It’s Carnevale Time in Venice!

Carnevale di Venezia 2009 by Alberto Ferrero on FlickrOne of the most colorful, celebrated, famous festivals in Italy is happening right now until February 24 in Venice: Carnevale.

During Carnevale, aside from the usual romantic alleyways and gondola rides through the Grand Canal, Venezia offers something extra special throughout the period before Lent begins for Catholics. This year’s theme is “Sensation: 6 senses for 6 districts” and will highlight the various areas of the city.

I’ve written all about Carnevale in Venice over at Italy Magazine, so please do have a look to read about the history and traditions of Carnevale and see videos of past celebrations:

Carnevale in Venice

Now perhaps you want to know about what Italians eat during Carnevale? Well, hang tight! What’s Cooking Wednesday is only a couple days away….

But for now, tell me:

Have you celebrated Carnevale in Venice,
New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, or elsewhere?

19 Beans of Wisdom to “It’s Carnevale Time in Venice!”
  1. Gil

    I’m pretty sure that my wife, her friend, and my daughter have been to Via Reggio (?) for Carnevale and my daughter might have gone to Venice. My youngest sister used to schedule a business trip to New Orleans for Carnevale for quite a few years in her younger days.

    Liked the Italy Mag article!

    Thanks Gil…very clever of your sister with that business trip!

  2. 02.16.2009

    I was in Venice a few years back for the Carnevale. We just wandered the streets which were lined with people in the most fancy costumes I have ever seen. The crowds were a but much though.
    You should go to Castrovillari just north of Cosenza on time as that is the carnevale of the south! I went last year and they have a massive street parade with floats, dancers and the atmosphere was amazing…who says you have to stick to Venice!

    Leanne in Italy’s last blog post..Fire and ice

    I’ve heard it’s nice up there..too cold for me though…it’s was -11 in Sila the other day! Gah!

  3. 02.16.2009

    I’ve not been. Let’s go! : )

    Kim B.’s last blog post..Trying Something New

    That would *definitely* be an interesting place for a GTG wouldn’t it?!

  4. joanne at frutto della passione

    Not yet, to be honest I prefer Venice in the off season, but who knows, never say never right!

    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..The Organic Vanilla Bean Company Website of the Month February 2009

    I feel the exact same way…I can’t imagine really *wanting* to brave those crowds, but I’ve done lots of other things I never thought I’d do, so….

  5. 02.16.2009

    I now live in Venice, and have been lucky enough to have experienced the Carnevale from ’88 on…

    Unfortunately, the spirit of Carnevale has slowly but surely mutated and declined over time, and is not at all the same as it used to be.

    Back in the 80’s, there was a festive participatory atmosphere, with many people dressing up in creative fun costumes much like “grown-up” Halloween costumes, but usually more ironic (not only the “official” maschere, which if done correctly are Quite expensive, though admittedly exquisitely beautiful). The music in San Marco inspired dancing amongst the audience. It was fun to be there, as You were part of the Carnevale.

    Now there are shows in San Marco and at the end of the night are scenes of revelry, where you clearly realize that anyone trying to dance probably is in the emergency room getting stitches from all the broken bottles strewn everywhere.

    As to the “6 sensations”, I fear it is mostly a marketing and advertising PR find. The Cannaregio “taste of Venice” has been going on for several years (at least 6-7) and is now at noon (same time as the Flight of the Angel in San Marco, supposedly the official start of Carnevale) tied into a Regata di Carnevale, and when I passed with my daughter at 12:30-13:00, many of the “banchetti” had already finished their wares and were closing up. Up until a couple years ago year, it lasted a couple of hours, staggering the banchetti times, during the evening with paper lanterns and a couple of small musical groups playing. Much more festive (and with the lighting also more expensive, though sponsored mostly by the local merchents and maybe some by the Comune).

    Hopefully it’s enough on the Carneval theme to say that the show for Feb. 14th was “Mistero Buffo” (strange mystery) by Dario Fo, and the only “Love” in the party was left out in the cold since the organizers already “did that” for New Years Eve.

    At least there wasn’t high water like last weekend!

    The real Maschere at Carnevale seem to become fewer each year, surrounded by camera flashes of extra touristy looking tourists (not party-participants) and one-way streets which mean you have to follow the crowds like so many herded flocks. If you do go to Carnevale, stay in a hotel, off the beaten track, and avoid San Marco during the peak hours, going early or later in the day, after most of the “toccata e fuga” daytrippers have safely left a little breathing room.

    Awesome advice, Jacques; thanks so much for sharing! And yes, thank goodness the water is lower!

  6. I haven’t been to Venice during Carnevale.

    I found the crowds a bit much even during the off season so perhaps it’s best for me to enjoy Carnevale via your blog. 🙂

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Bringing sexy back (trying anyway)

    Just wanted to let you know you were sent to moderation because of the title of your post. Hah!

  7. 02.16.2009

    I remember Carnevale in Rome as a child – “La Beffana” and Piazza Navona, also along Viale Trastevere and I think Piazza della Republica – don’t know why that last memory or what was going on there but I do remember thousands of kids dressed up in costume, but never the adults.
    My grandmother had wallpaper in her dining room along one wall that depicted Carnevale in Venice around the 1600s with adults in grand costumes and wild bird masks. I was always fascinated by that wallpaper…..!

    anna l’americana’s last blog post..Equal Rights for all….

    That sounds uber cool. My grandmother had a weird wall thing going on too but it was like plasterboard and depicted patriotic moments in American history or something. I’ll have to get my dad to take a photo…you have me feeling all nostalgic for it!

  8. 02.16.2009

    Sigh. Someday I’m definitely going to Carnevale! I’ve wanted to since I was a little girl. It’s always right around my birthday, too. Someday….

    Oh Christina you must! Next year! Start planning 🙂

  9. 02.16.2009

    Never celebrated- anywhere. Someday, someday. Seen lovely pictures of Carnavale in Venice though. Looks like so much fun 🙂

    My Melange’s last blog post..In my Italian dreams

    Looks like *crazy* fun…emphasis on the *crazy*, no? 😉

  10. 02.16.2009

    This sounds fabulous and those pictures from your article are so fun too! This would be a sensory overload to look forward to Michelle! I wish I were there! 🙂

    Laurie V’s last blog post..Warm Milk with Butter, Rum & Nutmeg

    Would definitely produce fabulous photos, wouldn’t it? All those colors!

  11. 02.17.2009

    However the reality measures up (Jacques paints a vivid picture) it sounds quite an experience. And I *love* the idea of different quarters (or rather sixths) of the city getting the limelight one area after another. Is there a spirit of healthy rivalry and oneupsmanship, I wonder?

    Mikeachim’s last blog post..A Year’s Webhosting for WHAT?

    From what I’ve seen of Italians and their respective neighborhoods, YES!

  12. 02.17.2009

    Ciao Michelle! I have come to think of Carnevale as “lasagna season” … mmmm … because it is when people seem to prepare it the most here in Campania. I am looking forward to What’s Cooking Wednesday this week!

    OK now I may have to make lasagna…it’s been a few weeks for us. I usually make it once a week from the end of November until Easter or so!

  13. 02.17.2009

    I was lucky enough to be in New Orleans during Mardi Gras the winter before Katrina. It was quite an education!

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..Happy Valentine’s Day!

    I imagine…photographic evidence?!

  14. 02.17.2009

    this is on my “go to” list!!

    qualcosa di bello’s last blog post..because my mind is working in short bursts…

    And I *know* you’ll get there 🙂

  15. 02.18.2009

    Haven’t been to Venice, but Ascoli throws a pretty great party, and some of the hilltowns in the area have wonderful, crazy (and slightly dangerous!) traditions. Lotsa fun!

    Valerie’s last blog post..The Lighthouse

    Sounds great!

  16. Lisa

    I lived in Rio de Janeiro for 5 years and it was the time of my life! Dancing in the famous parade in the Sambadromo was exhilarating, but the street parades in the neighborhoods are just as invigorating. Afterwards, the city falls in a sleepy relaxation. I do miss the rhymth and the sounds of the city during Carnaval

    Sounds awesome, Lisa; I love the “sleepy relaxation” afterwards…a perfect circle of celebrating 🙂

  17. 02.19.2009

    Venitian rivalries are definitely less enthusiastically acted upon than they may have been in the past. Now even the Regattas that have affilitaions with the single “Sestieri” end up tied to the main players, and not so much to local neighborhood pride.
    Maybe because the average age of the residents is rising so quickly and continuously? Not nearly as many young people here as even twenty-thirty years ago, as the historical center housing market is losing out to B&B conversions and forcing all but family moneyed newlyweds to escape to the more reasonably priced mainland.

    Now the main differences tend to be socio-cultural: Dorsoduro is full of all nationalities of rich expats (think Guggenheim); Castello is older residents that have remained – urban legend says that some haven’t ever been to Piaaza San Marco just because they never needed to; Santa Croce is like a Città Studi; San Polo a mix; Cannaregio popular-residential; and San Marco is tourism. Overgeneralized, obviously, but try and find a supermarket in the sestiere di San Marco – not too easy.

    There is not much neighborhood identity, as much as a survivor instinct as a “still Venetian”.
    An anecdotal example: a few people I know (separately: one elderly couple and a single retired man) had lived in subsidized housing around Cannaregio for years, when the upkeep costs for the apartments (owned by the Comune di Venezia) became too much. One got sold to be converted to a Hotel/B&B, and the other, “buh?”, just became unliveable I think without massive rennovation. The couple got sent to Murano, but come back to do all their shopping in the stores they have used for a lifetime, and the retired man was banished, as he puts it, to “Alcatraz” – the separate island(s) of the Giudecca (a sort of 7th sestiere, sort of “part” of Dorsoduro I believe).

    That’s about the extent of local loyalism as far as i have seen. Being a pedestrian culture (no cars, and boats not commonly used for “normal” transportation) there are many friendships “on sight” which are different than other “normal” terrestrian cities, but not any sort of Palio mentality that I have ever seen.

    As to the different Sestieri “getting the limelight” during Carnevale, my take is that it is part “public order” trying to spread out the crowds and make them more manageable, part “public relations” trying to share the shrinking tourist coinage amongst a larger number of merchants (and not just the storekeepers on the main road between Ferrovie and San Marco), and “plain old marketing” trying to make it grander than it really is so that it is more enticing.

    Don’t get me wrong, it is a sight to see. It can be fun if you are expecting, and can enjoy, the crowded callette and packed Piazza and chaotic campielli. But it ain’t exactly what they’re advertising on the Sensation09 website and tourist videos.

    Very, very interesting Jacques. I’ve often wondered how many Venetians live in Venice (and Romans live in Rome, etc.). If you do go out and about to experience the senses, please come back and fill us in 🙂

  18. 02.19.2009

    hi michelle – am writing to you from padova but am heading tomorrow to venice to see a little bit of their carnevale before a week of skiing in the dolomites. check out my blog on carnevale and chiacchiere. i spent a week in venice during carnevale two years ago and had an amazing time. can’t wait to check up on your other recipes after i get back.

    ciaochowlinda’s last blog post..Time Out for Research and a Give-Away

    Will pop in and visit for sure; thank for letting us know 🙂

  19. 03.03.2009

    Happy to see one of my carnevale friend on you blog ! I am one of the “maschere” who random through San Marco. And that’s a real dream.
    Dream to be in the most beautiful town in the world and to be just an umber there, and umber without age only there for pleasure and mystery.
    Dreamly yours


    Cool! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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