Every February the famous Venice Carnival takes place in Venice. It is one of the most festive, incredible, colourful, and one of a kind events in the world. Staying in Venice during the carnival is an excellent opportunity to discover the Floating City from a different angle, to observe the city and its inhabitants transform themselves during 10 full days. So what is the Venice Carnival? We’ve compiled a detailed review of the carnival that will make you want to wear a mask and hood under the Bridge of Sighs. Here’s all you need to know about the Venice Carnival 2020!

What is the history of Venice Carnival?

The first documented mention of carnival in Venice dates back to 1094, when the word carnevale (abstinence from meat) was mentioned in a document signed by Doge Vitale Failero. In those days carnival was about having an escape from everyday life where people could let loose through the anonymity wearing a mask guaranteed.

The celebration grew larger after the defeat of Patriarch of Aquileia, a man who had tried and failed to bring Venice under German rule. This had occurred on Fat Thursday and so the celebration of this defeat continued to grow larger and larger every year.

However, Venice Carnival wasn’t officially recorded until 1268 and a year later, the senate officially declared Shrove Tuesday a public holiday. Starting from that moment, and for the next several hundred years Venice Carnival would run for six weeks, between December 26th and Ash Wednesday.

By the 18th century the Venice Carnival reached its maximum splendour. It was a celebration that knew no bounds. Carnival had also gained international recognition and attracted visitors from all over Europe. Venice was the pleasure playground of Europe and was known for living the good life. It was also the centre of gambling, essentially the Las Vegas of its day.

Venetians unabashedly took part in lots of debauchery and revelry, with their identity and sins concealed behind their masks. There were lots of wild parties, illicit liaisons, gambling and bloody bullfights. During this period carnival would last for six months! It was also during this period that the famous adventure, artist and ‘womanizer’ Giacomo Casanova lived in Venice.

Venice Carnival 2020 Programme – Dates & Events

Saturday, 8th February 2020

  • 7:00pm – 10:00pm Venice Carnival Opening Ceremony 2020. Venice Carnival opens with the traditional Venetian Water Festival @ Rio de Cannaregio.

Sunday, 9th February 2020

  • 10:30pm – 1:00pm Water Parade departs Dogana da Mar in front of la Madonna della Salute Church, and will arrive at the Tre Archi Bridge on Cannaregio Canal, 30 minutes later.

Saturday, 15th February 2020

  • 2:30pm – 4:00pm The Festa delle Marie: Beginning at San Pietro di Castello Church and continues to Saint-Mark Square
  • 4:30pm- 6:30pm Mestre Carnival Street Show @ Piazza Ferretto.
  • 9:00pm – 2:00am Official Carnival Dinner and Ball 2020 in Love @ Cannaregio

Sunday, 16th February 2020

  • 11:00am – 1:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Daily Contest @ Saint-Mark Square
  • 12:00pm – 1:00pm The Flight of the Angel will occur from Saint-Mark Square Bell Tower
  • Mestre Carnival Street Show @ Piazza Ferretto.

Monday 17th February 2020

  • 11:00am – 1:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Daily Contest @ Saint-Mark Square

Tuesday, 18th February 2020

  • 11:00am – 1:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Daily Contest @ Saint-Mark Square

Wednesday, 19th February 2020

  • 11:00am – 1:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Daily Contest @ Saint-Mark Square

Fat Thursday, 20th February 2020

  • 11:00am – 1:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Grand Final Qualifiers @ Saint-Mark Square
  • 3:00pm & 5:00pm Ballata delle Maschere con Il Taglio della Testa al Toro
  • 3:00pm – 10:00pm Burano’s Carnival on the Burano Island.
  • The Re-enactment of the Victory of doge Vitale Michiel II over the patriarch Ulrico of Aquileia & 12 rebel feudatories
  • 9:00pm – 2:00am Official Carnival Dinner and Ball 2020 in Love @ Cannaregio

Friday, 21st February 2020

  • 11:00am – 1:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Grand Final Qualifiers @ Saint-Mark Square
  • 3:00pm & 5:00pm Nicolotti e Castellani @ San Marco square
  • 8:00pm The Santa Chiara Glass Slippers Masquerade Ball at Venice Carnival “A Carnival Fairy Tale” 3° edition

Saturday, 22nd February 2020

  • 11:00am – 1:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Grand Final Qualifiers @ Saint-Mark Square
  • 3:00pm & 5:00pm Marghera cart parade in Piazza Mercato
  • 3:00pm & 5:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Grand Final Qualifiers @ Saint-Mark Square
  • 9:00pm – 2:00am Official Carnival Dinner and Ball 2020 in Love @ Cannaregio

Sunday, 23rd February 2020

  • 12:00 – 1:00pm Eagle Flight @ Saint-Mark Square Bell Tower
  • 11:30am – 1:00pm The Donkey’s Flight from the Tower in Piazza Ferrett
  • 2:30pm The Grand Final Masked Costume Contest Award Ceremony @ Saint-Mark Square.
  • 2:20pm Regata Sprint di Carnevale @ Ca’ Vendramin Calergi and ends at Rialto
  • 3:00pm- 5:00pm – Carnevale Campaltino
  • 9:00pm – 2:00am Official Carnival Dinner and Ball 2020 in Love @ Cannaregio

Monday, 24th February 2020

  • 11:00am – 1:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Daily Contest @ Saint-Mark Square
  • 11:00am – 1:00pm Children’s Best Masked Costume Contest Award Ceremony @ Saint-Mark Square.
  • 3:00pm – 5:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Daily Contest @ Saint-Mark Square
  • 9:00pm – 2:00am Official Carnival Dinner and Ball 2020 in Love @ Cannaregio

Shrove Tuesday, 25th February 2020

  • 11:00am – 1:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Daily Contest @ Saint-Mark Square
  • 2:45pm 53rd Edition of the Children’s Carnival of Zelarino @ streets of Zelarino
  • 3:00pm – 5:00pm The Best Masked Contest – Daily Contest @ Saint-Mark Square
  • 4:00pm The Festa delle Marie 2020 Award Ceremony @ Saint-Mark Square.
  • 5:00pm Lion Flight from Saint-Mark Square Bell Tower
  • 9:00pm – 2:00am Official Carnival Dinner and Ball 2020 in Love @ Cannaregio

The dates of the next Venice carnivals:

  • Venice Carnival 2020: from Saturday 15th to Tuesday 25th February 2020.
  • Venice Carnival 2021: from Saturday 06 to Tuesday 16 February 2021.
  • Venice Carnival 2022: from Saturday 19 February to Tuesday 1 March 2022.
  • Venice Carnival 2023: from Saturday 11 to Tuesday 21 February 2023.

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