Party on in front of Basilica di San Marco in the heart of Venice, Piazza San Marco.
The Carnival is a must-see for anyone remotely interested in Venice, fashion, style, excess or plain weirdness, with costumes ranging from elaborate formal Regency outfits, through bizarre and expensive designer kit, to bizarre and cheap home-made kit, to large family groups shuffling around all dressed as King Penguins. For the full flavour, rent a costume and go to a costume ball (the poshest is the Doge’s Ball).
A Plague doctor family at the Carnival. During the plagues that swept across Europe in the middle ages – especially the Black Death that killed about 70% of the population around 1348 – all sorts of remedies and protections were invented including these charming masks that Venetian doctors actually wore. We have no data on the success rate of these papier-maché masks.
Best days to go there
The best costume sights are not so much at the beginning or end of the event, they pop up at the weekends when non-Venice Italians appear in all their finery. Weekends are thus the most crowded times too. . .
Italian comedian/mime artist Ennio Marchetto assembled this fabulous work of art.
This outfit is breaching the borders of sanity. The guy has clearly brought all his demons with him to the Carnival.
If you’ve already done Venice you could try a carnival in a different European location. There are excellent carnivals at Viareggio, Italy; Binche, Belgium; Nice, France; Cologne, Germany; Munich, Germany; gay Sitges (near Barcelona, Spain); or Seville’s Semana Santa for something completely different yet strangely similar.