties and celebration during which Venetians could unleash their senses and morals otherwise very much under control of the institutions. They could, in fact, wear masks and were allowed to remain completely anonymous, breaking, therefore, social barriers and enjoying almost any type of behavioural freedom if you know what I mean…
How do we celebrate one of the world’s most popular carnivals today? Here a are the major events during Venice Carnival you should make sure you don’t miss out.
Festa Veneziana along Rio di Cannaregio
Picture several boats sailing along Cannaregio at night, fully lighted by colorful lights and “Circle du Soleil”-style acrobats and artists performing on the boats. I really suggest it to families with children as they will really have fun; I also like this event as it takes visitors to a less crowded and touristy area of Venice. The 2nd part of the Festa Veneziana takes place on the following day, with a rowing boats regatta attended by something like 10/12k people.
Parade of the Marie
12 beautiful Venetian girls aged 18-28 will be accompanied in a parade starting from Viale Garibaldi and finishing in Saint Marks Square. More than 300 extras wearing historic and traditional dressed will be joining the parade. Who are these 12 girls? Where does this tradition come from? It celebrates the kidnapping and lucky release of some Venetian women by some pirates back in the 12th century. Since then, every year, all young couples who were just about to get married would receive the holy blessing in San Pietro di Castello and the 12 most beautiful brides to be, among the poorest families, would be selected and provided with dresses, jewels and anything needed to get married. They were called “Marie” because the event used to be taking place on the 2nd of February, the day of the purification of Mary. Nowadays, it is just a historical reenactment.
Volo dell’Angelo e dell’Aquila
Among the 12 Marie, every year, the most beautiful one has the honor to be the Angel who is going to securely jump and fly “like an angel” from the belltower in Saint Marks’s Square. Lately, there is second “volo” called “dell’Aquila which is also stunning. The lucky one is usually a public personality with a special role which can act as an example to the rest for something done in the society.
Parties at the Arsenale and in private palaces
If you want to party in grand style and have absolutely no budget problem you must attend one of the many private parties in Venice for Carnival. I’ve been checking a bit around and rates go from 350 euro for the “Venice Carnival Official Gala Dinner at the Arsenale” to 2500 euro for a ticket to “Il Ballo del Doge” taking place in the stunning Palazzo Pisani Moretta on the Grand Canal…
This year’s Carnival takes place from the 23rd of January to the 9th of February. The events theme “CREATUM” is all about art crafts, local traditions, and local food. Saint Mark’s Square will turn into an open-air workshop, and atelier with craftsmen, from glassblowers, tailors to goldsmiths bringing us back to the 18th century.
Full details, timing, and places can be looked up on the Carnevale di Venezia Official Site.