The Venice Carnevale is among the most famous Carnivals in the world taking a back seat to Rio and perhaps New Orleans. But does it meet the hype? Should you feel that you have missed out if you have to spend Carnevale in an alternate Italian location, a Carnival elsewhere in the world, or perhaps even at home? That's for you and only you and perhaps your partner to decide. Hopefully this article will help you make this momentous decision.
The Venice Carnevale is relatively short, lasting only about two weeks. That can be a good thing, even more so when you consider the costs involved. The city of Venice has a population of about 270 thousand of which less than a quarter actually live in the historic town. Compare these figures to the estimated 50 thousand visitors per day, and we are talking about the annual average, not Carnevale time. On the upside, Venice is the largest car-free city in all Europe, but there are two pricey parking lots.
Back to Carnevale. The first record of Venetian Carnevale was in 1296 when the local Senate decreed the day before Lent to be a public holiday. Festivities in the early days included slaughtering of pigs and oxen and mass brawls, for which bridges seemed to be a favored location. According to Seventeenth Century guidebooks more than 30 thousand visitors graced the city during Carnevale week. After the Venice Republic fell in 1797 Carnevale was banned and it didn't return for decades. In the days of Mussolini it was illegal to wear a mask in public. Then it became a kind of children's party but nothing more. Believe it or not, the modern Carnevale dates only from 1979. By 2004 annual attendance passed the one million mark with more than one hundred thousand on the final Saturday and Sunday. The peak has passed and attendance is on the way down. Perhaps in the words of that famous baseball philosopher, Yogi Berra, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."
Masks were and are a central feature of the Venetian Carnevale. People wore them for a large part of the year, would you believe that at one point in Venetian history mask wearing was reduced to three months a year? The Mascherari (mask makers) were favored members of society and had their own guild and even their own laws. The original masks were made of papier-mache, a major component of allegorical floats as well. Other mask materials include leather and wax cloth, which they tell me is fine for eating and dancing. The sky is the limit for decorative materials including gold leaf, feathers, and jewels.
Here is a short list of some official events and their admission charge cost for the 2014 Carnivale. I just checked and one Euro is worth about $1.36. The Saint Valentines Grand Ball starts at 200 Euros. The Carnival Grand Ball starts at 470 Euros. There are less expensive activities, for example Hot Chocolate in My Palace starts at a measly 50 Euros. Expect to pay for costume rental. I don't know what would be the cleaning charge if you get hot chocolate all over your Marie Antoinette dress. Enjoy. And look for me. I'll be the guy in those plastic giveaway glasses from American 1950s 3-D movies. Sipping on some fine Veneto wine.
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Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but prefers trips to Italy and drinking fine Italian wine. He teaches computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel website www.travelitalytravel.com and his global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com featuring weekly bargain wine reviews.
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