The Costumes of Carnival, Venice
I bumped my luggage along the cobbles and asked Marie Antoinette for directions to our flat. She unfolded my map, consulted with Napoleon and pointed across the bridge. A fitting start to my stay in Venice during Carnival, seventeen days of opulent costumes, spectacular balls and spontaneous water parades of costumed revelers.
This is a magical time in Venice. A visual feast. A giant step back to a time where the rich and famous (and infamous) donned mask and costume to participate in the decadent, hedonistic pleasures of pre-lenten Venice.
The Venetian mask, a critical part of any Carnival costume, hides the wearers identity and allows them to roam the alleys and canals of Venice cloaked in a fantasy persona.
Lavish costumes are hired or purchased from talented Venetian ateliers or designed and created at home by talented Carnival attendees.
Carnival provides a theatrical backdrop to Venice’s iconic scenery, and everyone in costume is expected to play their part. Casanova poses for photographs; Genghis Khan processes through Piazza San Marco alongside a fantastical Sun and Moon each interacting silently with the crowd as they pass by.
Venetian costume balls are a highlight of Carnival for those who can afford tickets to party the night away in Venice’s most exclusive private palaces. This year’s most opulent event was Il Ballo del Doge, described by Vanity Fair as “the most sumptuous, refined and exclusive ball in the world.”
If you don’t have the budget to attend the Doge’s Ball, don’t despair. You can find the spectacle and spirit of Carnival by wandering along the canals and cobbled alleys of Venice itself. Make sure you bring confetti and your camera.
Things to Know About Carnival Costumes in Venice
You can either create your own costume, bring one from home or hire from a Venetian atelier. Be mindful of luggage restrictions and the possibility of lost luggage when bringing one from home. If you are hiring a costume in Venice, be sure to plan ahead if you have something spectacular or specific in mind. Bear in mind, renting a costume can be expensive (200 euros to over 800 euros).
Nicolao Atelier 2590 Cannaregio 30121 Venice, Italy email@example.com
Atelier Flavia Castello 6010-30122 Venice, Italy firstname.lastname@example.org
Atelier Marega San Polo 2940/b 30125 Venezia Italia email@example.com
Banco No.10 Castello 3478, salizada Sant’Antonin, near the church of San Giovanni in Bragora. This shop had spectacular costumes crafted by the inmates at the local women’s prison and would be my first stop for a costume.
Venetian masks are usually purchased, not rented. While many stalls and shops in Venice sell inexpensive, plastic masks, high-quality masks are found in specialized workshops across the city.
Mondo Novo Campo Santa Margherita, Dorsoduro 3063, Venezia, Italy
Blue Moon Giudecca 607 – 30133 Venezia, Italy firstname.lastname@example.org
Tragicomica 2800 S. Polo, Venezia 30125, Italy email@example.com
Ca’Macana Dorsoduro 3172 30123 Venezia, Italy firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m already thinking about my costume for this year’s Carnival in Venice! Any ideas? Leave them in the comments below…I’d love to hear them!
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