Venice, Italy is a great city to visit year round but from the end of January through till March is masquerade carnival time.
The Venice Masquerade Festival was first documented in 1092. Then during the 15th and 16th century the organisation of the carnival fell to Compagnie di Calze a group of noble men, who were recognised for there multi coloured stockings. By the 17th century the carnival was in decline, the venetians still wore masks for six months of the year due to religious reasons and to hide their social classes. In 1979 the Carnival of Venice was re-born and revitalised into what it is today. With masks being used by Hollywood in films such as Labyrinth with David Bowie.
The oldest mask has been said to be dated to 7000 BC but some say that, the craft of making masks could have started much earlier. In ancient times the mask was used doing worshiping celebrations such as was used by the Aztec’s.
The Highlights of Venice Masquerade Festival
There are said to be more than 2000 extraordinary, colourful and flamboyant costumes worn in the streets of Venice during carnival. And more than 400 costume makers gather in Venice from Germany, France and Austria to compete for the best costume creation. In both 2005 and 2009 Vivien Westwood was on the jugging panel. One of the most popular and exclusive of the masked balls to attend is the Gran Ballo della Cavalchina at the Teatro La Fenice (The Feniche Theatre). If you can’t attend this one, don’t worry there are a few others. Definitely an opportunity not to be missed!
The different masks have different names including the most popular and famous being the “Bauta”. which covers the whole face and mouth but has a beak like chin to allow the wearer to still talk, eat and drink without taking the mask off. Another is the “Dama” a full made up ladies face with lots of gilding. Then there is the “Gatto” Which is a half face mask of a cat. Then finally the “Dottore Peste” or “Medico della Peste”. Venice was not immune to the deadly disease of the plaque. And these masks are representations of the doctors outfit worn during those times. The other full costumes that can be seen are epoch, Pierrot-style, Commedia, themed and some gothic. If attending the masked ball 16th – 18th century epoch traditional dress can be hired in shops around Venice. Although this can be expensive and some stockists availability goes very quickly. If you can take a costume with you and pre-plan which events you are going to. As Venice is a hive of activity and draws in large crowds from all over the world for this annual calendar event. I would highly recommend booking booking accommodation in Venice in advance.
Most of the action takes place around St Mark’s Square, the first being the opening of the Venice Masquerade Festival with the “Flight of the Angel”. A tradition in which a lady dressed in traditional costume, is lowered the 99 metres from the Bell Tower of St Mark’s Basilica by a wire. Not to be missed!
Allow plenty of time if going to a ball, as everyone will want to take photographs with/of you in the area. It can be a really magical and unique experience.
Have you visited romantic Venice? Seen the colourful and elaborate costumes of ? We would love to hear your highlights. Please comment below. If you loved the article please share.