The famous "Carnevale di Venezia" starts on 11 February and lasts until 28 February 2017. During this period, Venice becomes even more fascinating than usual. The world-famous luxurious carnival is visited by thousands of tourists from all over the world – wishing to see a glimpse of Italy from several centuries past. The first weekend focuses mostly on locals and less on masks and costumes; most of the main events begin on 18 February, aligning with the celebrations of the “Festa delle Marie”.
The festival in Venice is known especially for its meticulously crafted and unusually pompous costumes and masks. Compared to other carnivals, people here focus only on costumes and dresses which were originally only worn by Venice nobles. These luxurious costumes are heavily decorated, with plenty of bright colors and details.
Some visitors sew their own costumes, while others prefer the work of local master craftsmen. In either case, preparing a costume takes many hours and sometimes results in a true work of art. If you want to learn more about the historical side, we recommend visiting the Palazzo Mocenigo museum which offers not only an exhibit of original luxurious costumes from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries but also a number of precious ancient clothes and accessories.
Aside from aristocratic luxurious costumes and masks, the carnival will also showcase traditional clothes from the “commedia dell’arte” period, a theatrical movement from the sixteenth century. This includes for instance the Baùta – one of the most popular items from this period, a white square mask covering the whole face. It is often combined with a long pelerine and a black cap. This mask was in fact mandatory on certain political meetings in the eighteenth century – allowing participants to retain their anonymity and becoming a symbol of free expression.
Another interesting mask is the so-called Medico della Peste (the plague mask), typical for its long white beak and originally worn by plague doctors in the 17th century. The beak was often filled with aromatic herbs; this was believed to prevent contracting the illness. It is usually combined with a black cape, white gloves and a cane – originally used to keep the infected at a safe distance. The costume is a symbol of death.
On the other hand, one of the more jovial masks originates from Bergamo and is called the Arlecchino (the Harlequin), symbolizing a humorous but not very good-natured jester. The costume is checkered and comes with a felt hat. Female masks include for instance the Gnaga, symbolizing a cat and worn with a white hat – and those who want to be really authentic can combine it with a basket of kittens.
Must-see festival events include especially the so-called magical show with its lighting effects, dancers and acrobats. Another interesting event is the gondola and boat parade accompanied with music. The Festa delle Marie is a competition intended only for Venice girls aged 18 to 28 years, ending with a coronation of one of the girls. The competition for the best costume and mask takes place every year and is also the most popular of the festival events. However, the most luxurious event is the carnival ball; tickets start at 400 Euros. However, a visit is well worth the money!
But all you need to do now is just pick the right costume, reserve your flight, and look forward to a truly unique experience. More information about the festival is available at the official website of the carnival (see the link below).