Venice – the festivals

Photo ©
Photo ©

Carnevale di Venezia

Carnival, or Carnevale, is Venice’s answer to Mardi Gras and Fasching. For eight days before Lent each winter, tourists flood the city for an orgy of pageants, commedia dell’arte, concerts, balls, and masked self-display until Shrove Tuesday signals an end to the party.

The carnival of Venice was first recorded in 1268. The subversive nature of the festival is reflected in the many laws created over the centuries in Italy attempting to restrict celebrations and often banning the wearing of masks.

Masks have always been a central feature of the Venetian carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen’s Day, December 26) at the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. As masks were also allowed during Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise Maskmakers (mascareri) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.

In 1797 Venice became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Austrians took control of the city on January 18, 1798 and it fell into a decline which also effectively brought carnival celebrations to a halt for many years. Carnival was outlawed by the fascist government in the 1930′s. It was not until a modern mask shop was founded in the 1980s that a revival of old traditions began.

Carnival starts eight days before and ends on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday.

The Golden Lion – Photo © roy0731ryo
The Golden Lion – Photo © roy0731ryo

Venice International Film Festival

The Venice Film Festival ( Italian Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica) (1934-today) is the oldest Film Festival in the World (it began in 1932 as Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica) and takes place every year in late August/early September on the Lido di Venezia in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi, in Venice, Italy.

Between [1946-1947] the festival was named “Manifestazione Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica”.

Its main award is the “Leone d’Oro” (Golden Lion). Recently, a new award has been added, the San Marco Award for the best film in the “controcorrente” section.

The Venice Film Festival is part of the Venice Biennale, a major biennial exhibition and festival for contemporary art.


The Venice Film Festival has been called one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals.
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Venice Biennale Arte

The Venice Biennial originated in 1895 as an international art exhibition in the Giardini di Castello. In the 1930′s, the organizing institution became autonomous, which from then on arranged festivals for music (since 1930), film (since 1932) and theater (since 1934), as well.

As a consequence of the political events in 1968, the Venice Biennial discontinued several of its traditional activities. In 1973 the organization was reformed, and since 1975 it has also arranged international architecture exhibitions.

The Biennale received a new statute in 1998.

Regata Storica – Gondolini – Photo © Jerm-n-Ang
Regata Storica – Gondolini – Photo © Jerm-n-Ang

Venice Regata Storica

Every Venetian must have an 18th-century outfit mothballed in a closet to break out for yearly fetes such as Carnevale and, of course, this “historical regatta” — less of a race than merely a parade of gorgeously bedecked gondolas and other boats laden with costumed gentry for a day cruising the Grand Canal.

Great and splendid Regattas have always been held on numerous occasions in Venice: the visit of a foreign prince, the election of a Doge or of a new Pope were the occasions on which the pomp and power of the Serenissima Republic were paraded before visitors’ eyes.

Today the Regata Storica is held the first Sunday in September.

Where to stay in Venice

There are many hotels, apartments, B&Bs and guesthouses available in Venice, search and make reservations here.