Small head and shoulders photo of us in mask and costume

Taking part in the

Venice Carnival

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About the carnival

Tips:

1. Costume
2. Sightseeing
3. Who goes there?
4. Impolite people
5. Carnival themes
6. Weather
7. Carrying things
8. Where & how
9. Mutual respect
10. Have fun!

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Tips

8. Where to go & how to get there

St. Marks Square (San Marco), by waterbus or on foot.

A picture of the bustling crowds in the arcades of Saint Mark's Square. The caption reads: The arcades of St. Mark's Square St. Marks Square is where the crowds gather, but you'll also find plenty going on at the nearby waterfront, next to the gondolas and the Bridge of Sighs. Elsewhere in Venice, you'll get the attention of passers by, but not to the same degree. The St Marks area is where people in costume go to promenade along the waterfront and around the square.

You can turn this to your advantage though. If you're desperate for a break, take a dive into the narrow side streets off St Marks Square. You'll find you can grab a bite to eat and go to the loo without attracting too much attention. However, if you want a quick drink, there are often stalls in St Marks Square selling hot wine and traditional pastries. If you want to keep your mask on, the stallholder will often be happy to provide a drinking straw!
 

Carnival events

Various web sites (including the ones in the Links section) have details of events that happen during the carnival - organised parades, parties, and so on. But by far the best source of information is the free booklet published by the tourist board, and available once you get there. This booklet has far more information than is on the web sites, contains information on free and cheap events (which the web sites often don't) and will also tell you about non-carnival events that you may wish to go along to. There is an official Tourist Board office tucked away in a corner of St Marks Square, which stocks the booklets in various languages. They're usually just inside the main door, which is handy as the office itself is small and usually pretty busy.

Accomodation

As far as accomodation goes, there are plenty of hotels in Venice itself. But you should expect to be carrying your luggage through the streets to get there. Some city centre hotels have moorings for water taxis, but water taxis can be very expensive (see below).

30 minutes away by waterbus is Lido, a seperate island that is generally quieter and the hotels are better value. You'll often find bigger rooms with more facilities for less money. There are also a selection of shops and restaurants and, while there aren't nearly as many as in Venice itself, the food is generally cheaper and better quality. The waterbuses between Venice and Lido run frequently and well into the night - check the timetable, or ask at the ticket counter for details. Many of the staff will understand English, attempts to speak Italian, real Italian, and numerous other languages.

An added bonus about the Lido is that scarcely anyone will bat an eyelid at someone walking down the main street in full costume and mask. The same goes for the waterbus into Venice. This gives you time to prepare for the crowd awaiting you when you arrive at St Marks. I'm sure actors call this "getting into character", but I call it "wondering why on earth I'm dressed like this". Thankfully, this question soon becomes irrelevant once you meet the crowds!

Package Tours

Lots of companies do package tours that include your flight and hotel, as well as including some carnival activities and maybe costume hire too. But it is wise to check what you are getting for your money. Sometimes you may be promised entry to St Marks Square to parade in costume - in fact, it's free and there's no ticket required. You might even be promised a costume - which could turn out to be a cloak and a hat, leaving you to pay extra for a mask. "Invitation-only parties" may sound very elite - but can anyone go, as long as they pay the tour company?!

Ask lots of questions. After all, if the package tour company is putting on a Carnival tour, they should know something about the carnival!

If you're a bit shy at donning a costume, then the support of other people on the same package tour will almost certainly help. If you're single, there are even special singles holidays that include organised tours (so you're never left alone unless you want to be) - see the Links page for ideas.

Transport

Finally, some notes about getting to Venice.

If you're flying, Venice Marco Polo (VCE) is the main airport. It is connected to Venice, Lido and other main destinations by a regular express waterbus run by Alilaguna. The trip to Venice takes around 30-40 minutes, and the trip to Lido takes around 45-60 minutes.

Venice Treviso (TSF) is the other airport, but is further away from Venice itself. It's used by some low-cost airlines and charter companies - but not all. There is public transport available from the airport to Venice, but your options are more limited, because Treviso is a much smaller airport.

Other transport options to get to Venice are:

  • Car - you can't drive in Venice itself, but there is a large car park on the outskirts of the city. It's expensive, apparently, and you'll still have to catch public transport to your hotel, as well as around Venice during the day. Fly-drive is not an option in Venice (well, it is - but it seems fairly pointless)! Cars have been turned away from Venice in some previous years of the Carnival, due to overcrowding in the city. So if your travel agent tries to sell you a hire car when you book your flight, it may be better to say no!

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  • Train - Venice's main train station is in the north part of the city, and is well connected to the central waterbus routes. Transfers to the city centre are frequent and quick.

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  • Taxi - water taxis are available for hire from Marco Polo airport, and at various points around the city. But they are very expensive compared to a taxi in most cities. When we checked out the cost to pre-book a water taxi from the airport, it was well into the €100's. Our advice: save your money.

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  • Gondola - some people imagine a gondolier serenading them to their hotel. Unfortunately, imagining it is often the best you can do; the airports are far too distant to make a gondola ride a possibility. If you arrive by road, train or bus, then it may be partly possible with light luggage - but you'll probably be too tired from your journey to appreciate it. Gondolas don't come cheap, so it's probably best to save your money and hire a gondola later on in your trip.
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If you need more information about transport, there are a number of web sites that can help. See the Links page for details.

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