VENICE CARNIVAL DATES 2020
& MAIN EVENTS
The dates for Venice Carnival 2020 are from 8 to 25 February 2020.
Here are some among the highlight events of the 2020 “Carnevale di Venezia”. All events are free. Only private parties, dinners and theatre shows are payable.
Note: For all events we give the Italian times, which are an hour later than the UK’s times.
Festa Veneziana on the Water – First Part
The vast Festa veneziana on the water always opens the Carnival. The venue is the Rio di Cannaregio, one of Venice’s main waterways and most beautiful places.
The Grand Opening of the 2020 Venice Carnival is Saturday 8 February 2020 from 7pm to 10pm.
For the occasion the splendid setting of the Cannaregio Canal at night literally becomes a water stage, with a display of floating structures smoothly moving on it.
And plenty more. Gigantic multicoloured jellyfish flying against the fabulous backdrop of Venetian palaces. Reflections of the water and of the lights on the dark walls of centuries-old buildings full of marvels. Boats driven by horses, ballerinas, flames.
Harlequins suspended in mid-air. Globes of air and light. Phantoms. Enormous, weightless butterfly-women dancing in the air. Magical white figures gliding on the water.
Rosy, jade, orange, turquoise, magenta, flamingo, indigo, ochre, peach, emerald, gold, aquamarine, crimson, lime, azure, carnation, pistachio, mauve, fuchsia, daffodil, juniper, ruby, purple lights. The balconies are full of them, the columns of their classical balustrades gleam with them.
Music, dance, joy along the Cannaregio shores.
The Festa Veneziana on the water is in two parts, one at night one by day.
The next day there will be the second part, and both pay homage to ancient local traditions.
Festa Veneziana on the Water – Second Part
Sunday 9 February from 10.30am to 1pm.
This is a water parade (see top picture) of unique boats and masks sailing from Punta della Dogana along all the Canal Grande to the folkloristic and picturesque district of Cannaregio, a spectacle for the people, with music, rhythm and stalls providing traditional Carnival and Venetian food delicacies and specialities.
Men in costume row boats and gondolas in the shape of swans, hens, tigers, and other animals. Then comes the boat with the symbol of Venice, the Winged Lion of Saint Mark, as figurehead, holding the book of the evangelist who is the city’s patron saint, the author of the Gospel that bears his name.
The second part of the Festa Veneziana’s timetable is:
11am, entertainment begins on the banks, water parade starts;
12pm, arrival of the boats, with Venetian typical food and wine provided.
Festa delle Marie – the Parade
Every year on the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, 2 February, the Festa delle Marie used to take place with the purpose of offering a dowry to very pretty girls, when the Doge of Venice gave prizes to the twelve most beautiful Venetian girls of poor origin, donating them splendid jewels as a bridal dowry. Today this is still evoked.
The parade will take place Saturday 15 February from 2.30pm to 4pm in Via Garibaldi.
The traditional “Festa delle Marie” will start at San Pietro di Castello at 2.30 pm, parade all along via Garibaldi and Riva degli Schiavoni and reach the St. Mark’s Square stage at 4pm, where the twelve “Marias” will be introduced to the crowd waiting for them.
This event occurs on different days until the moment when the Maria of the Carnival of this year is proclaimed, giving you the opportunity to admire the traditional Venetian period costumes.
The Flight of the Angel
Sunday 16 February from 12pm to 1pm in Saint Mark’s Square the Carnival Angel will fly down from the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica, while the San Marco stage will be full of history and colours, when many traditional groups parade on stage in their beautiful costumes.
The event will be preceded by the “Corteo del Doge”, the Doge’s parade organised by the Consorzio Europeo Rievocazioni Storiche (Consortium of European Historical Re-enactment Societies), involving the Gruppo Storico “Le Maschere di Mario del ‘700 veneziano” (Historic Group “Mario’s Masks from Venetian ‘700s”).
The Flight of the Angel (“Volo dell’Angelo”) re-creates the Serenissima Republic of St Mark’s times, during which an unknown guest of Venice, flying along a rope from St Mark’s bell tower to the middle of the square, used to offer a homage to the Doge. The Angel will now do the same, greeted by the period costumes parades crowd of the Historical Re-enactments. The event concludes with the embrace of the Angel and the Doge, among scenographic effects.
As per tradition, the girl who won the 2019 edition of the “Festa delle Marie” beauty contest, Linda Pani, will be the Angel of the new Carnival 2020.
Best Mask Contest
Thursday 20 February from 11am to 1pm in Saint Mark’s Square you can be an actor in the show and parade in Piazza San Marco with your fancy dress.
Or you can just watch the contestants, the people in costumes, wigs, caps and frills, parade on stage, competing with each other in fantasy and imagination.
The Flight of the Eagle
The great spectacle of the Eagle Flight (“Volo dell’Aquila”) from St. Mark’s bell tower to Saint Mark’s Square stage will take place Sunday 23 February from 12pm to 1pm.
It’s still not known who will play the 2020 Aquila, as the “flying” celebrity, usually an athlete or sportsperson, is always a surprise. Last year, 2019, it was the Short Track champion Arianna Fontana (pictured), winner of no less than 8 Olympic medals, as part of the promotion for the successful bid of Milan-Cortina for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
The Eagle of the Carnival descends upon St. Mark’s bell tower and from there to the Gran Teatro, the stage erected in St Mark’s Square, the world’s most beautiful theatre, that will become a magnificent ballroom of 18th and 19th centuries’ splendours. Historical dance groups and associations, displaying stunning colours, costumes and movements, parade in front of the crowd and perform the minuet, square dances, gavotte and jigs.
Festa delle Marie 2020 – Award Ceremony
Tuesday 25 February, Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday), from 4pm to 4.30pm in Saint Mark’s Square the award ceremony for the 2020 Carnival’s winning “Maria” will be staged. The twelve Marias will arrive here in a boat procession, leaving from Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio.
At 4.30pm, the crowining ceremony of the most graceful damsel by the Doge.
The “Svolo del Leon”
The Flight of the Lion marks the closing of the 2020 Venice Carnival.
Tuesday 25 February from 5pm to 6pm St Mark’s Square will become once again an open-air theatre for the last time during this Carnival.
Celebrating and paying the highest tribute to the Winged Lion of St. Mark, the Leone alato di San Marco symbol of the city, a golden lion painted on red background on a vast canvas, lifted through a rope and pulley system, will fly up to Saint Mark’s bell tower over the audience in Piazza San Marco Square.
To welcome him, on the San Marco stage the twelve Venetian young ladies, the Marias, will greet the huge flag.
The event is a great party and a ritual full of emotions, to say goodbye to the 2020 Carnival and hello to the 2021 Venice Carnival, which will last from Sunday 31st January to 16th February.
Major Carnival events take place inside the Arsenale, Venice’s superb and under-used historic shipyard, whose immense spaces host fireworks on the water, night occasions, soirées, dining experiences with entertainment among the tables, water pageants, live music, theatre, magic, performances all night long, re-enactments, aerial acrobatics, deejay festivals, the Children’s Carnival events, street artists and bands.
Venice’s Carnevale is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Carnivals in the world.
Unlike other Italian Carnivals, particularly Venice’s great rival, Viareggio Carnival, whose pièce de résistance or showpiece are gigantic artistic floats moving along the very long seafront promenade, the Carnival of Venice has its main focus on masks, historic costumes, heritage events, fancy dresses of extraordinary elegance, exceptional artistry and superior exquisiteness whose tradition goes back centuries.
Not surprisingly, most if not all events of Venice Carnival are coordinated by the Consortium of European Historical Re-enactment Societies.
And we must not forget events on water, the essential element of the city and its vital lymph, on which it floats, the lagoon on whose seabed Venice’s foundations rest.