Things You Didn’t Know About Carnival in Venice

Venice Carnival is a surreal, whimsical and magical event that is known for its elaborate masks and costumes. It is said that it originated in the year 1162 from a victory of the “Serenissima Repubblica” against Ulrico di Treven, the Patriach of Aquileia. To honour this victory the people of Venice danced and partied in San Marco Square. These days around 3 million visitors come to Venice every year to experience the Carnival and to celebrate while wearing beautiful decorative masks.

Here are a few interesting facts about the Venice Carnival:

Facts About the Venice Carnival

The Carnival Must Go On, No Matter What

Traditionally the carnival could not be interrupted or stopped for any reason. When the Doge Paolo Renier passed away on February 13th, 1789, the news was kept a secret and only communicated on March 2nd when the festivities were over.

Facts about the Venice Carnival: Elaborate Masks at 2010 Venice Carnival
2010 Carnevale di Venezia: Photo Giorgio Menuzzi CC 2.0

The Masks Were Originally A Way to Hide Your Naughty Behaviour

Did you know that in the 18th century Venetians used to wear the full-face black velvet masks at “houses of ill repute” – such as gambling parlours – to hide the identity of their owners? This meant that people could engage in frowned upon behaviours while staying anonymous.

Masks also created the opportunity for an equality that didn’t exist within society. When you were wearing a mask you could be rich or poor, a man or a woman, a Christian or a Jew and no one would know. Everyone was treated the same and would be able to take part in the revelry.

Carnival Hasn’t Been Celebrated Non-Stop Since it was Created

The Carnival celebrations were starting to wane in the 18th century and when the Austrian government conquered Venice in 1798 the practice of wearing masks and celebrating Carnivale were almost completely obsolete. When Mussolini was in power in the 1930s, he banned the celebrations completely.

It wasn’t until 1979 when a group of artisans from Venice got together and decided to restart the festival. They thought that the beautiful masks and costumes and the elaborate parties would be enjoyed by both locals and tourists to Venice. They were right and the festival has been popular ever since.

Facts about the Venice Carnival: Participants at Carnivale di Venezio 2010
Venice – Carnival 2010: Photo Giorgio Menuzzi CC 2.0

Rider-less Horseracing Used to be Part of the Festivities

Until the 1880s the Carnival was celebrated with a rider-less horserace that took place down the Via del Corso. However, as you can expect the event was very dangerous and after numerous accidents it was eventually shut down.

These are just a few of the fun facts about the Venice Carnival that you might not know about.

About Kelly Dunning


A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word. She and her English boyfriend Lee run, packed full with travel guides, stories and inspiration for those who dream of travel. They have been location independent and travelling the world digital-nomad style for the last three years, with no address, no car and no fixed schedule.

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  1. Top 10 World's Largest Festivals - Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] famous for its colour, theatrical presentations and elaborate masks, the Venetian masks define the Carnival of Venice, making it one of the top 10 world’s largest festivals. Hosting attractions and amusements […]


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