The Venice Carnevale has a history going back supposedly to 1162. In 1296 it was declared an official holiday by the Senate of the Venetian Republic to be celebrated the day before the beginning of Lent. Over the centuries the celebration was extended running from December 26 to Ash Wednesday with parties and entertainment throughout the city. Lavish masked balls took place in the palaces.
By the 18th century Venice Carnevale was renowned throughout Europe for its parties, entertainment, masks and costumes. Unfortunately, the masks and costumes allowed those who would do harm opportunities for illegal activities. By 1797 and the fall of the Venice Republic at the hands of Napoleon there was a permanent ban on Carnevale with the exception of private parties in the palaces and at La Fenice Theatre.
It wasn’t until 1967 that some of the traditions were brought back. In 1979 in the interest of tourism and the economy a government plan was made to promote Carnevale. That plan has been very successful and today Venice Carnevale has regained its worldwide recognition.
My First Carnevale
Although this wasn’t my first visit to Venice, 2013 was my first introduction to Carnevale. An entirely different atmosphere greeted me. Arriving before dawn at San Marco I saw a dazzling array of Masks (the term generally applied to the masked and costumed participants). Below are just a few images from visits in and around San Marco Square.
(Click on an image to enlarge and use the arrows to move to the next)
There are a number of locations in Venice where the Masks will congregate on different days after starting the day in San Marco. This was my first experience and it took a couple of trips to learn the ropes, but that year I managed to find my way to several of them. Each venue has its own characteristics offering interesting backgrounds and lighting.
Many of the old palaces in Venice have been converted to luxury hotels. I was fortunate to be in a small group that had access to one of these exceptional hotels where we were allowed to photograph in a few of the public areas.
San Giorgio Maggiore
Directly across the water by ferry from San Marco is the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. It’s frequently the venue for a late afternoon photo session with the Masks. Best known for its beautiful Church of San Giorgio with it’s melodious bell tower. The construction on the architecturally splendid church was begun in 1566, and provides a wonderful stage for the Masks, while the late afternoon sun creates some great light for photography.
One of my favorite locations is the colorful Island of Burano. On the designated day Masks, photographers and tourists will take the ferry past the Island of Murano, where beautiful art glass is made, to colorful Burano. The canals, bridges and brightly painted buildings create an entirely different atmosphere from any other. My images in 2013 concentrated mostly on the Masks, and unfortunately, didn’t include the wonders of Burano. Happily, I corrected that in later years.
The costumes, most made and designed by the Masks themselves, have amazing detail and accessories. I’ve included some shots of both closeups of the masks and of the costumes.
This has been a fun trip down memory lane for me. I hope that it’s one that you’ve enjoyed, too. Carnevale was cancelled in 2021 because of the pandemic. Although it will take place this year many of the big events have been cancelled. Sadly travel restrictions and mandates have forced me to cancel my 2022 trip. I hope to return to once again enjoy the wonderful event of Carnevale in 2023. Thanks for allowing me to share my memories. Cheryl