Carnevale di Venezia

Venice Carnival balls in 2011

Pretty girl at Venice Carnival

ABOVE: A modern-day Carnival fan. (Photo: Diego Cervo.)

We'll admit to having mixed feelings about the Carnevale di Venezia, which brings untold thousands of costume buffs, gawkers, and drinkers to Venice for about 10 days every winter. The costumes are impressive, and some of the events are fun, but today's annual extravanganza has more to do with tourist marketing than with community demand. (After the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, over-the-top Carnival celebrations disappeared, and the tradition--which reflected the worst period of the Republic's decline--wasn't revived until business boosters launched the present-day Carnevale di Venezia in 1980.)

Every year, costume workshops and other business organize masked balls to rake in admission fees and encourage costume rentals. Here are two invitations or announcements that we've received this year, with minimal editing by us:

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Photo: Atelier Pietro Longhi Dear friends:
Here you have a little memorandum of the annual event of the Associatio Pro Ludo & Atelier Pietro Longhi
Date: 03 march 2011
place: Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista
Time: 08:00pm
Dinner and entertainments: 180,00€
Dinner, entertainments and costume (renaissance): 340,00€
Dress code: English Renaissance. Will accept also other country renaissance costumes but no baroque ones. 
Please soonest as possible send us a confirmation, to allow us to organize and set the incoming of all the guests.
We will send you ASAP the Bank account where send the deposit.
Wishing you happy new year, all the best to all of you
Associatio Pro Ludo
Associazione Culturale
San Polo 2580
30125 Venezia
tel:+39 328 97 06 572


Il Ballo della Signoria

Sublimidea in cooperation with Villa Foscarini Rossi is pleased to present you the new event of Venice Carnival 2011, the first masquerade ball of the Riviera del Brenta, IL BALLO DELLA SIGNORIA.

The magnificent Villa Foscarini Rossi in Stra, on the night of March 5th, 2011, will open its beautiful doors, will light candles to welcome its guests ..... you can experience the exclusive atmosphere of the magnificent eighteen century Venice Carnival with a served rich traditional menu and a maskerade ball on the sweet baroque notes ... but you can also experience a series of events staged by a cast of international artists that will surprise and entertain you until morning.

The villa is placed at approx 10 kms from Venice and is easily reachable by car directly inside, where a private parking will be reserved to the guests.

An atelier of costumes will be organized on site, where it will be possible to rent the costumes on the same day from 10 to 22 by appointment or even on the days earlier, always by appointment.

For further information, contact

It's 'Fat Tuesday'--Farewell to Carnival!

Today (February 16) is Martedì grasso or "Fat Tuesday" in Italy--the last day before Lent, and the final day of Carnival. 

As of 9 p.m. Venice time, the crowds of mainlanders and other daytrippers have mostly gone home, although the Campo Margherita is still filled with students and the final "DJ Set" of the season just began blasting through our living-room windows. 

(Addendum: Since we published this post nearly two hours ago, the crowd has grown into a cast of thousands--easily the largest and loudest mob of happy, alcohol-fueled young Carnivalgoers that we've seen all week.)

Here are some last-minute photos to close out our Carnival coverage for 2010:

Venice Carnival costumes on the Strada Nova

Cheryl grabbed this shot on the Strada Nova (part of the main pedestrian route between the railroad station and the Piazza San Marco), where a tourist was posing behind the performers in their star, sun, and moon costumes.

Bicycle rider in Campo Santa Margherita
In the Campo Santa Margherita, a boy in a Spiderman outfit celebrated his freedom with a bike ride. (Schools were closed yesterday and today in the final run-up to Lent.)

Flower vendor in Campo Santa Margherita - Venice
In the same campo, a flower seller was hoping for some last-minute Carnival trade.

Venice Carnival hand costume
Near the Frari Church, a child in a hand costume offered a digital greeting...

Carnevale di Venezia hand costume 

...then waved good-bye to us and to the 2010 edition of Carnevale di Venezia.

Frittelle: Venice's Carnival doughnuts

Frittelle from Tonolo 
ABOVE: Frittelle from Tonolo, one of Venice's most celebrated pastry shops. Starting clockwise from left, the varieties shown here include cioccolate, zabaioneveneziane, and mele or apple. INSET BELOW: Interior views of a frittella veneziana and a chocolate-filled fritter.

Fritella veneziana from TonoloFrittelle, or fritters, are the most famous dolci or sweets of Venice Carnival. (They're followed closely in popularity by galani, the crisp, airy pastry strips that are known as chiacchierechiaccherecrostili and other names elsewhere in Italy.)

Fritelle con cioccolata from Pasticceria Tonolo in Venezia Frittelle begin showing up in pastry shops, bakeries, and snack bars during the weeks leading up to il Carnevale di Venezia. When Carnival is over, frittelle disappear from the store windows almost as quickly as tourists in masks or cheap plastic cow costumes vanish from the Piazza San Marco.

Like doughnuts or crullers, frittelle come in a variety of styles, both filled and unfilled. At Tonolo, which may be Venice's best-known pasticceria, the available choices usually include:

Frittelle veneziane. No filling, but with raisins and pine nuts mixed into the fairly heavy dough. After frying, the frittelle are rolled in granulated sugar.

Frittelle con crema chantilly. Filled with a light vanilla-flavored pastry cream and rolled in granulated sugar.

Frittelle con cioccolata. Filled with a mild chocolate-flavored pastry cream and rolled in granulated sugar.

Frittelle con zabaione. Filled with a Marsala-flavored pastry cream and rolled in granulated sugar.

Frittelle con mele. These are quite a bit different from the other varieties: For each fritter, a thick ring of apple is covered in batter and fried. Instead of being more or less spherical like other frittelle, an apple frittella looks something like a doughnut, with a flattish shape and a hole in the center.

Note: At some pastry shops and bakeries, cream-filled frittelle are rolled in confectioner's sugar (or left uncoated), with only the classic veneziane version being covered in granulated sugar. Ricotta cheese is another common filling, and a bar near the Accademia Bridge serves a non-traditional but popular Nutella version.

For another take on frittelle, with pictures, see Karen Henderson's post in her "The Venice Experience" blog.