Carnival in Venice, Italy

The Carnival in Venice can be traced back to the Middle Ages and, against the imposing backdrop of St. Mark's Square with its world-famous masks, is still one of the most beautiful and magnificent carnivals in the world.

Let's go to the masks in Venice! Most tourists arrive in the city on the weekend before Ash Wednesday, but even in the days before, numerous theatrical performances are staged and private individuals stroll through the streets of Venice in spectacular costumes. The spectacle is concentrated in St. Mark's Square and the surrounding area, with only a few masked figures to be seen in the rest of the city. The Venice Carnival lasts ten days.


PICTURES: Carnival in Venice

Photo gallery: Carnival in Venice

Opening of the Venice Carnival

As soon as a new mask appears at the Venice Carnival, it is immediately surrounded by photographers, Italy - © Kizel Cotiw-an / Shutterstock
© Kizel Cotiw-an / Shutterstock

The Venice Carnival lasts ten days and begins a week before Carnival Sunday. Punctually at 12 o'clock, the famous folk festival opens on St. Mark's Square with the spectacular "Volo dell'angelo" ("Angel's Flight"). Every year, a young beauty secured to a steel cable floats from Venice's most famous bell tower, the 99-meter-high Campanile. Thousands of masked and unmasked people in a cloud of confetti welcome the lively festival, which is attended by guests from all over the world.

On Carnival Sunday there is a spectacular parade, where participants show off their magnificent costumes. The most beautiful and elaborate mask is awarded every year. On the other days of the week, the first costumed people can usually be found from noon.

As soon as a new mask appears, it is usually immediately surrounded by photographers who all want to catch the best perspective. To get a glimpse of the masks yourself, elbowing is often required.

Tip: On Sunday, the most and most beautiful masks can be seen, but then there is also the greatest hustle and bustle. In the narrow streets between St. Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge, the crowds and traffic push their way through Venice in a one-way system - not for the impatient!

The mask in Venice

The world-famous Venetian masks can be seen in large numbers at the Venice Carnival and were shipped all over Europe as early as the 18th century, Italy - © canebisca / Shutterstock
© canebisca / Shutterstock

The classic mask that is still worn today at the Venice Carnival is called "Bauta". This was already mentioned by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and was traditionally worn in black or white together with a black cape made of velvet or silk and a tricorn. In the past, people in Venice used to mask up not only for Carnival, but also for banquets or important festivities.

Even gamblers who wanted to hide from their creditors often went out of the house only masked. Over time, the masks became more and more artistic and a separate branch of mask makers developed in the painters' guild. The Venetian masks, still famous and well-known today, were soon shipped all over Europe and still enjoy great popularity today.

History of the Carnival in Venice

On Carnival Sunday in Venice are the most and most beautiful masks to see, for then also the biggest hustle and bustle, Italy - © Deborah Kolb / Shutterstock
© Deborah Kolb / Shutterstock

The Carnival of Venice can rightly be called historical, because it dates back to the late Middle Ages, when the courts of the princes of Italy celebrated between Epiphany (January 6) and Ash Wednesday. In a Doge's chronicle from 1094, Carnival was mentioned for the first time, and in the 13th century there was the first mention of masks.

Until 1797, the Thursday before Ash Wednesday was also used every year to celebrate Venice's victory over Aquileia, which had been won in 1162. Since that time, both festivities and costumes became more and more ostentatious, reaching their peak in Casanova's time in the 18th century.

Wild goings-on in Casanova's time

Costumes at the Venice Carnival reached their peak in Casanova's time in the 18th century, Italy - © Deborah Kolb / Shutterstock
© Deborah Kolb / Shutterstock

The frolics consisted of fortune tellers, jugglers, wild animals in kennels, quacks with questionable remedies, puppets, fireworks, acrobats, tightrope walkers, bullfights and human pyramids. The famous angel flight, with which carnival is still opened today, can be traced back to 1548. However, at that time the artist only threw flowers from the Campanile, after which he walked back to the ground on a rope.


However, the economic crisis caused by Napoleon and the annexation of Austria ended the heyday of the Venice Carnival in 1797. After the annexation to Italy in 1866, there were first efforts to revive the historic festival.

However, the carnival only returned to the splendor it is known for today in 1976, triggered by the success of Federico Fellini's film "Casanova" at the Biennale. Tourists came to Venice to experience the carnival and, above all, hotel owners revived the almost forgotten traditions - the masks were back in Venice.

Related links:

Official website of the Venice Carnival (English)