Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Venice Carnival (Tips for Tourists)

Typical Carnival Mask  (via @SaritaAgerman. Model: Sylvie) 

After writing a post about grabbing a gelato and then getting lost in Venice last month, I thought I'd follow it up with some practical advice for people visiting Venice at Carnival time.  

The first piece of advice probably goes without saying but it's still worth stressing: prepare yourself for crowds. The narrowness of the Venetian walkways and alleys are exaggerated during carnival as throngs of people squeeze through them trying to find the famous Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square). However, lots of people means that carnival always has a great atmosphere with the hustle and bustle of people dressed up in masks and costumes. 

Venice during the Carnival period is a completely different experience to Venice at any other time of year. Therefore I forewent going inside the main attractions such as the Doge's Palace and instead I indulged in people watching and took in the vibrant atmosphere and beautiful setting. It's often amusing trying to decide whether some ladies are dressed up to the nines for Carnival or if they are in fact just normal Italian women in their regular Winter fur coats (see the case in point below!)

Italians always joke that no Italians actually live in Venice. The majority of people live on the mainland (terraforma) in Mestre and Marghera rather than on the Venetian Lagoon. As a popular location for tourists, Venice is more expensive than most Italian cities and so you should bare this in mind and be savvy with your purchases. As a general rule, the further away you walk from the Venezia Santa Lucia station, the cheaper they will be. If you're buying from a stall or even some shops, there's a potential for haggling if you're buying a lot of items. Remember that for Venetian vendors, haggling is an art form and so really think about your price limit before you start the process of negotiating. 

Venice is famous for its Murano Glass which can be found in many forms such as the bracelet above which I was given as a gift. If you're thinking of buying an iconic Carnival Mask, the standard price is about 10 euros. It's rare to find one cheaper and of course, the more elaborate the mask, the more expensive it will be but I'm sure you'll find it a lovely keepsake to maybe put up on your wall (or on a giant IKEA elephant called Gino...) Speaking from experience, it can be pretty quite tricky to transport home in your suitcase as it will need a lot of padding to protect it from being squished.

In terms of transportation, the first thing you'll want to check out and take snaps of are the iconic gondolas for their romantic reputation and chirpy gondoliers in stripey tops and straw hats. The standard rate is 80 euros for 40 minutes. The gondoliers are open to negotiating the price but they'll also have no hesitation adding extra charges for singing or if the length of the ride increases. Do make sure you sort out the fine details before getting into the Gondola. 

Photo: via @John1954Moi 

Getting around Venice can be quite tricky as boats and ferries are often fully loaded. Venetian ferrymen working on the main ferries can become impatient at times and herd you onto the boat. I've heard many stories about ferrymen telling unwitting tourists that the ferry trip will take only short time but in reality it's more like forty minutes. So always leave plenty of time to get back to the main station! 

I remember arriving just in time for my train but I was unable to get on as there were so many people (mainly Erasmus students) clambering onboard. I saw a poor young lady inside one carriage with her face squidged up against the glass. Her eyes told me that she knew she'd made a gross error of judgement. My group of friends thought that we should learn from her mistake and so we graciously decided not to add to her lack of space by wedging ourselves into the carriage with her.

If you have any questions or comments about your trip to Venice please feel free to leave them below and I'l get back to you. I hope you have a wonderful time in Venice! 


  1. Hey there! This is a very good read. Keep up the good work! How I wish I could go there to see the beauty of Turin. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well. You have such a very interesting and informative page. Thank you so much for sharing us some information about Venice Italy attractions.
    According to John Julius Norwich, the traditional first doge of Venice, Paolo Lucio Anafesto, was actually Exarch Paul, and his successor, Marcello Tegalliano, Paul's magister militum (General; literally, "Master of Soldiers.") In 726 the soldiers and citizens of the Exarchate rose in a rebellion over the iconoclastic controversy at the urging of Pope Gregory II. The Exarch was murdered and many officials put to flight in the chaos. At about this time, the people of the lagoon elected their own leader for the first time, although the relationship of this ascent to the uprisings is not clear. Ursus, would become the first of 117 "doges" (doge is the Venetian dialect development of the Latin dux ("leader"); the corresponding word in English is duke, in standard Italian duce.) Whatever his original views, Ursus supported Emperor Leo's successful military expedition to recover Ravenna, sending both men and ships. In recognition, Venice was "granted numerous privileges and concessions" and Ursus, who had personally taken the field, was confirmed by Leo as dux and given the added title of hypatus (Greek for "Consul".)
    A very rich collection of Venetian paintings from Veneto as well, from the Bizantine and Gothic fourteenth century to the artists of the Renaissance, Bellini, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto and Tiziano until Gianbattista Tiepolo and the Vedutisti of the eighteenth century, Canaletto, Guardi, Bellotto, Longhi.
    venice italy attractions

    1. wow thank you so much for sharing your knowledge - you really know your stuff :) In the future I'm hoping to write more about other cities like Florence & Milan which are relatively close. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment - hope to see you again soon! Sarita

  2. I really like this blog post and Thanks for the information about.

  3. It is wonderful that you have decided to bring closer this awesome event for future visitors of Venice.

    1. The carnival was so much fun - it's a great event and the city really comes to life (although it's always a lively city in all seasons). I hope that you're not having too many problems with the flooding and that it goes away soon. Have a great weekend. Sarita

  4. Hello.. hope i can go there. but i have a question. in what session or when the best time to visit venice and see the venice carnival. thanks. Vita


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