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Have you ever wanted to put on a costume and mask and party all weekend?

I went to the Venice Carnival on the weekend and I did just that. I have been to Venice before and found it so wonderful that I didn’t think that I could love it any more than when I first visited during my honeymoon. I was wrong! Venice maintains it’s beauty during Carnival season yet reveals an extra layer of its character. Venice is like a charming and sweet friend who has decided to take a walk on the wild side for the weekend.

Venice Carnival 2012

The masks are out

The Venice Carnival is an annual tradition that dates back to the 11th Century and was a time of great festivities. It was the only time of year when social classes did not matter. Venetians would put on their masks and wear elaborate costumes so that just for one day, they would feel like a different person. They would then enjoy the festivities while interacting with people that they would not normally interact with.

The traditions have changed over time and the meaning behind it has too… well slightly anyway. People still put on elaborate costumes and wear masks to hide their identity but usually it is so they can party with the tens of thousands of people who visit Venice during this time of year.

We arrived in Venice on a cool Saturday morning and was greeted with a city that was bustling with tourists and Venetians alike. As I stepped off the water bus and into San Marco square, I was instantly fascinated by the masked individuals that were wandering through the city. It was almost as if these characters stepped straight out of my favourite history books and into San Marco.

Venice Carnival 2012

Venice Carnival 2012

Venice Carnival 2012

Photo taken with one of the 14th Century characters at Venice Carnival 2012

Venetians enjoying the festivities at San Marco, Venice Carnival 2012

Venice Carnival 2012

One of the most interesting parts of this festival was when a group of masked and costumed people suddenly formed a circle and proceeded to do what looked to me like a Venetian dance. They were completely covered from head to toe so when they moved in almost slow motion around the circle, all you could see was their eyes staring at you with very little emotion. This gave me the chills and was slightly creepy but really added to the Venice Carnival feel!

Venice Carnival 2012

Then, as we walked into San Marco, we heard loud music and cheering. Right in the middle of San Marco was a stage and we had arrived just in the middle of a fashion contest. Masked contestants were parading their outfits for us all to see. This continued throughout the day, along with the appearance of some DJs and bands. Venice sure knows how to throw a party, so naturally we all joined in on the fun!

Venice Carnival 2012

Venice Carnival 2012

Venice Carnival 2012

Enjoy the view from the top

The Venice Carnival is not just about the masks, costumes, music, general gallivanting and all around fun! We also visited the sites that make Venice unique.

We took an elevator up the Bell Tower of St Mark’s Basilica (aka St Mark’s Campanile) to enjoy the 360 degree, panoramic views of Venice. From the bell tower, we looked out into the lagoon to see small islands, St Mark’s Basilica, Palazzo Ducale and across the land to see suburbs that are made up of narrow alleyways and canals. I recommend a visit to the Bell Tower, especially on a clear day.

Venice Carnival 2012

View of St Mark's Basilica from the Bell Tower, Venice Carnival 2012

View from the Bell Tower, Venice Carnival 2012

We also made our way through St Mark’s Basilica to wander through the museum and stand at the top balcony to get an amazing view of San Marco square. The show was underway so we watched part of it from the top.

Venice Carnival 2012

View from St Mark's Basilica, Venice Carnival 2012

Cost of St Mark’s Basilica: 5 Euros

Cost of the Bell Tower: 8 Euros

Panoramic view of Venice: priceless

When the crowds slowly disappear

If you are not one to brave the crowds, then Venice Carnival can still be for you. When the day trippers leave Venice, the vibe is completely different. The crowd was still fun and joyful, but we were able to move briskly through the alleyways without being delayed by a crowd. There is something magical about walking through the cobble stoned alleyways and bumping into masked strangers in full costume and character!

Rick and I with our friend Adam, Venice Carnival 2012

Costumed Venetians running towards the Rialto Bridge, Venice Carnival 2012

Costumed characters having dinner near San Marco, Venice Carnival 2012

It was also amazing to visit the other side of Venice to just sit by the water surrounded by silence. We came across this beautiful piece of architecture when wandering through the less crowded area of Venice at night. Rick looks so small compared to this large structure!

Venice Carnival 2012

When it rains, it pours

It rained during our last day of Venice but I didn’t mind. As the cold rain leaked through my down jacket, we made a dash through San Marco square and enjoyed every moment of it. The crowds had retreated back to their hotels and the concert had been canceled, so we had San Marco square almost to ourselves. What a wonderful end to a wonderful weekend in Venice!

Venice Carnival 2012

Helpful Information

How to get there from Marco Polo Airport

There are a number of ways to get to Venice. We took the water bus, as it was most convenient and cost-effective but it depends on the location of your hotel and how much you are willing to pay.

For other suggestions, check out this page that I found.

When is Venice Carnival?

The dates change every year. Contact Venice tourism for further information.

What do I wear?

Warm clothes. I wore a down jacket, thermals and my usual clothes. I also wore Ugg boots to keep my feet warm and often had to take out my ear muffs to keep my ears warm. The temperature can get below zero degrees!

Should I go?

Yes, you will build some amazing memories! I hope that you found this post useful. I’m flying out to Salzburg as my next trip so if you have any suggestions on what to do there, do let me know. If you like this blog, click the subscribe button and follow me on twitter. Cheers to many more adventures!

Venice Carnival 2012