Updated: Jan 23, 2020
We decided to end our Italian ski vacation with 8 days in Venice and we were lucky to experience 4 days of one of the most famous carnivals in the world. Carnival started here back in 1162 when happy Venetians gathered in St. Mark's Square to celebrate a military victory. The custom of dressing up in elaborate costumes and partying heavily continued until 1797 when Venice came under Austrian control. The Italian government revived carnival in 1979 as a way to promote tourism and reclaim the city's cultural heritage. That initiative was very successful as millions of tourists descend on the city every year in the two weeks preceding Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
People in elaborate costumes go to St. Mark's Square to be admired.
If you want to experience Carnival next year, all that's required is a little bit of nerve. Costumes of all prices can be purchased or rented when you arrive or you can do what we did this year and bring your own. We decided to buy a pirate dress and a Plague Doctor mask on Amazon. Pirates plagued the Venetian ships for centuries and the Plague Doctor wore the hideous mask and long black cape to scare away diseases and protect himself from germs.
Mark blends in as the Plague Doctor.
A wizard and the Doge (Venetian ruler) were happy to pose for pictures.
At first, we were feeling a little shy about wandering out from our hotel in costume, but that feeling soon passed as we realized that no one knew us here and that dressing up just makes the experience even more authentic and fun. As soon as we arrived in Venice, we shared a traghetto (a gondola that costs only 2 Euros) to cross the canal from Campo Santa Sofia to the Rialto Market. Our fellow passengers were young costumed Venetians who couldn't have been more welcoming. They posed for photos and wished us the time of our lives and that's what we've been having here.
These young Venetians welcomed us to their city.