Venice Carnevale: explosion of colour, music and spectacle

A fire-breather lights up the Venice night. Photo: Phoebe Tilelli.

VENICE - No matter what time of year you visit Venice, it is somehow touristy, over-crowded and jaw-droppingly beautiful all at the same time. But if you’re going to visit just once in your life, witness the floating city in all its glory during Carnevale.

 During February 2018, the city will be celebrating until the 14th with the main events featuring over the weekend. Visitors should be prepared to wade through a deep sea of people, with as many as 3 million reported to be visiting the city during Carnevale alone.

 Don’t let this deter you, however. La Festa Veneziana sull’acqua was as grand as promised this year, opening the festivities with enormous puppet animals parading (or floating) down the canal, bringing the circus theme to life. The show was complete with fire breathers, acrobats suspended above the water and an impressive light display beaming onto the ancient buildings and lighting up the canal like a rainbow river.

 The endless crowd of onlookers gazed up in unison as a tightrope walker emerged from a balcony window to make the long journey across an invisible rope to the other side, dark water looming below. It’s safe to say that after being covered in confetti and toasting a ‘cin cin’ with total strangers, plastic cups of wine in hand, it’s definitely worth battling the crowds and joining the party.

 This ancient festival has been celebrated since at least the 15th century and was once a way for Venetians to demonstrate the power, wealth and prestige of their city by dressing up and parading through the streets. Today the masks and costumes have remained a tradition and the city is truly transformed into a playground for young an old.

 Expect to find hole in the wall ‘bacari’ or Venetian bars packed to the rafters into the late hours of the night where merry drinkers help themselves to “ciccetti” - Venice’s take on tapas.

 This is one of the few traditional foods that can still be found in Venice that hasn’t been adapted to the foreign palate. It’s a late-night snack that consists of small slices of bread topped with mainly seafood variations such as ‘moscardini’ or marinated baby octopus, sardines, calamari and more.

 Other Venetian treats include ‘fritelle’ or deep fried donuts injected with a zabaglione liquor and an array of other sweet flavours.

 Venice can be overwhelming at the best of times but during Carnevale it’s a surreal explosion of colour, music, dance and costume that guarantees to flood the senses. When it’s all over…you may forgive yourself for wondering if it was all a dream.

One of Venice's many revellers. Photo: Phoebe Tilelli.