Venice Carnival Pictures Guide, Italy

A Jean-Paul Gaultier costume at Venice Carnival, Italy

Designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier. There were two guys wearing identical outfits except white/black and red/black.

Italy’s Venice Carnival is a funny, crazy and exuberant eventset in one of the world’s most unique and beautiful cities – safe too, though beware pickpockets in the crowded square (Piazza) of San Marco.

For the ten days the city sees all sorts of normally sensible folk, including many families, as well wackos, weirdos and exhibitionists, dressing up in specially made costumes or outfits rented for the occasion, strutting their stuff around Venice’s centre.

The area is stuffed with both sightseers and snappers of pictures, but there are sufficient sights of both the costumed variety and of local architecture and artefacts to keep any visitor happy for quite a few days, if not the whole event.

A goup of jesters in front of San Marco Basilica, Venice Carnival, Italy

Party on in front of Basilica di San Marco in the heart of Venice, Piazza San Marco.

Costumes

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).

plague doctors at venice carnival, italy

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

3-golden-guys-venice-carnival-italy

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.

purple-girls-venice-carnival-italy

Wow!

Reds at Bridge of Sighs, Venice, Italy

The Bridge of Sighs, Venice

A typical tourist day

One of the best aspects of this festivity is the relaxed structure. A typical day visitor’s might go something like this. . .

Up late, breakfast in your hotel not far from the Piazza San Marco. Stagger a few yards to the Piazza about 10am, take a quick look to see if there are any serious costumes about, then have an expresso and brandy in a bar – standing up, because it’s cheaper that way.
Back into the square, take a few pictures of early weirdos, then take off for an hour’s walk, or maybe take a water bus to one of the neighbouring islands.
Have a real Italian pizza for lunch – having found a place where Italians are eating – then back to the increasingly crowded Piazza area mid afternoon for the rest of the day.

Italian party people, who often wear the most inventive or beautiful outfits, will have recovered from the night before and will make appearances – happily posing for photos – before diving into the Café Florian or wherever is fashionable that year. Mind you, Florian has been fashionable for a few hundred years so it’ll probably remain so for a while yet.

Then, as dusk falls, families head for dinner places while the party people head for their rooms to prepare for another wild night in Venice.

demons at venice carnival, italy

This outfit is breaching the borders of sanity. The guy has clearly brought all his demons with him to the  Carnival.

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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.