Carnival in Venice

Carnival in Venice

Carnival is the most popular festival in Venice, its origins in the city date back to the 13th century when the Doge made it a public holiday. Originally Carnival in Venice started on the 26th of December and lasted for several weeks until the beginning of Christian Lent. Carnival was an occasion of social release. People were gathering together celebrating by eating the most tasty food and dancing all day long.

How Carnival developed?

Throughout the centuries Venetian Carnival has become famous all over Europe. People from other countries arrived in Venice to enjoy the celebrations. That way, Carnival quickly turned into a luxurious festival with elaborated costumes and masks. In that period there were parties all over the city inside the beautiful palaces on the Gran Canal. To attend those parties masks were mandatory! This way you didn’t know who the person in front of you was! You could party with a sailor, a nobleman, an actress, a commoner and you didn’t care! The idea was that of hiding your identity and your social standing in order not to judge or to be judged by anyone. You can guess that anything could happen in those occasions…and when we say anything, we really mean anything! This general freedom also had some negative outbound. Crime began to raise. With the mask on criminals were unpunished, they couldn’t recognize them! That’s why the Republic of Venice started imposing some rules to control Carnival. They forbade to wear a mask in the streets after dark. They also abolished them inside churches, monasteries and convents. We can say that even friars and nuns enjoyed celebrating Carnival!

Carnival and masks

On the bright side that of producing masks became an actual art. Venetian mask makers used their talent and creativity. They made masks with papier mache and decorated them with pearls, feathers and glitters. They could be colorful, extravagant and lavish, never sober! This is a tradition that has survived up to current days. The mask is still the most typical souvenir in Venice. If you get lost in the little alleys you can find laboratory shops and even craft your own mask.

The most famous traditional Venetian masks

BAUTA: it is the quintessential mask of Venetian tradition. It was particularly popular inside casinos (houses for gambling and brothels). As a matter of fact, its beak like shape allowed people to eat and drink without taking it off. It was also a way to disguise your voice.
MORETTA: it was a small black velvet mask. It had French origins and it was exclusively for women. Guess why? In order to wear it, they must held it in their mouth. In this way it was impossible for those women to talk! This silence was a weapon of seduction as it added a huge amount of mystery to the game.
PLAGUE DOCTOR:  originally doctors used this mask during plague epidemics. It has got a long beak where they put dried herbs and flowers to avoid breathing the bad smell of their patients! The length of the beak also allowed them to maintain some distance from the corpses.

Carnival today

After many centuries of fun and great celebrations Carnival in Venice ended with the Napoleonic invasion that started in 1797. The darkest pages of Venetian history corresponded to the end of this magnificent Festival. Venetians would have to wait until contemporary times to bring the spirit of Carnival back to life. As a matter of fact, it was only in the 70’s that a group of students and local associations started organizing the first parades with music, costumes and masks. Today the main celebrations are held in Saint Mark’s Square. They still organize splendid balls inside the palaces on the Grand Canal. Tickets can be very expensive but we believe it is one of those lifetime experiences you must live at least once. Unfortunately the covid-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of all public events. But don’t worry, Carnival 2021 will be an online event. For more info, check this link out! Fingers crossed for next year! We are looking forward to meet you soon in Venice to host you in one of our tours and have a nice spritz together…who knows, maybe right during Carnival time!


Redentore Festival


Redentore Festival

The church of Redentore is one of the most outstanding buildings that define the skyline of Giudecca island. Yes, in Venice we do not have skyscrapers, we have churches and bell towers that define our landscape! As regards the above mentioned church, the story of its foundation is related to one of the plague epidemics that affected Venice over the centuries. We were in 1575, the plague hit the city, in two years there were almost 50,000 victims, if you think that at that time the population of Venice consisted of 150,000 people, this means that one third of the city was killed by the plague. There was no treatment to the disease, people were so desperate that they started thinking that the plague was a punishment sent from God in order to redeem them from their sins. In 1576 the Senate made a vow: they would have financed the building of a church in exchange of God’s help.

Giudecca canal

In 1577 the works started, the architect in charge of the project was Andrea Palladio, an important name, today he is considered one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture. They positioned the first stone in May and soon the miracle happened: the plague stopped on the 20th of July 1577! It was a huge relief for the city, a procession was organized to celebrate this event. It was lead by the Doge and the members of the Senate who were then followed by nobles, members of the clergy and Venetian citizens. They had to reach Giudecca island and there was only one obstacle: the island is separated from Venice by the homonymous canal. The solution was simple: they created a temporary bridge made up of wooden boats, connected together by some ropes. The procession reached the church and people went inside in order to pray and thank God who stopped the plague. The procession became a ritual that the Venetians repeated yearly, this tradition has survived up to the present days. Every year, on the third weekend of July, a temporary bridge is built on the Giudecca Canal. Today they no longer use wooden boats, the bridge consists of a metal structure that can easily be transported and assembled. It is a unique experience to cross it: the view is astonishing and it is very odd to walk and cross the canal, usually you must use the boat to reach the other side!

Redeemer festival

The Redentore festival is very popular among Venetians, the celebrations start on the Saturday: in the evening the Giudecca Canal is closed to public transport, you can only go there by private boat and then you must stop there for a few hours until traffic is opened again. Why? Well, there is a unique show on that night! All boats are decorated with balloons, flowers and candles, people have dinner on the boats or they organize long tables all along the canal side on Giudecca island.

It’s a chance to party together, to celebrate the sense of community that is still surviving in Venice. During Redentore night friends, neighbours and relatives organize their dinner together: the most typical food consists of bigoli with onion and anchovies, sweet and sour sardines, stuffed duck, escargots and the most typical summer fruit: watermelon! Wine is another protagonist of the night, together with music and celebrations.


Redentore celebrations

We have to say that today Redentore is a festival both religious and spectacular: on the Saturday night at 11Pm the fireworks start, it’s a really beautiful show. Fireworks continue for almost one hour, you can admire them in the sky and you can also see their reflection on the water, it’s a colorful show that makes Venice even more magical. The Giudecca canal on that night is full of boats where people are celebrating all night long, the canal sides are crowded with Venetians and tourists that gather there hours in advance to find the best spots to see the fireworks. The luckiest people are those who own a balcony or a terrace on the rooftop, they have a unique and privileged view!

Redentore 2020

After the Covid-19 epidemic Redentore, like other local festivals, risked to be canceled. It was a surprise for the Venetians when the mayor announced that the festival is confirmed on the18th and 19th of July! Of course, they will take all measures and precautions necessary to protect everybody’s health, there will be restrictions on the number of people who can access the canal side to see the fireworks and boats will have to reserve their spot on the Giudecca Canal, social distancing and masks will be mandatory. It will be a strange festival, but at the same time it will be one of the first chances for Venice to go back to local traditions and events! After the lockdown we all need some fireworks!