For all the years I used to go back and forth from Italy, I’d always wanted to go to the Venice Mask Carnival, or Venezia Carnevale if you like. In February 2019 I was finally able to time our trip right so that we could go between visiting family. My wife and I had been staying with an Aunt in Ferrara and managed to check in at an Airbnb in Mestre, Venice’s quieter neighbouring town. You can read a bit more about Mestre itself in my next blog post, for now, here’s a quick photo to set the scene:
GETTING TO VENICE
Following our first night at the Airbnb, we had an early start for breakfast then headed into town to catch a tram across the water into Venice. It only took about 20 minutes across the water, which in parts was shrouded by a thick sea fog. Otherwise it was a pretty sunny, and somewhat warm day for February!
The first thing we saw after exiting the tram was the Constitution Bridge (Ponte della Costituzione), an oddly modern-looking bridge to allow large volumes of pedestrians across the canal. From the top though you get a cracking first view of the city’s livelihood, the boats! Cars are banned in Venice, so our rental was best left back at our accommodation. You can park just outside the city for about €30 and walk in though if you prefer. Here’s a photo I took from the top of Constitution Bridge:
We took a rough direction towards Piazza San Marco, as we knew that would be were most of the festivities were being held. There were SO many cool sights along the way. Awesome architecture in every single direction, incredibly detailed sculptures and hidden gems high and low. We stopped a few times to take photos of bits that caught our eye, but it’s one of those places that the more you look the more you will find. This is true of many historic cities in Italy – which is something I’ve always loved exploring. I’m not sure how long it’s supposed to take to walk to Piazza San Marco but I’m pretty sure it was well over an hour for us with all the stop-offs. Here’s some of the sights I captured along the way, including the famous, traditional boats known as gondolas:
PIAZZA SAN MARCO
When we got to the square there were hundreds of people in every direction. The blessing of Piazza San Marco is that there is so much to see by looking up. So even if it is crowded you can still enjoy the vast beauty the area has to offer. Being mid-week I think there were probably less people in costume that perhaps there would have been at the weekend. The ones we did see were a little later in the afternoon, we guessed they would have taken a break for lunch / siesta at some point earlier on too. Here are some of the costumes we saw:
WHAT’S BAD ABOUT THE CARNIVAL..?
I did mention the bad in the title of this blog. Just to be clear, I don’t want to put a downer on Venice at all. It’s an incredibly beautiful, unique city with great people. In fact, the locals do a lot to help promote the festivities and are usually on hand to help and entertain tourists for nothing.
So, what was the problem? The Tourists! Yep, for me they were a major problem. I was elbowed, shoulder barged and pushed out of the way by tourists trying to take photos. A phone, a camera, a polaroid, you name it they’d push out the way to get a snap. And it didn’t stop there, they’d stand there for minutes at a time competing with each other. I take my camera everywhere with me, but never do I consider the people around me objects that need to be forcibly moved in order for me to get a shot.
The experience really made me realise how obsessed society has become with getting their own pictures and video by any means necessary. As a photographer I could have treated the day as a dream opportunity to capture some amazing costumes and fought back. However, I know I would have just become increasingly frustrated by those people ruining it others. I was also on holiday with my wife, so I lowered my photographic expectations and just enjoyed our time together.
BACK TO THE GOOD AT THE VENICE MASK CARNIVAL
After lunch we did a little bit of shopping in the local stores, then returned to the waterfront in time for sunset.
Throughout our visit the sea fog I mentioned earlier would occasionally drift across the land, creating a rather eerie chill (literally it was freezing)! From a photography point of view this wasn’t ideal, until later in the day. As the sun began to set, more of the fog began to drift our way. Golden hour came early and created some incredibly beautiful and unique views of our surroundings like the following:
So, if like me you’ve always wanted to go to the Venice Mask Carnival, I hope this blog has provided a helpful insight into the event. Although we didn’t go back on the second day to see more of the on-going events, I felt we’d seen what we wanted to see and decided the crowds were a little overwhelming for our liking. You can read about / see what we did the following day instead on my next blog post. Hope to see you there!