Venice at Carnival!
Venice is an almost mythical city, built on ancient wooden pilings, waging an epic battle with the Venetian lagoon to remain above water. For some it’s a tourist trap, expensive and overrun with visitors from all over the world but if you venture beyond St. Marks Square and The Grand Canal, the real Venice will surely capture your heart as it has mine.
Venice isn’t cheap, that’s another thing that can deter people but use your money wisely and it will go further than you think. The one splurge I thoroughly recommend is beginning your trip with a private water taxi from Marco Polo Airport. At around €170, it may cost more than your flight but the experience of having one of those iconic wooden speedboats to yourself and arriving at your hotel not by the front door but at its private landing stage is super special. Believe me, you will feel like a film star!
My favourite city
photo courtesy of Millie Bower
This time, we stayed in Ada at Fusina Camping, on the mainland but just a twenty minute ferry ride away from Venice. Our pitch overlooked the lagoon and was only steps away from the lodge we had booked for Millie and Charlie who we had picked up from Marco Polo Airport earlier.
On previous visits, We have spent hours exploring The gilded basilica and other famous landmarks, the architecture and sense of history in those historic buildings is awe inspiring but this trip was all about Venice Carnival.
The world famous Carnevale di Venezia dates back to the 11th century marking the last days of frivolity and excess before lent. Wearing masks and costumes made it possible for Venetians of all classes and status to celebrate together. Today the festivities last for over two weeks but we were here for the opening events. Also to spend some quality time with Millie and Charlie. Millie shares our love of Venice and we were all looking forward to introducing Charlie to its food, culture, architecture and unique personality!
Me, Mr. B, Millie & Charlie
The first event of Carnivale is a spectacular water borne parade of illuminated boats carrying elaborate tableaux featuring fire eaters, acrobats, dancers and actors. Be warned, huge numbers of spectators swarm to the Canneragio district for this so arrive early or be prepared for hours of queuing. We managed to get a good view and the show, performed to music and lights was spectacular but the constant pushing and jostling was an annoyance. In fact, after being on my feet for so long waiting, I didn’t take too kindly to one woman leaning on me, trying to squeeze past and she got a piece of my mind although of course, she couldn’t understand a word, it made me feel better!
The crowds in Canneragio for The Water Parade
The second part of the opening event is the Sunday Venice Regata Storica where the glorious past of Venice is re-enacted by costumed rowers and extras in elaborate costumes in the historic rowing parade.
This is a much more civilised affair with viewing spots all along the bridges and banks of The Grand Canal. After the hellish experience of the night before, we opted to pay a €20 cover charge per person at a canal side bar where we were pampered with warm blankets and snacks to accompany our drinks. It was worth every penny, especially for the particularly attentive bar owner! I noticed how handsome and charming he was whilst James clocked his Rolex, typical!
A much more civilised view of The Venetian Regatta.
You cannot escape the Carnival spirit once the festival is underway. We saw people in costume everywhere. Most costumes were traditionally Venetian, however, many people use the Carnival as an opportunity to dress up in interesting, colorful outfits that are not necessarily related to the theme of the Carnival, one of my personal favourites was Snow White and The wicked queen!
One of the best ways to orientate yourself is to take the lift to the top of The Campanile di San Marco, the towering Bell Tower in St. Marks Square or The Piazza San Marco. From there you have a 360 degree view of the city, lagoon and some of the outer lying islands. The patchwork of roofs, terraces, tiles & terracotta hues tumble outwards from & The Piazza like puzzle pieces out of a box.
The view from The campanile di san marco, the tallest building in Venice
A highlight for Me and Mr. B was a visit to Pasticceria Marchini Time. A fabulous espresso bar and patisserie that we return to each time we visit Venice. The coffee is exquisite as are the perfectly formed, tiny cakes.
We also took Millie and Charlie to The Cafe Rosso in Campo Santa Margherita, Dorsoduro. An area of the city populated more by locals than tourists where you can have a much more authentic experience and a really great coffee!
Over our three days in Venice, we walked for miles but it was our best trip yet to this incredible and unique floating city. We were sad to drop Millie and Charlie back to the airport but it made us more excited about welcoming them and other guests out to join us in our travels. Daddy Cool and Harry next, we hope!