Carnival of Venice

Carnival of Venice 2023 Dates, Events

Carnival of Venice Festa Veneziana on the Water
Festa Veneziana on the Water

In 2023, the Carnival of Venice is from Saturday February 4th to Tuesday February 21st 2023.

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2023 Venice Carnival

The Carnival of Venice 2023 is different, as every year there is a new theme for Venice Carnival.

The title of the 2023 edition of the Carnival of Venice is “Take your Time for the Original Signs”, a reference to the signs of the Zodiac. This year’s edition is born under the sign of the Leo, meaning the Lion of St. Mark. Another theme of 2023 Venice Carnival are the 4 natural elements: water, air, earth, fire, from the four elements theory of the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles, further developed by Aristotle.

Like in 2022, this year’s Venice Carnival is having the Artistic Direction of the set designer of Teatro La Fenice theater Massimo Checchetto.

All events are free.


Three hotels in Venice with very high guest ratings and recommended by people who stayed there are:

Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo

Hotel Ca’ Dogaressa

Hotel Flora

For an extensive selection of hotels in Venice take a look at this:

View ample choice of hotels in Venice


2023 Carnival of Venice Events

Rather than being centered around that gigantic stage which is St Mark’s Square, as in past years, in 2023 Carnival of Venice events, shows, scenes, entertainments and activities are spread throughout the ancient city of Venice, on the islands and mainland.

The venues of the Carnival 2023 are typical Venetian alleys (“calli”); small squares (“campielli”); passages connecting calli, other streets, courtyards and campielli obtained in the body of a building, eliminating a portion of height equal to the entire ground floor and containing small aedicules with sacred images and bas-reliefs in white marble (“sotoporteghi”); bridges; canals; stretches of road that run along a canal or a stream with moorings and steps descending into the water for docking of and access to boats (“fondamente”); porticoes; piazzas.

Note: For all events we give the Italian times, which are an hour later than the UK times. For the US contiguous states, depending on your zone, Italy times are anywhere between 9 hours earlier (further west) and 6 hours earlier (further east).


Opening Parade “Original Dreamers”

A water event always opens the Carnival of Venice. Traditionally this was called Festa Veneziana on the Water. In 2023 it is Original Dreamers.

On the first day of the Carnival, Saturday February 4 2023 from 8pm to 9pm, Original Dreamers stages all the symbols of the Venetian Carnival tradition with artists, colors, plays of light and music along a highly evocative water route winding its way from the water space in front of the Santa Lucia railway station to St. Mark’s Basin.

A majestic floating stage plies the waters of the Grand Canal to Punta della Dogana to officially open the world’s most famous and historic Carnival. A theater suspended over the water, captained by a Unicorn.

A Baroque setting recalling tradition, revisited in white like the founding stones of the architecture of Venice, like a blank canvas painted by fifty artists who, dressed in the splendid creations of the historic Venetian Ateliers, bring it to life with color and art, dreamers and navigators.

A tribute to opera with a quartet of extraordinary voices interpreting opera arias; dancers and acrobats; fire symbol of warmth and passion; enchanting creations of the Ateliers Pietro Longhi, Nicolao Atelier, Antonia Sautter and La Bauta testifying to the artisan art of masquerade; percussionists giving rhythm to this traveling dream.

A fantastic creature-ship escorts a Columbine: Alice Bars, winner of the 2022 Festa delle Marie beauty contest, crosses the Grand Canal to St. Mark’s Basin, in a journey towards the beginning of the Venice Carnival 2023.

For the occasion the splendid setting of the Grand 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 Grand Canal shores.

The best places along the Grand Canal where you can attend and see the Opening Parade “Original Dreamers” are: the train station square Piazzale della Stazione Santa Lucia; Fondamenta del Monastero e di S. Simeon Piccolo; Campo San Simeon Grande; Rio Terà dei Sabioni; Riva de Biasio; Campo San Marcuola; Campo San Stae; Riva de l’Ogio; Campo della Pescheria; Campo dell’Erbaria; Riva del Vin; Rive del Ferro e del Carbon; San Silvestro; Campo San Samuele; Campo San Vio; Fondamenta della Salute; Punta della Dogana. The first three places mentioned on the list are the most recommended, as they have wider space.

Festa Veneziana on the Water

Carnival of Venice. Festa Veneziana on the Water
Carnival of Venice. Festa Veneziana on the Water

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.

On Sunday February 5 2023 at 11am the Venetian Festival on Water starts with floats departing from Punta della Dogana and following the Grand Canal to the Rio di Cannaregio, paying homage to ancient local traditions. Venice Carnival as a public festivity officially started in 1296, when an edict issued by the Republic of Venice Senate declared Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding the beginning of Lent, a holiday.

About a hundred rowing boats invade the Grand Canal filling it with colors, decorations and masks: the water parade from Punta della Dogana arrives at Rialto Bridge, captained by a caorlina, typical very fast Venetian boat, carrying the papier-mâché “Pantegana”, one of the folk symbols of Venice Carnival, ready to burst out in front of the Rialto Bridge in a blaze of confetti and streamers, thus symbolically “kicking off” the celebrations for Carnival 2023.

This is a water parade 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.

Venice Carnival Street Show

On the same weekend, February 4-5, the Venice Carnival Street Show takes place, a series of shows of street art spread across the main squares of Venice and in the squares of Mestre, with performances by actors, acrobats, magicians, musicians and illusionists. The Carnival Street Show performances are repeated on the following weekend February 11-12 and on the days of the Shrove week from Thursday February 16 to Tuesday February 21.

Festa delle Marie

Carnival of Venice. Festa delle Marie
Carnival of Venice. Festa delle Marie

Every year on the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, February 2, 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.

Saturday February 11, in the traditional “Festa delle Marie” the twelve “Marias” of Carnival 2023 parade dressed in historical costumes on board gondolas along the Grand Canal to reach St. Mark’s Square, where they are welcomed and presented to the public.

Starting with the water parade on the Grand Canal, there are many events on different days featuring the Marys of Carnival 2023 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.

In Saint Mark’s Square Tuesday February 21 there is the award ceremony for the 2023 Carnival’s winning Mary, the crowning ceremony of the most graceful damsel by the Doge.


Carnival of Venice Traditional Annual Events


The Flight of the Angel

Carnival of Venice Flight of the Angel over St Mark's Square
Flight of the Angel over St Mark’s Square

In Saint Mark’s Square the Carnival Angel flies down from the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica, while the San Marco stage is full of history and colors, when many traditional groups parade on stage in their beautiful costumes.

The event is 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 now does 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 previous year’s edition of the “Festa delle Marie” beauty contest is the Angel of the following year’s Carnival.


The Flight of the Eagle

Carnival of Venice Flight of the Eagle over St Mark's Square
Flight of the Eagle over St Mark’s Square

The great spectacle of the Eagle Flight (“Volo dell’Aquila”) from St. Mark’s bell tower to Saint Mark’s Square stage is something you don’t want to miss.

It’s usually not known who is going to play the Aquila, as the “flying” celebrity, usually an athlete or sportsperson, as it is always a surprise. In 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 theater, that becomes a magnificent ballroom of 18th and 19th centuries’ splendours. Historical dance groups and associations, displaying stunning colors, costumes and movements, parade in front of the crowd and perform the minuet, square dances, gavotte and jigs.


Carnival of Venice Flight of the Lion
Carnival of Venice Flight of the Lion

The “Svolo del Leon”

The Flight of the Lion marks the closing of the Carnival of Venice.

St Mark’s Square is once again an open-air theatre during Venice 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, flies 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, greet the huge flag.

The event is a great party and a ritual full of emotions, to say goodbye to the just-concluded Carnival and hello to the following year’s Venice Carnival.


Competitions, Cultural Events and Ice Skating Rinks

Other events include a contest of the most beautiful mask in St Mark’s Square, where there is a scenography installation for the purpose of highlighting the persons parading in traditional Carnival costumes. Access is after accreditation, and there is also online voting.

Cultural events in theaters and museums of the city and extraordinary evening openings of the Civic Museums; the classic dinner show at Ca ‘Vendramin Calergi, home of the Casino; ice skating rinks in Campo San Polo and Piazza Mercato in Marghera.


Best Mask Contest

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.


Carnival of Venice Video

Here’s a taste of Venice Carnival Grand Opening, Carnival on the Water, from 2016.

What Carnival Is About

Carnival of Venice Mask
Carnival of Venice Mask

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, Carnival of Viareggio, 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.