Discovering the Venice Carnival

The city of Venice is an extravaganza of sight and sound. From the Bridge of Sighs that spans one of the many canals to the decadent architecture that hangs across the city’s skyline, it is a place where history truly comes alive for the visitor. Echoes of past lives can be found everywhere you go, and this is no more so true than at the Venice Carnival in the ten days before Lent.

The Carnival has a tradition that stretches back to Roman times in Europe, and is more traditionally associated with the final feast before fasting at Lent. In Venice, the carnival took on a new meaning at the height of Venetian oppulence in the 17th and 18th centuries. Then Venice was a world power. Living was done to excess, and so the carnival was begun on December 26th, the non-stop partying, flirting and gambling lasting through until Mardi Gras.

Carnival dress was important. Masks and costumes we worn to hide identities and to protect the reputations of those participating in the more illicit activities. By the end of the 18th century the high life in Venice was over. The carnival fell by the wayside as Venice came under the rule of Napolean.

Today a reincarnation of the Venice Carnival occurs every year in the week leading up to Lent. Events include numerous masked balls, theatrical performances, concerts and pageants in a more tempered style of the Venetian glory days. The 2006 Venice Carnival takes place from the 17th-28th February.