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Venice at play
Festivals / Fairs / Events
Member Name: vhart
Festivals / Fairs / Events
Date: 14/07/02, updated on 25/01/05 (283 review reads)
Advantages: great experience
Disadvantages: crushes and high prices
Venice's Carnival (or Carnevale) is one of the best known in the world, perhaps after Rio de Janiero, but for that, it is a relatively modern entity, being revived in the 1980s as an attempt to attract the tourist dollar (or Euro.. or pound, even!). It has certainly been successful.
Indeed, so successful that this year they actually had to stop people coming for a few hours because the whole city was full to bursting point.
I had the very pleasurable experience of joining a squash (queue is not the word!) of people trying to make their way through the city, with policemen desperately trying to prevent serious injury! Oh, but don't let me put you off!
I went to Venice a few times during the Carnival this year, because I was based locally. The Carnival lasts for the 10 days prior to Ash Wednesday, so it always encompasses two weekends. I went the first Saturday and Sunday which were thoroughly enjoyable, if a little packed, as well as the second weekend, which was a complete and utter nightmare.
So what happens during the Carnival, well, apart from people wandering around Venice in costumes and masks, there are lots of cultural and social events. You can get a programme at the bus and train stations and main piazzas. Typical events this year included open air concerts, plays, masqued balls (the famous masqued ball in Piazza San Marco is free, but only if you are dressed in full costume and mask!), and many expensive looking dinners and canal/lagoon cruises which I didn't pay much attention to, being far out of my price range!
There were also live links with national radio and television stations, concerts of a less traditional nature and someone giving out free temporary tattoos, of which I collected an almost embarrassing amount!
It is almost impossible not to get caught up in the atmosphere, from the moment they release the doves in St Mark's Square, to signal the arrival to the finale, also in S
t Mark's Square, and the masqued Regatta.
There are things happening every day, of the 10 days duration, and of course, there are slight changes every year. There are also many traditional carnival goodies to eat, mostly involving hideous amounts of sugar and some very thin, fried pancakes things, which are lovely but if you drop them on the floor they shatter like glass (oh, yes, mine met a very sorry end!).
I loved the carnival and hated it. I loved the first week, it was full, busy, but the second week I went it was almost impossible to breathe for people. So if you go, try to go near the beginning, I know it builds up to a climax, but trust me, it is not a happy place to be when the crushing takes effect!
But I defy anyone who arrives not to leave with their own mask.. it is all too tempting, especially after a few of cups of the mulled wine they serve! I have my mask here, next to me as I type and I have mainly very happy memories,but I am glad I had the opportunity to go a few times!
The prices do tend to rise around Carnival time and if you want a bit more tradition, so I'm told, head out to the island of Burano, where the pace is a little quieter.. and it is beautiful there anyway.