Venice’s Carnival is about to start. From tomorrow and until 28th February the Serenissima will be invaded by tourists in fancy costumes.
As an ‘adopted Venetian’ – having lived there for 10 years of my life – I have reached a conclusion I share with many other residents: the best way to enjoy the Carnival is avoiding it at all costs.
You don’t want to find yourself queuing in a narrow calle (street) so packed it requires a traffic warden to stop people from bumping into each other, do you? And you don’t want to be ripped off in any possible restaurant, where you’ll not find a place unless booked well in advance and where you’ll find very modest food and nervous waiters, do you? Or struggling to find a decent hotel and ending up sleeping in an overpriced room furnished with cheap Venetian-style furniture?
Well, this will happen if you venture to Venice during the pick days of Carnival, such as weekends. During the week the situation is something more relaxed and the worst it can happen is being told off by a resident in a hurry if you stop on a bridge to take a photo (please, don’t stop on bridges to take photos occupying all the space, as residents need to go to work or pick up their kids from school).
I’m pretty sure that despite my suggestions you still think that the experience of Carnival is an unmissable one. Well, you might know then that if you want to participate in one of the parties with fancy dresses in a Palazzo what you’ll get is a dinner with ok food, music from Vivaldi and a lot of Germans with their masks and wigs as your fellow party-goers. Not a Venetian in sight. And it will cost you 400-500 euros (plus the cost of renting the costume, unless your wardrobe is full of Casanova’s outfits). Does it really worth spending that money? Definitely not. There are other events to enjoy for free, such as Il Volo della Colombina (the flight of the dove) or the stalls of the artisans in Piazza San Marco (make sure their goods are not made in China or Taiwan). Or even the Festa delle Marie (Girls party), where they celebrate the Queen of the Carival chosen among the more beautiful your Venetian girls). All this providing you survive the crowd, the cold and the noise.
I would suggest to do as the Venetians do and leave to the Dolomites, coming back to Venice only when Carnival is over. You’ll have a better treatment, you’ll enjoy some skying and meet some residents, relaxed at the idea of what they have left home. And enjoy the program of the Carnival online.
After 20th February everything will look nicer, I promise.