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The Carnival of Venice, the most iconic in the world

Ancient traditions come back to life in squares large and small populated with masks of rare beauty, as well as stunning attractions for the joy and amazement of children of all ages.

25 July 2022

4 minutes

It was here that famous figures of the Commedia dell'Arte, from Arlecchino to Colombina, came to life and it was against this sensual, mysterious scenario that Casanova wooed his way to fame. Why not let yourself go as well and find out all the many opportunities for pleasure Venice holds in store during its Carnival.

The history of the carnival: a thousand year old tradition

Traditional costumes of the Venice Carnival

A festival that traces its roots in the past, to the time of the Serene Republic, when masks were worn to eliminate differences between people and dissolve inhibitions before becoming serious and uncovered again for Lent (the period leading up to Easter which marks the end of Carnival). Everything (or almost) was granted by the Doge on these feast days that for centuries have attracted curious and creative people from all over the world to the lagoon city. And in the not too distant past, Carnival also bewitched figures such as Goethe, Lord Byron and Princess Sissi.

The unique style of the Venice Carnival

Parade along the canals at the Venice Carnival

Even in modern times, the classic style persists, with sumptuous masks, towering wigs, baroque fabrics, bows and laces, just as the aristocracy and nobility wore at the time of the Serene Republic's greatest splendour. The added value of a Carnival such as the one in Venice is the extraordinary setting where everything comes to life: walking towards the Bridge of Sighs or St. Mark's Square is like taking a journey back in time along narrow alleys where mysterious knights and sensual ladies move, until any reference to modernity is lost.

Masks and shows in every street in Venice

Lit up Venice Canal

Surprises are to be found around every corner, with authentic "living paintings" (perfect for Instagram posts or stories) where every detail is taken care of, including very precious materials used for masks and the settings. And as the light casts the first shadows of the evening over St. Mark's Square, the fire eaters, trapeze artists, street artists and musicians begin to appear. The programme is expanded every year with events for everyone, with experiences for children and exclusive parties: yet the onset of celebrations is a fixed appointment year after year.

The Flight of the Angel and other Carnival events in Venice

The Flight of the Angel in Venice

The official opening of celebrations has been entrusted to the Flight of the Angel (or Colombina) since 2001 to the current day. This ritual evokes the deeds of a young Turkish acrobat who, in the second half of the XVI century, walked over a very long tightrope from the belfry of the bell tower of St. Mark's the balcony to the Ducal Palace to pay homage to the Doge. Until the last millennium, a technological wooden dove hovered above the heads of visitors to Venice, showering people below with flowers and confetti during its flight  In today’s festivities, women from show business, sport and fashion fields have taken turns to experience the thrill of flying from the bell tower down to the square (except in 2008 when - a curiosity not everyone knows about - rapper Coolio enjoyed this flight). For Carnival 2023, the organisation has decided that there will be no flight of the angel, an 'artistic choice' made on account of the many construction sites in St. Mark's Square that would make large gatherings there problematic. 

The 2023 edition of the quintessential jocular festival will be under the artistic direction of Massimo Checchetto, set designer of La Fenice Theatre

The artistic direction of the last Festival, entrusted to the all-Italian genius of Marco Balich (creator and director of opening ceremonies for Olympic events), finally decided to reserve this emotion to the winner of the title of “Maria del Carnevale” in the previous year. The Flight of the Angel that officially inaugurates the celebrations is also joined by many other unmissable moments in the programme, from historical parades to the election of "Maria del Carnevale" - a competition for 12 girls from Venice - or who live in the city - which commemorates the kidnapping of 12 girls by pirates and their liberation, for whom the Doge ordered lengthy celebrations. The already impressive list of events is completed by the historical parades along the canals with rowers strictly in period costume.

The programme and dates for the Venice Carnival 2023

The celebration of the Venice Carnival 2023 starts on Saturday 4 February and ends on Tuesday 21 February, transforming the Venetian city into a stage - for about 20 days - on which languages and artistic forms come to life.

There is a full list of events on the programme, packed with surprises: 

 

● Saturday 4 February 2023 - Opening parade: Artists, as well as plays of light and music come together in a huge floating performance, all set to parade along the Grand Canal;

 

● Sunday 5 February 2023 - The Carnival water parade: A procession of traditional local boats;

 

● Saturday 11 February 2023 - The 12 Marys at the Venice Carnival: The 12 Marys of Carnival 2023 parade in historical costumes along the Grand Canal on board gondolas, heading towards St. Mark's Square;

 

● Friday 17 February 2023 - Carnival floats parade on the Lido di Venezia: A parade of allegorical floats and masked figures that starts at 5 pm, along the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta;

 

● Sunday 19 February 2023 - Frittelle (doughnuts), Galani (sweet fritters) and Mulled Wine: starting at 12.00 noon in Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio, frittelle, galani and mulled wine are distributed, accompanied by entertainment for children;

 

● Monday 20 February 2023 - Carnival float parade in Mestre: A parade of floats and masked figures from 3 pm onwards through Mestre, from Via Piave along Via Circonvallazione, Via Einaudi and Via San Rocco to Via San Pio X;

 

● Tuesday 21 February 2023 - Prize-giving ceremony for the Maria del Carnevale 2023: presentation of the winning Maria in Piazza San Marco.

 

For further information: www.carnevale.venezia.it

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