Headed to one of the world’s biggest parties this February? Here are 10 ways to rest assured that even if you get lost in Venice — as you can and should — your wallet will still be intact.
Carnevale Venezia 2019 kicks off on February 16th and comes to its grand finale on March 5th. The world-renowned festival itself is said to come from the Italian words “carne” (meat) and “levare” (to remove or withdraw). In former times, Venetians went all out partying and feasting just before the somber fasting of meat during the long period of Lent.
Today, Carnevale is still a huge occasion to have a bit of fantasy and fun. Here are ten tips for travelers headed to Venice on a budget this year or any year for Carnival.
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1. Masquerade for Free
In the old days, masks disguised the city’s citizens, hiding the identity, social status, and even sex of the wearer. Traditionally, they were crafted from paper mâché or leather. Original masks and costumes can be pricey; make-up artists around the city offer face-painting for less.
If you’re feeling lucky, fill out the form for free entry to the Best Masked Costume Contest. Final awarding happens on Sunday, February 24th.
2. Stay at the Lido
Lido is a great place to set up your home base during Carnevale if you want to save on accommodations. “We paid just €70 for a 3-star hotel for three people with a nice street view — affordable especially during high season,” says Maria, a UK resident. If you stay at this beach island, you can easily get to Venice and back by boat.
3. Take the Local Ferry for Canal Crossing
Instead of shelling out €80 for a 30-minute gondola ride, Jayne Seddon of Venice Events recommends doing as the locals do: taking the Traghetto, a ferry across the Grand Canal, for €4. Jayne also suggests eating at the pasticcerie (cake shops), where you can order an affordable cappuccino and a fritelle, the popular local snack.
(Tip: Have your coffee while standing at the bar to save.)
4. Join the Free Fest for Kids
Traveling with little ones? Don’t let that be an excuse to join in on the fun. Kids can participate in the 7th International Kids Carnival. There will be workshops, competitions, and crafts, so your young ones can party too. The best part? All the activities are free.
5. Head to Rialto Market
For the freshest seafood sold at local prices, visit Rialto Market early in the morning. You’ll find fishermen with their catch, hustling the way they have for centuries. Even if you’re not there to shop, just observing local market life is an experience in itself.
6. Have a Free Art Lesson
Observe how Venetian artisans manufacture Murano glass in the New Arte Fuga (Via Giudecca, 13), a Lume Glass Factory. You can watch them skillfully creating glass art when you download a coupon for freebies and discounts at New Arte Fuga here.
7. Island-hop with Interactive Apps
See Murano, Burano and Torcello for just €20 per person. Take the four-hour boat tour of three islands in Venice — guides can speak English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian. Isola di Burano, a unique and colorful city, is well worth exploring on a trip to Venice.
Then, back in Venice, check out the beautiful, recently reopened Scala Contarini del Bovolo. Movie buffs will recognize the magnificently arched spiral staircase from Orson Welles’ 1952 film, Othello. Use this interactive guide app from Artplace Museum.
8. Know Your Stuff
Read Detourism, the local online magazine with text in English. Its publishers say their idea of “de-tourism” is to enable visitors to travel the city slowly and experience a more authentic Venice. From the canal cruises to the backstreets, you can read and uncover hidden stories.
9. Do a Pub Crawl “Venetian style”
The folks at Venice Events organize fantastic Venetian bar hops. You come in costume, then meander through the labyrinth of the city’s small alleyways and squares. The pub crawl goes to four local barcari (bars), and €45 per person includes wine, aperitivi, and insights from your guide.
10. Party at The Arsenal
An old shipyard, called The Arsenal, now on its second edition of “Nights at The Arsenal” is the new hottest place for night owls to party. Pyrotechnics, theater magic and thumping dance floors are energized with live music by international DJs.
While each event at the Arsenal has an entrance fee, you can get a better deal online when you purchase the digital ADA ticket (“All Day Access)” for discounts, private entrances and a pass to all events for just €50 a head.
Special thanks to Venice Events for help with this article. www.venice-carnival-italy.com