If you have any interest in attending the age old tradition of carnival in Venice, make your plans now. Carnival festivities in Venice’s San Marco square date back as far as the 1100’s. The festival was outlawed in the late 1700’s and its modern incarnation began in 1979. The parades, tradition and decadent costumes all taking place in beautiful Venezia make it an experience not to be missed. Carnival’s energy and scale are truly amazing to behold but here are some things to consider if you’re planning a trip.
It goes without saying that it is always practical to book ahead but I could not stress the importance of this in regards to this event. There are an estimated 3 million visitors and prices can skyrocket up to 300% during the festival. I would recommend booking at least 4 months prior to the start of Carnival. We have found Air b&b a great resource, many times being cheaper than hostels.
- Transportation to Venice within Italy
If you are traveling anywhere from within Italy, Trenitalia is a viable choice. They have several trains arriving daily to Venezia Santa Lucia, Venice’s central station. The price inflation is significant this time of year so it would be prudent to book ahead. Also if you can purchase an assigned seat on the train car, you may want to pay the extra fee. These trains overbook and you will be standing the whole time squeezed into very tight spaces. Our last trip we witnessed a passenger have a panic attack due to the confined space.
There are also a number of busses that travel direct to Venice. FlixBus is one option we’ve used several times all over Europe but like all other bus lines, they fill up rather quick for carnival.
- Transportation within Venice
If you save money on accommodations by staying just outside of the main center, take into consideration if you are walking distance or if you’ll need to take a city bus. The busses become extremely crowded by about 9am. The amount of people taking public transport for the events is in such demand that some busses will not do pickups at designated stops because of being over capacity.
Once you are on the main island, water taxis can be a bit expensive. If you think you will need to take several rides in any given day, the “24 hour” pass is the better value. One-way fare is 7,50 whereas a day pass is 20 euro.
If you want to save money and don’t mind being on your feet, Venice is a very walkable city.
- Plan for the weather
Being surrounded by water, Venice in February can have biting cold wind. There are also moments when the sun is out and you have no need of a jacket. Dressing in layers is the best way to prepare for the frequent changes in temperature. I recommend having a scarf or some other accessory that can protect your ears from the cold. It is not uncommon to get some rain as well.
In short be prepared for cold and wet weather with the occasional sunny afternoons.
- Attending events
There are numerous parades, costume contest, concerts and other events held daily. The most popular events that draw the largest crowds center around San Marco’s square. If you want to attend, plan on showing up very early. The sea of people pushing their way through to find a location to set up can be overwhelming. Save yourself the headache and show up well ahead of schedule.
Visiting Venice during carnival can be a challenge but it is well worth any effort needed to make it happen. Venezia is an enchanting city any time of the year but during carnival, it is truly magical.