Let’s Masquerade…

Don the mask, blend with the revelers and feel the joie de vivre that the floating city boasts during the Venice Festival.

Call out for a gondola; your trip to Venice this February promises to be the ride of your life. From party cruises to operatic affairs to gastronomic ventures, Venice is a smorgasbord of uninhibited carnival adventures at this time of the year.

Here is a quick guide of things to do and places to visit in Venice, from January 27 to February 13, for a dream ‘balls and parties’ trip.

Mark the dates:

February 2, 3, 8, 9 & 10 (8.30 pm onwards)

Venice Carnival Party Cruise, described as a not to be missed event, will take place on board the Venetian Galleon. It will sail through the islands of the lagoon – Murano, Burano, Torcello – with St. Mark’s Square providing a fitting backdrop for the evening.

February 3 (11 am to 1 pm)

The Best Mask Contest, which begins on February 3, will continue for major part of the Festival. Featuring a daily parade on St. Mark’s Square, it brings to fore an interesting indulgence for all things masks in Venetian history. The tradition of masks, that sets the tempo for Venice Carnival, goes back 700 years, when the event was first conceived. You could immerse yourself completely in the carnival by donning a colorful costume and the enigmatic mask. And, if you intend to partake in the contest from February 8 to 10, you could even find a place in the final on February 11.

February 3 (2.30 pm to 5 pm) also marks the Festa delle Marie at San Pietro di Castello. This carnival also unravels a traditional competition that can be traced to the days of the Doge (when 12 Venetian ladies competed for a stake in bridal dowry and jewels). The finals will be on February 10, when you can witness the parade of the twelve finalists (Marias) from San Pietro di Castello via Garibaldi and Riva degli Schiavoni, before reaching San Marco stage at 4pm.

February 3- 4, 8-13 (11 am to 7 pm)

Performing artists will set the streets alight at the Carnival of Mestre. It will be a treat for the eyes, as artists parade the streets, presenting circus performances and clown acts to the beats of music. A colorful stage will be set at the Piazza Ferretto for events from 4 pm to 7 pm, followed by music until 8pm.

February 3-4, 8-13 (8.30 pm onwards)

Book a place at the Ca’ Vendramin Calergi Palace, the venue for the Official Dinner Show and Ball – which, again, is a tradition that goes back to the early days of the Carnival – and get set for a whole load of music, food and the mystery of masks and costumes. The masquerade ball, the highpoint of the carnival, brings out the flavors of Italian history. It is said that masks and costumes came about in Venice as a quirky measure to provide a veil of secrecy about the identity of the wearer, thus blending the line of social barriers and creating an oneness in the society.

February 3 (2.30 pm to 5 pm)

Venice Carnival has special family flavors – like the Carnival of the youth of Zelarino. This Carnival, organized by the youth of Zelarino, a town located 17kms from the historic center of Venice, will be held at the Polo Mall, where artists will entertain guests, (adults too) and provide a sampling of galani (sweet fried thin pastry strips) and fritelle.(Venetian doughnuts).

February 4 (11 am to 12 pm)

It is time for the ‘Flight of the Angel’; time for some drama and some excitement… Taking the Festa delle Marie forward, a winner, dressed as a mythical angel, will glide from the San Marco Bell Tower to St Mark’s Square to greet the Doge. It is said to be a re-enactment of the ceremony that took place during the times of Doge (the senior-most elected official in Venice).

February 8 (2 pm to 5.30 pm)

There is culture, there is history and there is drama, as the cultural association ‘L’Arte dei Mascareri’ presents the fourth edition of the Ballad of the Masks. It is an interpretation of the legend of ‘Giovedì Grasso’ in 1162, the day that marks the celebration of the victory upon the Patriarch Ulrico of Aquileia and his twelve rebel lords. The rebellion is remembered every year by sending a bull, twelve loaves and twelve boars to the Doge of Venice. They are shown to the public at the square, before beheading the bull, throwing the spotlight on the Venetian proverb, ‘To cut the bull’s head’ (Tagliar la testa al toro).

February 11 (12 pm to 1 pm)

St. Mark’s Square is the venue for the ‘Flight of the Eagle’, which will have a costumed individual glide on a rope, from the top of St Mark’s Bell Tower to Saint Mark’s Square. Also, look out for the Flight of Donkey, a spoof on the Flight of Eagle in Mestre at Ferreto Square.

February 13 (4 pm)

If you have witnessed Festa delle Marie, you would want to partake in the award ceremony to honor the winning ‘Maria’ at the San Marco Square. All the 12 Marias will come by boat to the colorful venue.

February 13 (5 pm)

The ‘Svolo del Leon’ is a tribute to the Leone di San Marco, a symbol of Venice. It is a finale of sorts, as a lion painted on a large canvas will fly to the bell tower, above the crowd gathered at the square. The Marias will greet the flag and set the mood for the finale of the grand carnival.

Points to remember:

  • Carnival events have limited availability and the earlier you do your booking the better your chances.
  • All events have a dress code.
  • Italian Masquerade Ball has its own dress code that needs to be followed.
  • You could don the mask even if you are not partaking in the festivities at the St. Mark’s Square.
  • You could rent the carnival costume and buy the mask from shops selling them.

Arriving in Venice

Oman Air flies daily to Milan-Malpensa Airport. From Milan, you could take a bus, a train, rent a car or fly to Venice, depending on your budget, convenience and your preference. Bus is the cheapest form of travel, but most buses departing from Milano Lampugnano bus station take at least 4 hours to reach Tronchetto bus station in Venice. Train is the fastest mode of transport, with a train traveling from Milano Centrale train station to Venice’s Santa Lucia or Mestre train station taking as little as 2 hours10 minutes. There are more than 30 trains travelling on this route every day, with the first train departing at 6.35am. Flight, of course, is the quickest, as it takes only 48 minutes to reach Venice from Milan; however, if you want to enjoy the beautiful locales on the way, you could rent a car and reach in 3 hours or more, depending on your stops.

For more information visit Oman Air