Attending the Carnival today is just as exciting as it was years ago, obviously it doesn’t come with quite the significant cultural equilibrium, but masked people are still walking the streets and many a party is underway. Now thanks to international tourism and the spread of information via the internet even more bodies flock to Venice to take part or simply marvel at those who are. With numerous photo opportunities thanks to folks dressed to the nines in full classical costume as well as modern participants using this as an excuse to dress up, the festival is bulging with interesting characters.
Although there are all out outdoor parties and street filling celebrations during points of the festival, you will also find many other smaller events happening from January to March. Whether you have come to dance the night away with people who you can’t identify or whether you have brought your children to see a fun parade, the Carnival of Venice seems to cater to everyone. There are a host of carnival tours available during this time which will allow you to see the sites as well as stumble upon lesser know areas around town.
You can ride the gondolas down the canals or take walking tours through the winding streets, where you will no doubt encounter others with bulging Venetian dresses and classic waistcoats and hats also celebrating. Pubs in the area are packed out as crawls are organised for the elaborately dressed and bars are heaving with masked folk ready to loosen up. Enjoy classical music as you sit outside with your wine or coffee as pop up chamber music bands take to the streets in mass, though indoors there are plenty of theatrical shows to be seen. If you really want a taste of the old time Venice, masquerade balls are still happening. Many of these try to capture the essence of elegance and mood of the early Venetian parties and will therefore only accept costumed guests, so keep this in mind. The destinations for these gatherings are often just as impressive and decorative as many of the masks on display so its well worth booking one in if you are early enough.
During day and night, you can enjoy the Festa veneziana sull acqua, where the water of the canal becomes the stage for performers. With dancers, acrobats and fire jugglers all sailing across the waters here, the floats you would usually see on the streets are given new life here. Giant animals and impressive costumes all make their way down stream in this mix of music, performance and light.
In Saint Marks square a ritual celebration remembers the origins of the festival as costumed people gather to pay tribute. Here a huge canvas decorated with the symbolic picture of a lion (the mark of the city) is carried waved and flown up to the tower high above the audience. This more traditional practice is called the Svolo Del Leon and acts as a send off for festival goers, who after the fun here will be back next year to do it all over again.