Venice Carnevale combines magic and mystery

The Carnival season is upon us, and one of the earliest — and most elaborate — celebrations in Europe takes place in Venice, Italy. Venice’s Carnevale season starts about two weeks before Carnival reaches its climax in the rest of Europe and is celebrated through Feb. 12.

The official program began Jan. 26. Each year’s edition is based on a theme; in 2013, “Live in Color” alludes to the unique pallet of shades associated with the city’s famous lagoon.

Since the Carnevale di Venezia is synonymous with mysterious costumed characters, high on a tourist’s “to-do” list might be watching one of the masked costume contests that will take place twice daily on the stage of the Gran Teatro on San Marco Square. The spectators themselves select the contest winners. Visitors wishing to participate are invited to don masks and costumes and take to the stage; advance sign-up is necessary. The cost of tickets to the costume contest begins at 20 euros. Find details at http://tinyurl.com/9wwlar8.

A meander through Venice’s narrow streets would introduce a visitor to aspects of the Carnevale held dear by city residents. Born-and-bred Venetian Margherita Zuliani associates Carnevale time with squares filled with stelle filanti and coriandoli, streamers and confetti, and the taste of frittelli and galani, fried doughnut-like pastries available in pastry shops. To go native, she suggests dropping into a local bar to enjoy a Spritz, a fizzy alcoholic beverage typical to the city, along with some cicchetti, Venice’s version of tapas. Good venues for sampling can be found on Strada Nuova or San Luca.

Parties sponsored by by clubs, student associations or businesses are another part of Venice’s Carnevale landscape. Natives and tourists alike will enjoy live bands and DJ sets at the Rialto-Erberia, a high-volume outdoor party for guests of all ages. Entry is free to this nightly gathering, which takes place Feb. 2-12. An alternate venue for rocking the night away is the Terminal Marittima Di San Basilio, where live music and DJs will keep “youth” — which in Italy can be understood to include those on the plus side of 30 — on their feet until 4 a.m. This indoor party begins nightly at 10 on Feb. 1-2 and 6-12.

Carnevale is celebrated throughout Italy; find details by city at http://tinyurl.com/yk7g77w.


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