Walking around the streets of Venice during carnival between masks and gondolas looking for of the best traditional “Cichetti”.
February in Italy is a special month. We use to celebrate Love in all forms. And above all, everyone celebrates the Carnival.
Therefore, animated by a goliardic spirit, last year we went to Venice, to celebrate the most famous carnival in Italy and in search of authentic culinary specialties.
A small note: this year, due to Covid, the Venice Carnival will be all virtual and broadcast in streaming. Something different from the usual, but nevertheless an experience to live.
The magic of the Venice Carnival will reach everywhere with a calendar of virtual events dedicated to its history and traditions. Visit the official site!
About Venice Carnival
I believe that Venice’s atmosphere is certainly unmatched in the world. The bridges, churches, and views are so spectacular that they make you lose your breath. I can easily affirm that Venice is a continuous discovery. And among the most fascinating periods, there is certainly that of the carnival, one of the most beautiful in the world.
In fact, during the carnival, Cannaregio Canal turns into a stage, with shows, parades, and light games. People in traditional mask fills all the “Calli” (the typical Venetian street names) and the atmosphere becomes almost surreal and out of time.
Then every year in Piazza S. Marco there is a parade of masks, in which everyone can participate.
I absolutely recommend you try it at least once.
Something About Venetian Carnival Masks
Few know where the tradition of Venetian masks comes from.
Since 1200 Venetians made masks of coated paper-mache. Originally satyrs used these masks as a mockery and they were an indispensable element for any actors.
During the Carnival, the mask becomes a symbol of the will to indulge in the game and mystery. And particularly in Venice, people used to nickname women who disguised themselves as men and vice versa as “putting on a beard and mustache“.
During the Middle Ages, masks became the main symbol of transgression and freedom, because during the Carnival Weeks with the mask everyone was legitimized to break the rules.
But, even today the choice of costume, dressing and make-up is a wonderful adventure.
Here are some useful addresses to rent your perfect Venetian Mask, but keep an eye on your wallet and remember to book it in advance:
- Sogno Veneziano Atelier – Calle delle Erbe 6423/a (Cannareggio Area)
- Atelier Flavia – Corte Spechiera 6010 (Castello Area)
- Pietro Longhi Atelier
Guide and Tips for a weekend itinerary
If you choose to visit Venice during the Carnival, it is essential to book everything well in advance! In fact, being one of the most important Carnivals in the world, in this period many tourists flock to the lagoon city.
To get the annual Carnival Program check on the official website.
My tips for a 2 day itinerary
Dedicate the first day to discover the Sestriere di Cannareggio. Walkthrough the streets, visit the Jewish Ghetto and the small shops in the area. You can then move to the Sestriere di Santa Croce with a visit to the historic Ponte degli Scalzi – all made of Istrian stone.
Towards evening, take a visit to the Rialto Bridge, for a scenic sunset to photograph along the canals.
On the second day, however, you can opt to stroll in the Sestriere di San Marco alleys. Here you cannot miss a walk in the enchanting Piazza S. Marco, very painted by Tintoretto, and pay a visit to the Basilica of San Marco and to the Doge’s Palace, the symbol of the city. Then, moving towards Arsenal Gardens, you can finally admire the famous “Ponte dei Sospiri” (Sights Bridge), where you can stop and make a wish.
Where to eat in Venice during the Carnival
Venice is a city full of culinary proposals. However, it may not be easy to find non-touristy and truly authentic places. For this reason, with the complicity of my Venetian friend, I suggest you go in search of the Bacari.
These are old and small cafes where you can discover authentic Venetian cuisine.
Here is possible to find the famous Cichetti: small morsels of gastronomic specialties, similar to Spanish Tapas, that are perfect to pair with an Ombra (Venetian use to so call a glass of white wine) or an authentic Spritz. And, by the way, if you love Spritz, here you will find the recipe to prepare it!
Here is a shortlist of my favorites:
Al Timon – It is located near the Jewish Ghetto and offers excellent Cichetti with duck liver pate and a delicious grilled polenta with fish.
El Sbarlefo – Absolutely to try for its Cichetti with creamed cod as it once was, simple and delicious. The sea bream medallion is also incredible.
Rusteghi – It is the most famous Bacaro di San Marco. He offers mini sandwiches called “le meravije” (which in English means the wonderfuls “). I won’t tell you anything, go and taste them: you won’t be disappointed!
Bacaro alla Ciurma – Mini tavern with seasonal Cichetti. Excellent for meatballs and arancini.
Cantina do Spade – Here you must absolutely try the Sarde in Saor, typical Venetian, and the stuffed calamari.
Ai do Mori – It is the oldest Bacaro in Venice. If you go there, try the house specialty, called “il Francobollo” (that means “the postage stamp”): a sandwich stuffed with crab and shrimp sold for only 1Euro.
And after this full immersion in the world of Bacari and Cicheti, don’t forget to taste the famous “Carnival Fritters” that are produced only in this period of the year! You can find them at the Pasticceria Campo San Luca!
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