The word Carnevale comes from Latin word carne, meaning meat, and vale, meaning farewell. The masquerade celebration of Carnevale (also known as Carnival or Mardi Gras) traditionally marks the days before Lent and the abstinence of meat eating. In Italy this holiday is celebrated in some way by almost every town, but the most famous event is still in Venice, which hosts Carnevale the week leading up to Shrove Tuesday.
Last year I spent Carnevale in Verona and Venice, here’s a bit about what I learned during my experience.
Bright green silly string and tons of confetti accompanied my mid-afternoon (and mid-Carnevale parade) arrival in Verona for my first taste of an Italian Carnevale celebration. Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, is also known for its crazy Carnevale parade floats.
No cars are allowed on the island of Venice. If you’re headed there it’s best to plan a day trip and arrive by train from a nearby town. Spending the night at a Venetian hotel will be pricey and hard to find. Carnevale is the city’s most popular event and it will be uncomfortably crowded. Last year I spent the night at a bed and breakfast near the famous Lake Garda and drove an hour to the Porto Marghera train station (a 15 min train ride from Venice’s Santa Lucia Station).
As soon as you exit Venice’s main station, it’s tradition to have your face painted. There are many local artists to choose from and it only costs five euro.
Saint Mark’s Piazza, the biggest and most famous Venetian piazza, is the desired destination for Carnevale goers. Since the streets in Venice are small, everyone will be trying to get to Piazza San Marco so it’s best to follow the crowd. You’ll only be able to walk in one direction, crossing over the famous Rialto Bridge on the way.
A perfect way to compliment the day as you battle the Carnevale crowd is an Italian Spritz. A Spritz is a traditional Italian aperitif made with sparkling wine and bitter, orange flavored alcohol (usually Campari or Aperol). A Venetian staple, Spritz in a “to-go” cup is popular for partygoers during Carnevale.
A nice way to end your day in Venice is with a coffee at the oldest coffee house in the world, Caffé Florian. Caffé Florian is a popular attraction in Venice, especially during Carnevale. It’s busy, but you must try one of their famous cappuccinos with whip cream for six euro, remember to stand up while drinking though if you want to avoid the extra service charge for six euro.
Check out these pictures that I took at last year’s Carnevale in Verona and Venice!
Written by OSIA National Office Intern, Carol Cummings. Cummings is a senior at American University, majoring in print journalism, with a minor in Italian.