The mystery filled Carnevale di Venezia (Carnival of Venice) dates back all the way to its first recording in 1268. The carnival usually starts two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on the day known as Mardi gras.
The most prominent thing about this carnival and what makes it so special would be its array of beautiful masks found on almost everyone during this period. Being the central feature, Venetian masks started simple with its design and decorations, and were said to have a mix of symbolic and practical function. To the Venetians, its more than just about fun, it's about cultural roots and tradition.
The masks can be made both in leather and with the original papier-mâché technique. Those worn nowadays are much more exquisite, with gesso, gems, feathers and everything to make it all glamorous just like the carnival. The three different masks are basically the Bauta, Moretta and Larva. The Bauta mask is considered to be traditionally the “Venetian Mask" with a full faced mask covering everything till the cheeks, enabling the wearer to eat and talk easily.
This is usually the most plain of all the 3, in an all white color unlike the Moretta which is an oval mask of black velvet and a veil. Today as you walk the carnival streets, you won't just see plain masks like when it first started, beautiful multi colored gem masks with feathers are everywhere you go as well, forming a beautiful clash of past and present and a stunning sight.
So what will you see on a typical day passing through the Venice Carnival? One thing you won't miss would be the lively Ciarlatani e Saltimbanchi in the piazza San Marco (Charlatans and tumblers). Since the 17th century, these have always been the heart of the carnival, with various types of shows, magic tricks and music to create a light fun-filled atmosphere
The Venice carnival to date is ever changing. Each year they aim to come up with bigger and better things to involve all the citizens and everyone who comes to watch this grand happening. Music acts perform from all over the world from Latin bands to Scottish bagpipes. Anything is possible here! The little ones don't get left out either, plays and musical entertainment specially catered to kids’ will be performed in different parts of the street.
With that said its best to advise you, the carnival doesn't just happen at one spot, dozens of streets offer different things so do check the calendar of events to make sure you are where you want to.
Orson Johnson writes for Holiday Velvet, a website providing Venice apartments in Italy & Vacation rentals apartments .