The magic of the Venice Carnival
March 9, 2019
by Elena Duță
The thought of visiting Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, came to our minds on the spur of the moment, one dreary day at the office. We had some insights that Venice during the Carnival is something one cannot miss, a feast to the eyes, a destination where you can actually feel like you immerse in the past and get to experience the authentic local vibe and mingle with the masked revelers.
The last minute deal we found was perfect for our budget at that time. We traveled in 3 and our accommodation was based in the mainland district of Mestre, a town 10 kilometers away from Venice providing many booking alternatives to the pricey lodging in the residential neighborhoods such as Cannaregio, San Marco or the neighboring islands like Lido or Sant’Elena.
To the historic center of Venice
Mestre is located about 15 minutes away from the historic center of Venice. We chose to travel by bus and our endpoint station was Piazzalle Roma, the place to board the vaporetto – the water taxi that would take us along the main canals, to the islands and to the lagoon and eventually to the Piazza San Marco area. Of course, the vaporetto had a wider coverage taking you further across the island and stopping at each station along the canals. The vaporetto is also the main means of transportation used by the locals so expect it to be rather crowded especially during the Carnival. Most of the time we were there the vaporetto was packed with beautifully masked people that were travelling to the ground zero of the island which was Piazza San Marco. Being surrounded by these majestic entities and not knowing what hid behind the masks and costumes had an unusual impact on bystanders who were secretly taking pictures of the masked men as they perfectly fit in the surrounding landscape while the vaporetto was cruising the main canal.
Moving on, one of our concerns when choosing to travel to Venice in February was the weather. Be mindful that it can get pretty windy and chilly while in the vaporetto but we were soon going to find out that the thrill of seeing the picturesque sights along with a few rays of sun piercing through clouds would end all our worries and envelop us in a rush of warmth and joy that would remain lit inside us for the whole time spent there.
One of the things I particularly enjoyed in Venice was that there were bars and terraces placed very close to the water and there you could be sitting in the sun chilling and sipping your aperol spritz or whatever quenched your thirst and filled your spirit. We would stop quite often to rest and grasp the queer vibration of this city as the Italian vibe was floating in the air making it all look like a movie scene. It felt like being a spectator on a stage where masks, gondolas and all the surroundings were bringing back the flamboyant landscape of the past era.
What came up next on our list of highlights was the Tower in Piazza San Marco where although having to patiently wait in a large queue until getting up it proved to be worth every effort and minute spent. From up there you would get a full view of the surrounding islands, the sea, the canals with all gondolas and small boats crayoned in the distance as in a candid drawing.
People & masks
The sights captivated me in a way I could have never anticipated and I really needed to have my own mask. Not long after you put on the mask you start to feel part of everything, displaying a humble feeling of belonging and at the same time confidence. While walking across the main canal or in the narrow streets you would always meet groups of masked locals intensely staring and luring you to stop and take pictures with them which we did and I must admit those are among the most precious memories from this trip as they enlivened so much the general vibe and made us feel special.
If you’re willing to rent a costume and enjoy a fully flavored experience of Venice during the carnival you have tons of rental possibilities awaiting at every corner of the street either in the form of ads or banners displayed or as small local shops or boutiques that you can visit to try out masks and costumes or even to book seats for masquerade balls or fancy dinners and gatherings taking place every evening of the carnival.
The one and only mainstream experience that we can say we missed was the gondola ride. As our last day in Venice approached, the budget was somewhere down below the limit we had in mind and we chose to buy some souvenirs instead of embarking on a gondola. It was indeed alluring as many people were queuing on the docks to book a seat for the gondola ride but we found it a bit too pricey and more appropriate for couples.
As our last night in Venice was falling, another story began to unfold, a story we could only discover while rushing to catch the vaporetto to bring us back to the station and to Mestre, our endpoint.
Nights during the Venice Carnival
We were thrilled to discover that the old buildings lining up the main canal were actually hosting the masquerade balls and fancy dinners I was mentioning earlier. From outside it looked like some kind of orgies or debaucheries were taking place in the dim lights as we could peep through the windows and catch a glimpse of the masked figures inside. There was room only to guess what was going on inside but judging by the high pitched laughter and the clinking of glasses it was definitely special.
All these scenes shrouded in mystery, the chilly wind, the waves the vaporetto was leaving behind along with the bright red lights reflected in the water framed the end of a remarkable city-break and once again I had to reinstate that Venice during the carnival should to be on your bucket list. It will amaze you and at the same time arouse your interest to discover more than meets the eye.