Venders set up their booths of Carnival masks outside Saint Mark's Cathedral Jan. 30. The famous square will be full of food, festivities, and costumes from now through Feb. 13.
Venders set up their booths of Carnival masks outside Saint Mark's Cathedral Jan. 30. The famous square will be full of food, festivities, and costumes from now through Feb. 13. (Photo Credit: Chelsy Lyons ) VIEW ORIGINAL

VENICE, Italy—Tourists may spot mysterious masked figures and confetti-filled squares this weekend as Carnival comes to Venice.

Acrobatics, masquerade balls, and Vivaldi concerts will highlight the festivities between stops for crispy frittelle stuffed with ricotta cream. Christine Swanson, a U.S. Army Garrison Italy community member who has attended the world-famous Carnival in years past described the event as magical.

“It was like if a Dalí painting had a baby with David Bowie’s labyrinth and then fell into a rainbow,” Swanson said. “Everybody is unrecognizable and buzzing with the same energy.”

The Venice Carnival — or Carnevale di Venezia in Italian — dates back to 1094 and celebrates two weeks of raucous indulgence before Lent, the beginning of the Easter season for Roman Catholics. During the festival, Venetians would historically wear masks, hiding their true identity and erasing class distinctions until Ash Wednesday.

Carnival is a bucket list item for Col. Scott Horrigan, who commands U.S. Army Garrison Italy. He and his family arrived last summer, so this will be their first time checking out the sights and sounds of one of the world’s biggest parties.

A booth of Venetian masks await excited carnival-goers on Tuesday, Jan. 30, days before the festival’s biggest parades descend upon Saint Mark’s Square.
A booth of Venetian masks await excited carnival-goers on Tuesday, Jan. 30, days before the festival’s biggest parades descend upon Saint Mark’s Square. (Photo Credit: Scavetta, Richard (Rick) A., CIV USARMY IMCOM EUROPE (US)) VIEW ORIGINAL

“My family and I have long wanted to experience the Carnival of Venice, which is one of the most iconic events in Italy,” said Horrigan, who especially looks forward to seeing the authentic Venetian masks.

Saint Mark’s Square, photographed here in Fall of 2023, is the center of the largest parades, concerts and cultural events of the Carnival season.
Saint Mark’s Square, photographed here in Fall of 2023, is the center of the largest parades, concerts and cultural events of the Carnival season. (Photo Credit: Chelsy Lyons ) VIEW ORIGINAL

“It is a privilege to serve here in Italy, and I would encourage our Soldiers and families to make the most of the time in this amazing country,” he said. “You will have more pleasant and interesting experiences than any tourist could ever afford.”

This year’s Carnival follows a world travel theme and runs from Jan. 27 until Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) on Feb. 13. Most events will be held from Feb. 3 onward.

The Grand Canal of Venice, photographed Sep. 2023, is an iconic Venetian landmark and the background of numerous annual Carnival celebrations.
The Grand Canal of Venice, photographed Sep. 2023, is an iconic Venetian landmark and the background of numerous annual Carnival celebrations. (Photo Credit: Chelsy Lyons ) VIEW ORIGINAL

A complete schedule of Venice festivities can be found here.