This past weekend a group of SRISA students and I took a weekend trip to the exotic and mysterious Carnivale celebration in Venice, Italy. Venice is a truly mystical town boasting romantic canals, amazing seafood, Venetian masks and of course the city’s world famous Carnivale festival. This annual celebration originates as far back as 1162, when the townspeople of Venice celebrated their victory over the Patriarch of Aquileia. The tradition of the mask started in the 13th century when Venetians would hold celebrations and parties from December 26th until the start of Lent and don elaborate masks to conceal their identity. These parties were the only time when the lower and upper classes mingled together.Our journey began via water taxi, Venice’s main form of transport. The lack of cars was one thing I really appreciated about the island because at night all you can hear is the sound of water splashing up against its mossy canals. As we navigated San Marco’s maze of tiny cobblestone streets and sprawling bridges we found ourselves in Saint Mark’s Square, the buzzing hive of Carnival’s central hub. Surrounded by showers of confetti, blurs of color, and the sound of camera shutters clicking away. In front of us stood the glimmering Saint Mark’s Basicalla, a spectacle dripping in gold overlooking the sea of masks beneath it. This was, as it turns out, the worst possible situation to be in when trying to find your friends. Thankfully they spotted us quickly–looking dapper as ever as they approached us in their new masks.
George and Christian bought their beautiful hand-made masks at an authentic mask shop, which is harder than you’d expect in this city. If you ever plan on buying your own mask at Carnivale, just be aware that the majority of mask shops in Venice sell cheap, imported masks–a far cry from the artisanal tradition that Venetian mask-making truly is. So do yourself, and the artisans of Venice, a favor, and choose your mask shop carefully.
After wandering the streets of Venice, we took a pit-stop for a much needed slice of proscuttio pizza where we witnessed fellow festival goers doing the same. The rest of the day was a blur of feathers, glitter, and glances stolen through Bauta masks.
Capes! We love our capes.
Venice is a vibrant city teeming with culture and mystery and is best experienced with a flare of anonymity. If you don’t mind a crowd and enjoy capes as much as we do, try to visit this vibrant island while you can—thanks to climate change Venice is sinking faster and faster every year. I consider myself very fortunate to have experienced Carnivale di Venezia.