Vino Con Vista Italy Travel Guides and Events

Vino Con Vista | Traveler

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Love Touring Italy - Venice Carnevale Season

carnevale in veniceImage by Glenna Barlow via Flickr

The Venice Carnevale is among the most famous Carnivals into the world. It takes a back seat to Rio and perhaps New Orleans. But does it meet all the hype? Should you feel that you have missed out if you have to spend Carnevale in an alternate Italian location, a Carnival elsewhere in the world, or perhaps even at home? Only you and and perhaps your partner can decide. Hopefully our article will help you make this momentous decision.

The Venice Carnevale is relatively short, lasting only about two weeks. That can be a good thing, even more so when you consider the costs involved. The city of Venice has a population of about 270 thousand of which less than a quarter actually live in the historic town. Compare these figures to the estimated 50 thousand visitors per day, and we are talking about the annual average, not Carnevale time. On the upside, Venice is the largest car-free city in Europe, but there are two pricey parking lots.

Back to Carnevale. The first record of Venetian Carnevale was in 1296 when the local Senate decreed the day before Lent to be a public holiday. Festivities in the early days included the slaughtering of pigs and oxen and mass brawls, for which bridges seemed to be a favored location. According to Seventeenth Century guidebooks more than 30 thousand visitors graced the city during Carnevale week. After the Venice Republic fell in 1797 Carnevale was banned and didn't return for decades. In the days of Mussolini it was illegal to wear a mask in public. Then it became a sort of children's party but nothing more. Believe it or not, the modern Carnevale dates only from 1979. By 2004 annual attendance passed the one million mark with over one hundred thousand on the final Saturday and Sunday. The peak has passed and attendance is on the way down. Perhaps in the words of that athletic philosopher, Yogi Berra, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."

Masks were and are a central feature of the Venetian Carnevale. People wore them for a large part of the year, would you believe that at one point in Venetian history mask wearing was reduced to three months a year? The Mascherari (mask makers) were favored members of society and had their own guild and even their own laws. The original masks were made of papier-mache, a major component of allegorical floats as well. Other mask materials include leather and wax cloth, which I am told is fine for eating and dancing. The sky is the limit for decorative materials including gold leaf, feathers, and jewels.

Here is a short list of some official events and their admission charge cost for the 2010 Carnivale. At the time of this writing one Euro is worth about $1.43. Hot Chocolate in Costume at the Hotel Danieli on Saturday, February 6 costs 50 Euros. Expect to pay for costume rental. I don't know what you'll pay for cleaning if you get hot chocolate all over your Marie Antoinette dress. Later that day at the Luna Hotel Baglioni there is a Moon Masquerade with a refined Carnival Buffet Dinner and music of the 70s and 80s at a cost of 290 Euros. I do not recommend that you wear the clothes you wore to 70s and 80s concerts, even if you can fit in them. Let's skip to the final day. On Tuesday, February 16 at the Hotel Danieli you'll enjoy Venezia Romantica with a top dinner, a ball, and lots more for 450 Euros. The dress code is Historical Costume. Enjoy. And look for me. I'll be the guy in those plastic giveaway glasses from American 1950s 3-D movies.

Levi Reiss authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but would rather drink fine French wine with friends. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel, wine, and food website and his global wine website featuring a weekly review of $10 wines and new sections writing about and tasting organic and kosher wines.