Venice Carnival: History, Curiosities and Masks

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Joel Fulleda

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Every year Venice is home to one of the first 10 carnivals in the world. The canals, the villas, the streets of the Serenissima are invaded by people from all over Europe, who want to experience the magic of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, between elaborate costumes and sumptuous masked balls. You also want to know everything about Venice Carnival? Here is the history, the origins and the most famous masks, with historical information and curiosities.


  1. History and traditions: the origins of the Venice Carnival in 6 stages
  2. The most famous masks of the Venice Carnival
  3. 5 tips to experience the magic of Carnival
  4. User questions and comments

History and traditions: the origins of the Venice Carnival in 6 stages

1 - The first documents

The first historical traces of the Venice Carnival date back to 1094, regarding the public celebrations preceding the period of Lent. Then the Doge in charge was Vitale Falier.
But the first official documents are in 1296, when the Senate of the Republic declares the last day of Lent as a holiday.

2 - The ancestral roots

In reality we need to go much further back in time, precisely in the pagan rituals of the passage from winter to spring, or to the Dionysian cults, or to the Latin Saturnalia. The bottom line is the same: to grant the humblest classes the illusion of becoming similar to the nobles, the powerful, and to be able to publicly mock them while remaining unpunished.

3 - The celebrations gone down in history

Some celebrations for the Venice carnival have remained engraved in history, largely due to the coincidence with historical events of great importance.

  • This is the case of 1571, with a parade of allegorical floats to symbolize the battle of Lepanto;
  • different outlines in 1664, with a grandiose masked party and pompous parades for the wedding in the Cornaro house;
  • in 1679 the Duke of Mantua organized a procession with Indians, Turks and black fighters who challenged 6 monsters.

4 - The Venetian carnivals of the 700th century

We are in Giacomo Casanova's Venice, in the city that becomes the temple of pleasure, a place where you can no longer resist temptations. The city becomes the hub of European entertainment, and finds its climax in the carnival.

5 - The metamorphosis of the nineteenth century

The romantic current can only flourish in the most beautiful city in the world, bringing with it all those characteristics that sanction a clear break with the previous period. From Casanova we pass to exponents such as Princess Sissi, Ugo Foscolo, Lord Byron, ...

6 - From rebirth to the present day

After a period of decline, in 1979 the Venice Carnival resurrected, maintaining those characteristics that still make it an event of global proportions, which attracts visitors from all over the globe.

The most famous masks of the Venice Carnival

La Baùta

Among the most used, it is generally composed of the Tabarro, a long black cloak, the Larva, a white mask without nose and mouth, and the tricorn hat.

The Moretta

It is considered the feminine version of the Baùta, even if it was originally worn by women who went to visit the nuns. During the carnival, however, it guaranteed anonymity and also lent itself to being worn for erotic games.


Unlike the previous ones, it covers only half of the face, and is in some ways more comfortable. It is decorated in the most varied ways, from feathers to various decorations and inlays, there are several models, even very expensive.

The Plague Doctor

From the features of a bird, it has its origins in 1600, the period of the plague. The mask was worn by the doctor who visited the hospital, and owes its shape to the fact that the "beak" contained herbs to purify the infected air that one breathed.

5 tips to experience the magic of Carnival

  1. Wear a costume!
    It is not mandatory to wear a costume and not everyone does. But there is really nothing more fun than dressing up for Carnival!
  2. Buy a Venetian mask
    If you really don't want to wear a full costume, buy at least one Venetian mask, it is still a fascinating souvenir like few others! For a handmade mask to take home, we recommend a visit to Mondonovo Maschere. The owner, the sculptor Guerrino Lovato, is the king of the Masks. The masks used in the movie "Eyes Wide Shut" were created in his laboratory.
  3. Don't miss the Angel's Flight
    The Flight of the Angel is the event that opens the carnival. Certainly you shouldn't miss it for any reason, but remember to go to Piazza San Marco no later than 11:00, if you don't want to risk not seeing anything.
  4. Photograph the most beautiful masks
    Speaking of Piazza San Marco, it is absolutely the best place to take photographs of the most beautiful masks and the most elaborate costumes. You will see the greatest number of masks between 10:00 and 16:00, during the traditional parades.
  5. Enjoy the delicious Venetian fritelle
    The pancakes are delicious fried dough balls filled with cream or Nutella and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are found almost exclusively during Carnival, so take advantage of them!

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