There are few cultural festivals more elaborately celebrated than the Venice carnival in Italy. People from all over the world travel to this annual event. Some to participate in the costumed revelry, others to sight see and troll for photo opportunities.
The city is picturesque enough in its own right. Add in the gilded masks, beaded dresses and ornately-decorated hats, and it can begin to feel as though youíve stepped back in time.
If youíve never experienced the Venice carnival before, then youíre in for a real treat. Here are several top tips for fully enjoying the experience.
Carnival in Venice takes place during the winter, so youíll need to stay warm.
Layered clothing, along with a warm coat, scarf and gloves are necessary, especially if youíre traveling to Venice from a warm climate. You may see costumed revelers without them, but itís likely they have a place in the city where they can go to warm up. Youíre going to be there for the full day, so dressing lightly is not a good idea.
Within your first few minutes at the Venice carnival, youíll be bombarded with photo ops.
This means youíll want to show up the best camera you can afford. If your time at the carnival of Venice ends up being your one and only chance to witness the event, youíll want the best pictures you were able to obtain as your lifelong souvenirs.
Youíd be surprised how many people show up without ever having obtained a map of Venice, Italy.
This is a bad idea for any first time visitor, let alone when during your very first carnival in Venice. Whether you are using a map on your smart phone, or navigating with the old-fashioned paper variety, itís critical to have some frame of reference. The streets will be jam-packed, and a wrong turn during the Venice carnival can be extremely difficult and time-consuming to undo.
While I appreciate the appeal of relying only on your Blackberry, Iím of the opinion that youíll want a paper version thatís at least as large as the pages in your guide book, if not the large folding variety. Venice is a city thatís difficult to get your bearings in unless you have a visual on large portions of the city. (More on this in a future separate Venice, Italy tourism article.)
It pays to keep an eye out while enjoying the Venice carnival.
Remember that there arenít exactly a large number of guard rails on the streets of Venice. This means itís extremely easy to simply step off into the drink. Especially with crowded streets and impatient tourists pushing others out of the way to get where theyíre going. Cold canal water and ruined camera gear can ruin an otherwise good time. Youíll also want to keep an eye out for the costumes of the revelers. These getups are extremely expensive to purchase and time consuming to create. Navigating around costumed carnival goers carefully as you snap your photos will be much appreciated by those who have dished out for more elaborate outfits.
While there are many things to do in Venice, touring traditional venues may prove difficult.
The city will be literally elbow-to-elbow thick with tourists in many sections, making it frustrating to get close to museums and smaller churches you might otherwise enjoy visiting. My advice? If the Venice carnival is your first time in the city, keep your visit all about the carnival this time. Itíll take enough problem solving to find your way around and make your way through the crowds. Besides, thereíll be enough to see with all of the costumes and piazza performances.
The Venice carnival is a life experience worth having. A little bit of preparation and a sense of adventure will take you a long way.
Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by the folks here at Trek Hound, but are available along with other pictures of the carnival in Venice through a creative commons agreement on our sister site, PicturesofTravelPlaces.com.