Think of ‘carnival’ and most people think of Rio, which hosts the king of all parties each February. But you don’t have to go to Brazil or dance samba to get in the party spirit; ‘Carnevale’ is also a huge winter festival in Italy, and nowhere more so than in its iconic northern city of Venice. Here, 40 days before Easter each year, one of Europe’s most unique and elaborate festivals is celebrated, and this year the dates to note in your diary are February 11th – 21st 2012.
Carnevale in Venice dates back to the 15th century and is characterised by its ubiquitous, extravagant masks, or maschere. These masks were traditionally worn so that no distinction could be made between nobility and the common people; today, they adorn shop windows throughout the year and are sold at varying price tags to locals and tourists alike.
Once kitted out with your mask, Venice’s grand masquerade balls (public as well as private) become the perfect opportunity to show this off and dress up in elaborate costume. People really go to town with their outfits: this is true indulgence in the art of fancy dress, in a backdrop of some of the world’s most beautiful palaces, frescoed halls and opulent ballrooms. For a few hours, hidden behind your mask, you could lose yourself in 18th century Venice, mingling with aristocracy whilst being entertained by artists and acrobats, a Venetian feast in front of you and an exquisite cocktail to hand…there are few places in the world that could pull this off, but Venice is most definitely one of them.
Other events not to miss include the mask parades in St Mark’s Square, gondola and boat parades along Venice’s famous Grand Canal, a Carnival for children in the Canareggio district, a magnificent fireworks display on the last day, and many more concerts, operettas, gala dinners, parties and street entertainment throughout the day and night.
Accommodation will be at a premium during these 10 days of celebration so why not combine your visit to Venice with an Italian course – not only will your learn some of the language to enhance your experience, but you can stay with a local family or in independent accommodation and become much more than a tourist.