A Secret Carnival Walk around Venice

Can these three weeks of celebrating Carnival in Venice become an opportunity for Venetians to reconnect with history, culinary traditions and ancient crafts? A Carnival giving back some Venetian-Ness, the backbone of their strong roots?

For years, I felt we weren’t really joining in the festivities around town. Standing aloof like spectators and often avoiding the noisy crowds making it impossible to move around town. This was sad and odd compared to what Nonna told us about how Carnival was celebrated in 1978, for the first time after the fall of the Republic in 1797. And Venetians had loved their Carnival then.

In February 1978, a group of actors from Teatro La Fenice, wearing masks and black coats like Venetians during the times of the Venetian Republic, were knocking on doors and asking passers-by to dance and play with them. At first, Venetians didn’t give them much attention during a dark, wet and gloomy February, hiding at home to avoid the bora winds. But then, the children joined the actors and after a while, Venetians recalled ancient family stories of times long past. All of a sudden, they started wearing masks while enjoying hot chocolate in the cafes. Read more about these humble beginnings of Carnival and how much Venetians loved it, in this post.

What made Venetians change their mind to at least participate in their Carnival again? I think the decisive piece of help came from the culinary side. You see, in February 2015, Venetians simply created their own Carnival. It started with the award for la miglior fritola – the best fritola pastry. Venetians flocked (!!) to the pastry stores that all participated enthusiastically. Bakers, pastry store owners and Venetians all became fritola experts, and each and every lunch break and pre-dinner drink was spent in the pastry stores, tasting and comparing fritole. The quality of ingredients, the right farina (flour), whether the dough was fluffy enough and crispy at the same time. Were the fritole flavored raisins or perhaps with a hint of apricot liquor? Coated with flavored sugar? And then, we shared our findings and scores in that Facebook Group, which soon made us exchange recipes for fritole straight from great-grandmother’s recipe journal. It was really fun and in my opinion, the first and decisive step to reconcile Venetians with their Carnival.

It happened over food in 2015 and then again in 2016, over food, arts and crafts. Piazza San Marco was turned into a lively artist’s lab, drawing Venetians during the week and tourists on the weekend. For the first time in a long time, Venetians and tourists enjoyed Carnival in the very same spot, though perhaps not at the same time. And then, Carnival ended on a grand and emotional note, which always accompanies the flying of the Venetian Flag called El Volo del Léon.

For 2018, I have created a special page for Mystic Carnival  – click here to discover and read more about Carnival in the blog posts below. There will be a little surprise for you in our next article !

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Carnival Itinerary #1 – Culinary Lessons from the Republic of Venice

Why not enjoy the former Venetian Dolce di Stato, the National Sweet Dish which is la fritola, in the pastry stores ? The competitions of 2015 have certainly contributed to rediscovering the ancient recipes stored away in the attic for so many years. Jusg imagine, in the 16th century, Venice even had an association of fritoleri – fritole pastry chefs.

You could also taste fritole in the Grandi Caffé, like below at Amo, which is the outlet located at Fondaco dei Tedeschi managed by the Alajmo Family who also own Caffé Quadri.

Carnival Itinerary #2 – Exploring Fashion and Style.

We know only little about Venetian fashion style, do we? Yet the number of authentic costumes, that is, clothes we would have worn during the times of the Republic of Venice, is on the rise. There are fine ateliers in town specializing in these, like Pietro Longhi and Antonia Sautter, who also organizes the Ballo del Doge.

Carnival Itinerary #3 – Exploring Venetian Arts and Crafts.

Take a look at the artists exhibition in the Piazza which captured the hearts of Venetians in the last two years. In 2016 and 2017, Piazza San Marco became an artisan’s dream and stage for the city’s artisans. Even a gondola was brought to Piazza San Marco and everyone was invited to watch the gondola makers (squeraroli) showing off their art.

Non vi mancano le maschere del #CarnevaleVenezia2016? w/@giulybaiutti Credits: @gionata_s

A post shared by Carnevale di Venezia 2018 (@venice_carnival_official) on

So this is a Carnival for all of us wishing to get to know Venice better. If you can’t be in Venice, take a look at the lush official website of Carnival in Venice. Especially their Instagram account takes you straight to Venice during Carnival. Just click on the picturesin this post.

Culinarywise, we share all the Carnival & Coffee Flavors on our Breakfast in Venice Facebook Page – keep in touch here:

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