The Venice Carnival – Events 2020. The Venice Carnival is undoubtedly one of the most famous carnivals in the world. The beautiful costumes and typical Venetian masks, transform the city in a magical way and the glamour of it all will make you wish you lived in a different time period. Around 3 million visitors per year, are attracted to the carnival, which makes it Venice’s largest event.
The Carnevale di Venezia can be very hectic and crowded, but with some basic information and research, you can make you trip more enjoyable and certainly enhance your photo-opportunities.
The festivities of the Venice Carnival could be considered as a series of historical re-enactments and celebrations. Over recent years a few new events have been added. This sets it apart from other well-known carnivals such as the ones in Brazil and in Germany. Some insights and helpful tips are given for anyone planning to visit future Carnivals in Venice.
The new artistic director Massimo Checchetto chose Game, Love and Folly (Il Gioco, l’Amore e la Follia) as the theme of this year’s event.
This year around 150 events were scheduled, including all the traditional ones such as the “Flights from the Campanile” or the “Festa Veneziana”. Some new events were added, such as one related to love on February 14th – St Valentine’s Day.
Here are some of the main events that were scheduled the Venice Carnival 2020:
The Festa Veneziana (8-9th February 2020)
The opening week-end activities in the first weekend of the Carnival, takes place in the district of Cannaregio. The official start is on Saturday with ‘Amoris Causa’, a spectacular water show organised by Wavents,; a Venetian company specialising in shows and performances, in cooperation with Opera Fiammae.
The performance on the Rio di Cannaregio, with acrobats and music is always very impressive, but can be very crowded. Try to be there ahead of time to ensure a decent viewpoint. There are two performances at 7 and 9 pm.
The first Regata of the carnival is on Sunday, scheduled for around 10.15 am; is a women’s “gondolini” rowing event. It is followed by the “Historical Water Parade of Decorated Boats” (corteo storico di imbarcazioni addobbate). The parade starts at Punta della Dogana around 11 am, arriving at the Cannaregio district about mid-day. It’s a good opportunity to try some typical Venetian food; such as “sarde in soar” (fried sardines in a sweet-and-sour onion gravy) and “bigoli in salsa” (pasta served with an anchovy and onion sauce).
Piazza San Marco (15th-25th February 2020)
St Mark’s Square is the central location for all the carnival festivities, such as the costume parades or the “Flight of the Angel”. The entertainment is organised by the Compagnia Teatrale Pantakin and runs every day from 11 am until 9 or 10 pm. Every evening, from 5.30 pm , you can enjoy live music and DJ sets.
Left: Parade of Maria
Festa delle Marie (15th February 2020)
The “Parade of the Maria” refers to the Purification of Mary, which was the day when all marriages were blessed. At the same time, the Venetian Doge offered magnificent jewels as a bridal dowry to 12 poor Venetian girls. However, in 973, pirates kidnapped the 12 Marie with their jewellery during the ceremony. The parade is in commemoration to thank the Virgin Mary, for her help in rescuing these girls.
The word “marionette” is derived from this Venetian tradition; for at one point in time, the city decided to cut costs and use wooden dolls to represent the Marie in the parade, in order to save money on the dowries. These dolls were called “Marie di legno” or “Marione” later reproduced in smaller sizes and named marionettes.
The parade starts at 2.30 pm from San Pietro in Castello and follows the Via Garibaldi and the Riva degli Schiavoni; before reaching San Marco at about 4 pm. When the parade reaches the stage, a speaker announces the different characters; such as the Doge and other visiting carnival groups.
St Mark’s Square can be very crowded especially close to the stage, so for more successful photography; better viewpoints and backdrops can be had along the Riva degli Schiavoni in Castello and as the parade passes in front of the Basilica.
The award ceremony for the winner of the Festa delle Marie will take place on the last day of Carnevale (February 25, 2020) on the San Mark’s stage, where the twelve girls will arrive by boat, leaving from Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio.
Best Masked Costume Competition (15th – 23rd February 2020)
In the district of San Marco, you will be overwhelmed by thousands of marvellous masks and costumes and begin to appreciate all the work and expertise behind these stunning dresses.
Every day, it is possible to take part in the best masked costume competition, which is open to everyone. Participants parade on the San Marco stage. On the last Sunday of Carnival (February 23rd), the winner is announced.
Most of participants are very willing to have their pictures taken, when they stroll around the square or on the Riva degli Schiavoni; however it is almost impossible to take a picture of a costume without other people getting in the frame.
To avoid other people in your frame, try to take photographs of participants close to walls or buildings; or use the waterfront as a back-drop. You can also use a wider aperture on the camera, so as to throw any distracting components out of focus; which also gives you the benefits of a faster shutter speed, ensuring critically sharper pictures.
Nearby Campo San Zaccaria is a good place to take better pictures. The pink stones of the church front, add a special Venetian touch to the costumes. There are always people hanging around there to be photographed and there is enough space to freely move around. A second option is on the Fondamente de l’Osmarin, where they pose on a small bridge.
Alternative, try to get a seat at the Piazza’s various cafe’s, such as the Caffé Florian. Participants like to take a break, whilst continuing to pose!
Carnevale dei Ragazzi (15th – 25th February 2020)
Celebrating carnival is not only for adults, but also for the young. There are more than 50 events for children across the city. Costume Parades take place on February 24th and 25th in San Marco and several museums and theatres organise workshops and events.
The Biennale also organises events and workshops. The 11th International Kids’ Carnival will take place from Saturday February 15th to Sunday February 23rd, at the Biennale headquarters in Ca’ Giustinian. It will be featuring free workshops, (reservation required) and open to schools from Monday to Friday and to families on Saturday and Sunday.
The General Programme will be divided as usual into:
Days for schools: Music, Choreography/Bodily Expression, Hands-on learning, Multimedia/Digital activities, Scientific/Technical/Technological workshops, Tailoring and Theatre.
Weekends for families: Music, Choreography/Bodily Expression, Hands-on learning, Multimedia/Digital activities, Scientific/Technical/Technological workshops, Tailoring and Theatre.
The Flight of the Angel (16th February 2020)
This event is often considered as the official opening of the Carneval and is broadcast on television. It goes back to the mid-16th century, when a young Turkish acrobat spectacularly succeeded in walking up to the Campanile via a long rope attached to his boat at the Riva waterfront. On his descent, he stopped at the balcony of the Palazzo Ducale to honour the Doge.
Originally it was known as the “Flight of the Turk”, until it finally ended in tragedy in 1759; when one of the acrobats fell to the ground and died. The event was forbidden, but restarted later with the descent of a wooden dove scattering flowers over the crowds. The name was changed to “Flight of the Dove”.
Finally, in 2001 the event changed into the “Flight of the Angel”, with a girl (an actress or model), performing the historical act of the Turk; flying from the Campanile to the stage, where she is greeted by the Doge. Since 2011, the Angel is chosen by being the winner of the Festa delle Marie; from the previous year.
This is a very popular event and one of the times you will have to be there a few hours in advance of her jump at 12 am; as you have to be able to see both the side of the Campanile and the stage.
Ballata delle Maschere con Il Taglio della Testa al Toro (February 20th 2020)
The “Ballad of the Masks with the Beheading of the Bull”, is a more recent event; taking place for the third time. It is organised by the association “L’Arte dei Mascareri”.
The event refers to the legend of ‘giovedì grasso’ and(mardi gras). This celebrates the victory in 1162, against the Patriarch Ulrico of Aquileia and his twelve rebel lords. Every year In memory of the attempted rebellion, the successors of Ulrico must send a bull, twelve pigs and breads, to the Doge of Venice.
The bull is a symbol for the Patriarch and the pigs for the lords. They were shown to the people in St Mark’s Square, who mocked them; followed by the bull’s beheading.
The parade starts at 3 pm at San Giacometto (Rialto) and ends in St Mark’s Square; where the artificial bull is beheaded.
Nicolotti e Castellani (February 21st, 2020)
One of the newer events, is the historical re-enactment of the fights between the Nicolotti families, who lived in Dorsoduro and the Castellani families from Castello.
During the era of La Serenissima, these fights between neighbourhoods usually took place on a bridge. It now takes place St Mark’s Square. Two performances are held at 3 pm and 5 pm.
Volo dell’Aquila (23rd February 2020)
The “Flight the Eagle”, similar to that of the Angel, is a recent event only starting in 2012.
Kristian Ghedina, the Italian ski champion, who won the most victories in the 90’s in the downhill skiing World Cup; will fly from San Marco Bell Tower to the stage in the St Mark’s Square for the traditional event. The event is scheduled for Sunday, February 23rd at 12.00 am
The downhill racer from Cortina D’Ampezzo, will wear a suit designed by the Atelier Pietro Longhi and will drop from the bell tower waving the flag of the next Alpine Ski World Championship.
In the afternoon, starting at 15.30 pm, the grand finale of the most beautiful mask contest will take place.
Regata Sprint di Carnevale (23rd February 2020)
To end the last Carnival weekend, you can watch the Regata which starts at 2.30 pm at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi and ends at Rialto. The teams are mixed in sex and age.
Svolo del Leone (25th February 2020)
The final official activity of the Carnival is the “Flight of the Lion of San Marco”, painted on a large canvas.
The 12 Marie and the Doge will salute the flag, which is pulled up from the square to the top of the bell tower. It starts at 5 pm, after the award ceremony for the winner of the Festa delle Marie.
Balls and Parties
There are many masked balls and parties all over Venice, but are rather expensive to attend; as they often include dinner, a show and music. One of these is the Official Dinner Ball ‘Nurture Love, Feed the Folly’ which is organised by the Carnevale di Venezia.
It is held in the Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, along Canal Grande on February 15th and 16th and from February 20th until February 25th. The show will be performed by an international cast of dancers, musicians, performers and actors dressed in Venetian costumes. Tickets need to be booked beforehand.
At the Arsenale, the young at heart can attend the live music and DJ sets with international artists until the early hours. These entertaining evenings take place on February 15th and from February 21st to the 24th.
Please note: The 2020 Carnival Events program was terminated prematurely on the 23rd February, due to the COVID-19 virus epidemic.
Please click the link to see my other related posts in the “Venice Carnival” category: HERE
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