Costumes of the carnival in Venice

Carnival in Venice

“Carnevale” is one of the most colorful celebrations in the world!

Carnival in Venice is a one-of-a-kind celebration. Several important events are the two-day Festa Veneziana with its typical masked regattas, the Best Masked Costume Contest and the Festa delle Marie. Each year, Carnival includes celebrations whose history dates back to the times of the Serenissima, such as the famous eagle flight or the well-known “Flight of the Angel”, to name a few. Carnival in Venice is a wonderful example of the perfect mix of tradition, culture and entertainment.

Carnival season lasts about two weeks, culminating on the day called Martedi Grasso, or Fat Tuesday, in Italian. This is a magical time in Venice. Lavish costumes are rented or purchased from talented Venetian ateliers or designed and created at home by talented Carnival attendees. Carnival provides a theatrical backdrop to Venice’s iconic scenery, and everyone in costume is expected to play their part. Venetian costume balls are a highlight of Carnival for those who can afford tickets to party the night away in Venice’s most exclusive private palaces. The year’s most opulent event is the Il Ballo del Doge, described by Vanity Fair as “the most sumptuous, refined and exclusive ball in the world.”

“Carnevale” 2023,  February 11 to 21

The 2023 Venice Carnival dates are Saturday, February 11, 2023 to Tuesday 21, March 2023. However, there are some pre-carnival events taking place the week before, starting on February 4, 2023.

Enjoy this video my husband Manlio and I took in Venice at carnival time:

Are you looking for one of the most magical times of the year to visit Venice? Well look no further than Carnevale season! This is the time (February/March) of year when Venice comes alive with magic and mystery. Here are a few tips to enjoy Carnevale in Venice:

  • Attend a masked ball. The Luna Hotel Baglioni hosts an exclusive evening that allows you to experience the charming atmosphere of 18th century Venice with dancing, music and good food! Or enjoy Dinner Dansante “Le Menuet” at the Hotel Danieli where a dance master and a baroque quartet will involve people into traditional group dances such as minuets.
  • Whether you’re going to a ball or not (depending on your budget), don’t miss the chance to learn Cotillion dancing, an essential part of any Carnevale costume ball. The Cotillion is a French dance dating back to early 18th century.

    "Carnevale" is one of the most colorful celebrations in the world!

    Carnival of Venice

  • Learn the secrets of Venice’s Carnevale with a special walking tour. Follow in the steps of adventurer Giacomo Casanova’s 18th century Venice Carnevale. A guide will immerse you in the history of Carnevale as well as the use of masks and how they are made. The tour ends with a cappuccino and a typical Italian carnival pastry, frittelle.
  • Book Early! I cannot stress this enough! You will be joining thousands of other people from around the world so planning ahead will ensure you get the best options. This applies to your accommodation, plane tickets, events and even restaurants!
  • Although the main events are centered around Piazza San Marco, Carnevale events are held in every sestiere, or neighborhood, of Venice, so be sure to wander into other areas.
  • The final week of Carnevale is the busiest time to visit, but festivities are happening long before Fat Tuesday. If you don’t mind missing the biggest events, you’ll save some money by visiting during the first week of the celebrations.
  • Although most of the events take place around Piazza San Marco, I highly recommend breaking away from the crowds and wandering around the city. There are events held in almost every neighborhood. Venice Carnival is a festive and elegant affair, not a rowdy one.
  • Enjoy a Vivaldi Concert: A journey back to 18th century Venice isn’t complete without discovering the music from the times when Venice was the pleasure capital of the world. Venetian-born Antonio Vivaldi, is recognized today as one of the greatest Baroque composers. Even Bach studied with Vivaldi and his musical influence spread far and wide. Though Vivaldi concerts are also a quintessential Venetian experience you can attend any time of the year.

If you would like a complete Venice Carnival experience, with the activities above for your very own small group of friends or family, contact me

Beautiful costumes of the carnival in Venice

Venetian masks are beautiful! They also have a long history and rich traditions behind them. Beautiful costumes of the Carnival in Venice-Photo by Audrey De Monte

What is the history of Venice Carnival?

The word ‘carnival’ or ‘carnivale’ in Italian is believed to be derived from the Latin words ‘carnem levare’ or ‘carnelevarium’ which mean to take away or remove meat! Another meaning for the world carnival could be also from the Latin words ‘carne vale’ or ‘farewell to meat’. It is believed that the tradition to celebrate the Venice Carnival may have started in 1162 with the celebration of the victory over Ulrich II of Treven, the Patriarch of Aquileia (an ancient Roman city in Italy). Ulrich II was taken prisoner together with his 12 vassals and eventually released on one specific condition. Every year on Holy Thursday the Patriarch was obliged to pay a tribute to Venice that included a bull and 12 pigs which than were slaughtered in the Piazza San Marco in front of Venetians to commemorate the victory. On that day the street celebrations, games, people dancing and bonfires would take over the streets of the city.

However, Venice Carnival wasn’t officially declared a public festival until 1296, when the Senate of Serenissima made Shrove Tuesday a public holiday. From that moment Venice Carnival ran for six weeks, between December 26th and Ash Wednesday.

Venice’s famous masked balls, fairs and fun street scenes gave rise to impromptu street performances in masks, which later came to be known as Commedia dell’Arte. Comedie dell’Arte was a form of theater that started in the 16th century. Traveling theater companies would present short plays using well known sets of masks and costumes, playing out amusing scenes of marriage, love, adultery, social class mishaps and other popular themes.

By the 18th century the Venice Carnival became the pleasure playground of Europe and festivities continued for 6 months of the year. During that time, Venice was known as a centre of gambling, the ‘Las Vegas’ of its day. It was the place where music and dancing continued almost non-stop. This period is also associated with the Venetian painter Francesco Guardi and with the famous Venetian adventurer and ‘womanizer’ Giacomo Casanova.

Unfortunately, the Venice Carnival fell into decline after when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio and Venice became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia in 1797. On January 18, 1798 the Austrians took control of the whole city and the Carnival almost disappeared for nearly two centuries. Carnival was finally revived only in the 1980’s with its distinctive traditions and celebrations.

Today, the Carnival in Venice is a captivating festival, a tradition that casts its spell on whoever crosses its path. Escape from everyday life and immerse yourself in the fantasy of this amazing festival!

It’s not Carnival without yummy food…!


Foods to enjoy during carnival time in Venice, fritelle

Venetian Frittelle for Carnival-Photo by Audrey De Monte

100 g / 2/3 cup raisins

120 ml / 1/2 cup ‘grappa’, ‘eau-de-vie’ or anise liqueur

500 g / 3 2/3 cups plain flour, sifted

Pinch of salt

15 g / 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

80 g / 1/3 cup caster sugar, plus more for dusting

Grated zest of 1 un-waxed lemon

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

50 g / 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

50 g / 1/3 cup candied citrus peel (optional)

240 ml / 1 cup whole milk, lukewarm

Sunflower oil, for frying

Icing sugar, for dusting

Soak the raisins in ‘grappa’ and leave to plump up.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast and lemon zest. Make a well in the center and break in the eggs, then, using a fork, start to incorporate them into the flour. Add the pine nuts, candied citrus peel (if using) and the raisins with their soaking liquid. Pour in the milk, too, and stir with a wooden spoon until it all comes together into a sticky dough. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size and very bubbly on the surface.

Next, heat the oil in a deep, medium-sized skillet over a low-medium heat. Once hot (180°C/350°F), grab two tablespoons and use them to shape your ‘frittelle’. Take a dollop of dough as big as a walnut and give it a round-ish shape using both spoons, then slip it into the hot oil. Repeat in batches, frying about 5-6 ‘frittelle’ at the time. Fry them on both sides until dark brown all around. Drain with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a large plate lined with absorbent paper towels.

Leave the ‘frittelle’ to cool before dusting them with icing sugar. They are best enjoyed freshly made.

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About Audrey De Monte

Born in New York City, to European native parents, and raised in Western Africa, I have studied, lived and worked on three continents (Africa, Europe and North America), and have traveled extensively throughout the world. Travel has shaped my life, who I am, and how I look at the world and travel continues to be my biggest teacher. Together with my native Italian husband, we speak 5 languages (French, Italian, German, Spanish and English of course). I have spent a lifetime in several countries in Western Europe, since early childhood, visiting family, friends, studying, living and working. I grew up with the local customs and traditions of these countries.