Vivacious Venice during Carnivale

February, 2017

Wondering why many airbnb apartments are filling up faster than I can search, discover that Venice’s Carnivale is on – excellent time to visit!

The Carnevale di Venezia is a world-famous festival. Especially for the continual parade of stunning masks and period costumes, which takes place for a couple of weeks every year in this beautiful timeless city.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
Could easily be a set from a movie

When?

Ending forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Martedi Grasso (fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras), the Christian celebration of Lent ends the Carnival, the day before Ash Wednesday. This year the carnivale is held on the 11th-28th February.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
Incredible costumes!

Why a mask you ask?

The wearing of masks in Venice dates back to the 13th-century, although the original motive for wearing a mask is unknown.

Masks were worn for various reasons the obvious one being anonymity. Such as, open masks from the nose down so that people, men especially, could go out drinking, eating, and partake in skulduggery without being recognised.

A poignant mask and the one I purchased as I found the story behind the mask fascinating, was worn by Plague Doctors.

masks, costumes, Venice, Italy
Medico della Peste (Plague doctor)

Typically, the beak extended about 30 centimetres in which was placed herbs, dried flowers, spices, or a vinegar sponge. This not only kept bad smells at bay – thought the cause of the plague – but also for the doctor’s protection. For safety, glass covered the mask’s eyes. A wide-brimmed leather hat was also worn by the plague doctors, which indicated their profession.

This costume was a sign of imminent death and so, terrified people. Regardless, the plague doctors were required under their agreement to wear this costume whenever attending to plague patients.

The opulent period costumes at the carnival will leave you craving to hire a costume and join in the ever-changing parade throughout Venetian alleyways.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
Not shy…

Wow, the historical costumes back-dropped against ancient Venice are just incredible…step back in time with all the lavishness of fashion and elegance – amazing!

Venice, Carnivale, Italy, mask
Stunning!

Absorb yourself amongst a living theatre of spectators and masqueraders.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
Gorgeous

Costume judging takes place every morning at legendary St Mark’s Square and only managed to see one. Much fun but very busy and crowded.

Carnivale, Venice, Italy, masks, costumes
Another bizarre entry

Hearing many German and French visitors dressed in their elaborate costumes walking the alleys of Venice, it’s as if they are living in the 17th and 18th-centuries – and often, gladly stop to pose for a photo.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
Slightly more bizarre mask

The only problem is that as soon as masqueraders stop for a photo, a swarm of heads with cameras, phones, and iPads appear from nowhere to also take your photo.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
Venice’s backdrop sets the scene

Indulge in busking, costume judging each morning, street walkers on poles, dancers, live music in bars, activities for children, arts, theatre, and much more during carnivale.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
Dated opulence

Ancient palaces house fancy-dress balls if you wish to participate.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
This costume should have won – magnificent

Masqueraders exude widespread magnificence and grandeur, which is a feast for the eyes. The mystery and intrigue is trying to work out whether the masquerader is male or female.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
A full view during the judging at St Mark’s Square

Venice turns on a fantastic show for everyone, so the vibe is one of excitement and loads of fun, but also fascinating as a spectator.


A little on Venice

With little change in six hundred years, 435 bridges still link 121 islands, which still provides endless waterways and walkways (calli), to explore Venice by boat or on foot.

Carnivale, Venice, Italy, masks, costumes, Gondola
A familiar scene

The lack of cars is one aspect I love about Venice. Depending on where you stay, it’s very quiet and serene at night.

Venice, Italy, Carnivale, masks
The allure of Venice

The romantic charm of Venice draws around 30 million visitors to Venice each year, although its population is less than 60,000 – these figures speak volumes.

Sights

Venice is gorgeous as ever and there are so many beautiful sights – it’s not a myth. I’ve only listed a few popular ones here as this blog is already quite long.

Although some things have changed since 2009, others haven’t.

Something noticeable is the amount of Asian (especially Chinese) tourists here and there are even 2 Asian restaurants on the main strip.

A McDonald’s and a Burger King also ‘grace’ the main strip. What a horrible surprise and really distraught about these establishments here but not really surprised. Money talks…

Many Golden Arches’ adverts are plastered on bins around Venice, which really spoil this ancient city and so disappointing.

Venice, Italy, Carnivale
Venice morrow

Check out Venice’s most famous area and where main monuments and sights are located in the main districts (Sestieri): Castello, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce, and San Marco.

Spend lovely days wandering around the alleyways and districts, getting lost, and taking loads of photos, bumped into the 17th-century Squero di San Trovaso landmark boatyard.

Venice, Italy, Carnivale, Gondola
Gondola in for repair

Rialto Bridge

Always very busy but much more so during carnivale. The Rialto Bridge offers a great vantage point for photos, if you can manage to squeeze your way on to the bridge.

Venice, Italy, carnivale, masks, period costume
Happy to strike a pose…

Evenings are a little quieter than day time with many day-trippers gone.

Murano and Burano

Although we didn’t visit these two lovely Venetian islands on this visit, they’re worth a mention both are great destinations, and loved the day trip out there in 2009.

Murano is world-famous for its glass-making craftsmen whilst Burano is renown for hand-made lace and its brightly colourful buildings.

If you have time, these two islands make for a pleasant day trip and the Vaparetto ride is relaxing.

St. Mark’s Square

This square is always busy but even more so during carnivale, especially around 11am when the costume judging takes place.

Carnivale, Venice, Italy, masks, costumes
Striking!

The square is a beautiful and a famous part of Venice but beware, it is famous for ripping off tourists if you even have just a coffee here – prices are prohibitively expensive.

Jewish Ghetto

The Venetian Ghetto was the first ghetto established in 1516. Before this date, existed political restrictions on Jewish rights and residences. This is still Venice’s Jewish centre today.

As this area is just that little bit off the Venetian tourist trail and further out, you can experience pockets of quietness in this part of Venice, and so, it’s my favourite spot in Venice.

street art, Venice, Italy
Venetian street art

Typically, accommodation is also cheaper here and better value-for-money.


Southern Italy to Venice

Venice, ItalyThe 07:55 am bus (€4.60) from Cosenza’s Autostazione to Lamezia Terme in Calabria, is on time.

Buses from Cosenza to this airport are not frequent and don’t run a Sunday. And, buses from Lamezia to Cosenza are worse. If you just miss a bus during the day, then a wait of up to 2 hours is not uncommon.

With an online Ryan Air check-in and boarding pass, bag drop-off, it’s on to the queue for Immigration – not sure why for a domestic flight.

For some reason, my partner is signalled out for a passport check but the Immigration Officer doesn’t signal me out. As I’m obviously waiting, the officer then collects my passport for checking.

The Immigration Officers are very friendly and we chat advising we’re living in Italy. Again, amazement at the swap of Australia for Cosenza – the usual reaction.


Venice Treviso Airport

Treviso, ItalyThis airport is about an hour’s bus ride (ATVO €12 one-way or €22 return) to Piazzale Roma in Venice.

Driving along the countryside reveals a shroud of heavy fog, which helps to set the scene of romanticism approaching Venice.

On arriving at the bus terminal and catching the Vaporetto (public water bus) Line 1 in the Lido Direction, we stop at ATVC Marcuola stop. Meeting Laura (apartment’s owner), we head off to our new home for 9 evenings.

Tip:

The Vaporetto fare is expensive at €7.50 for 75 minutes and I would rather walk everywhere. You can buy travel cards, which are more economical.

Venice, Italy, Carnivale
Foggy Venice – playing around with my tiny compact camera

Where to sleep

Apartamento Maddalena Cannaregio is a room with a view!

The front gate leads into a well-manicured courtyard garden and up to massive timber doors adorned with brass knobs.

Venice, Italy, carnivale
Courtyard area

Walk through this door and an ancient columned stone-tiled area awaits.

On the right, is another closed but smaller quaint courtyard. On the left, a wide glass door frames a vista of the Grand Canal with Gondolas gliding quietly past – a living Italian Renaissance painting.

Pontoons lead out over the Canal – a great spot for taking photos.

Venice, Italy, carnivale
View to the Grand Canale

A set of high wrought-ironed gates and more heavy timber doors is the entrance to the apartment’s foyer.

Leading up several very aged stone steps and through to another heavy timber door with brass ancient handles, opens into the kitchen.

Venice, Italy, carnivale
Steeped in history – entrance to the apartment

The authentic 14th-century Venetian apartment is beautiful and just like stepping back in time.

Venice, Italy, carnivale
Just gorgeous!

Ornate plaster surrounds you on ceilings and walls. Authentic original art adorns most walls. Laura (owner) mentioned restoration is necessary every 5 or so years as Venice’s damp eats into the paintings and plaster.

Venice, Italy, carnivale
Another view

From the lounge room window, the ever-changing view of the Grand Canal is gorgeous and it’s lovely to just sit, and have coffee whilst watching Venice go by; a shifting painting.

Venice, Italy, carnivale
Room with a view – Grande Canale from our lounge room

The nine-night stay is for my partner’s birthday present so I wanted a special authentic Venetian apartment, with a memorable view. The location is also excellent.

Carnivale, Venice, Italy
Living in an art museum

Tip:

If you use a non-Euro credit card when booking with airbnb, take note of your final charge. Airbnb charges an additional 3% conversion fee on top of the displayed charge, and is hidden in the final total and not itemised. Emailing airbnb regarding this extra charge, I’m still waiting for a response.


Where to eat

Although the apartment is fully equipped, still eat out quite a lot.

If you want to save money, then stand up and eat lunch at a restaurant/Bar, as sitting down at a table is much more expensive.

Spaghetteria 6342 a le Tole Pizzeria

Definitely my first choice for Venice!

Had the best meal in Venice by far at this Spaghetteria, so returned again as this restaurant is an addiction.

The glassed kitchen with busy chefs and the continuous opening door to the kitchen is hectic throughout the night. If you don’t reserve a table, you won’t get in – it really is that busy.

As cuttlefish and its ink is one of Venice’s trademarks, try the freshly made Sepia pasta with scallops (€16) – scrumptious or the delicious Tagliolini Gamberoni (€13). The pizza (€7.50+) is also great. The pasta dish with veal cheek so tender that it just falls apart, washed down with a bottle of Merlot is divine. Follow this up with the most wonderful Tiramisu laced with berry coulis and topped with a flake of chocolate (desserts €6+).

The service is excellent, the food is amazing, and the ambience is pleasantly loud and unpretentious.

Live music – musician with an instrument – is on each night and everything flows smoothly in this very professional restaurant. Cover charge is €2/person. All pasta is handmade in-house.

Magnum Venezia

On Malileo SAS di Camoli D and for €5, experience a Magnum ice-cream drizzled with wonderful toppings, covered with anything from Goji berries, chocolate chips, nuts, M&M’s, and more. Add €0.50 to wash your ice-cream down with an espresso. Super busy and a little side-show watching staff create your personalised Magnum.

Carnivale, Venice, Italy, Magnum
Famous logo

Capatoast

Excellent café on Via Cannaregio, 3102 that sells only massive toasts with delicious fillings. A huge meal in itself, you won’t need anything else.

Small but super busy with locals and foreign tourists, as it’s one of the cheaper eats in Venice. Toasts (€4.50+), hot chips (€2.50), Cappuccino (€1.50). Great staff and music in this cute little modern café.

Vyta Santa Margherita

At Venezia Santa Lucia railway station, enjoy a wonderful coffee (€1.30), snack (€3+), cake or pastry (€2+) – cheapest in Venice.

Relax 8 Caffe Caffetteria

Loads of seating and free wi-fi in this new, clean, and modern café at Venezia Santa Lucia railway station. Good coffee (€1.30), cakes (€2+), and snacks (€2+).

Toilets are free if you buy something.

Pasqualigo Ristorante-Pizzeria

The first night’s meal in Venice and on Cannaregio 2288, it isn’t too bad. It seems that many restaurants are either run by Pakistani, North Africans, or Chinese. What happened to Italian Chefs?

Good pizza (€8+), nice dessert (€6+), and half-litre carafe house wine (€7), with good service in a nice restaurant. Don’t forget the 10% service charge at the end.

Typically, in Venice you are charged Cover and Service charges. Some establishments charge one or the other, and some charge both – check the bottom of the menu.

The Wild West

For a burger or fix other than pasta or pizza, then this is your place on Strada Nuova, 3660/A. Decorated in wild west fashion, if you can get past the country music of which I’m not a great fan, then you’ll have a pleasant meal.

Good service and food: wine (€4+/glass), meals (€8+), beer (€4.30), plus service charge is €2 per person.

Majer

A franchise found throughout Venice. Serves great coffee (€2.60), pastries (€1.25+), snacks, Muffins (€3+), and provides a seating area.

Bar Ciak

On San Polo, 2807/C, prices advertised on the outside window are not the same as when you sit down. Regardless, it’s a lovely pub and not too dissimilar to an old-world English pub.

Very busy with tourists: house wine (€4/glass) and an average Panini (€5). Still, it was warm and cosy on this chilly overcast Venetian winter’s day.

Supermarkets

There are several supermarkets around Venice.

COOP Supermarkets

Pick up cheap pre-made yummy eats, groceries, and most things you need at this COOP on Via Cannareggio 3660, if you’re in a self-contained apartment.

On Via Cannareggio 1976 is a second COOP and also well-stocked, offerring almost anything at much cheaper prices than Venice street stalls.

Despar

Good supermarket on Cannaregio 1939/1952 to stock up but a little more expensive than both COOPs.


More shops

A few shops worth a mention.

Art Marco Venice

You can’t leave Venice without buying the obligatory mask, but beware, many Chinese copies are sold in the main tourist streets.

This tiny shop on Salizada S. Antonin Castello 3486, is barely large enough to squeeze four people standing. Masks are handmade from papier-mâché.

Kastroit (artist that paints the masks) is charming, friendly, and looks after you whilst selling you a mask at a fair price, which comes with a genuine receipt and guarantee.

Computer Fix

Thought I’d throw this one in as this was the only place open to get some documents printed from a USB stick and at €0.50 per B&W page, not cheap. Shop is on Castello 6662/A.

Libreriaa Toletta

Selling Italian books, this shop on Dorsoduro 1213 also sells greeting cards if you’re desperate for a greeting card.


Reflections

Having first visited Venice in 2009, I can’t believe the changes since eight years’ ago.

One main change is that many of the then Italian-run restaurants are now run by either Chinese, Albanians, or Arabians. What happened to the Italian chefs in Venice?

Most of the food around the popular tourists areas are the same expensive prices for the same tasteless meals dished up – disappointing.

Luckily, we can buy fresh ingredients to make meals in the self-catering apartment.

Carnivale, Italy, Venice, street art
Love the expressive street art – depicting one of Venice’s mayors

It does feel great to be back in Venice.

Carnivale, Venice, Italy
Russian model – wedding dress photo shoot

Love the vibe and the labyrinth of alleyways to easily lose yourself in – happens a lot in Venice and the saying is something like this: “…if you haven’t been lost in Venice then you haven’t really visited this city.”

Carnivale, Venice, Italy, costumes, masks
Regal masqueraders

Although these days with Smartphones and Apps, I wonder if many visitors still get lost. Still, many tourists (like us) carry paper maps – you don’t always have internet connection.

Carnivale, Venice, Italy
A Venetian painting around every corner

Escaping the hoards in Venice with a day trip to Trieste

Venice is not the place to be this weekend as just too many tourists flood in for the carnivale’s last frantic weekend.

Time to get out.

A train trip to Trieste sounds like a perfect escape for the day, especially as this city is only about two hours away from Venice.


Leaving Venice

Time to say goodbye to a quieter Venice as carnivale is finished for another year, and walking our backpacks the kilometre to the bus station to catch the comfortable bus back to Treviso airport.

If you need food and a place to sit whilst waiting in Treviso’s Departures, then Bricco isn’t too bad: pizza slices (€4.70), coffee (€1.30), and Brioche (€1.40).

Returning to Cosenza

Ryan Air is on time – always a great start and we arrive at Lamezia Termine on time – amazing.

Great to be back home in Cosenza. I do like the feel of this city. The way people chat the day away and generally live life.

The warmth of today is as if someone has flicked the Summer switch on. Lovely and sunny – a great way to end a fantastic Venice jaunt.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on Italy.

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