Venice is one of the most famous cities in Italy. It stands in the North-East of the country at the Adriatic sea. It is a set of numerous big and small islands connected with channels of different sizes. One of the charms of Venice is to walk on the little bridges above the smallest channels and take the vaporetti (busboats) on the big ones. “The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, and others” (UNESCO website) and for these reasons and many others, Venice and its lagoon are classified as The UNESCO World Heritage property.
Venice is also famous for its Carnival. Like in other countries, it comes from the Christian tradition: the latin name carnem levare signifies “remove the meat” and marks the early commencement of the penitence period before Easter. It takes place every year 15 days before Fat Tuesday, or martedì grasso, the day before Ash Wednesday. In 2016, you will enjoy Carnival from January 30th until February 9th.
Why is the Venice Carnival so well-known all over the world? Venice Carnival is very ancient and after a period of less activity it was reborn in the 70’s. A lot of tourists come to admire the beautiful costumes and masks participants wear. It’s an abundance of color, joy, and celebrations like in the oldest times when almost all was permitted. As before, it’s also the occasion to eat well and to savor food specialities, and especially the sweet ones, of this period.
Don’t miss the fritelle! The recipe of frittelle could be as old as the fifteenth-century. The frittelle is a sweet doughnut made traditionally with dough, flour, yeast, a little sugar, drops of grappa or aniseed liqueur, and raisins, currants or nuts. It’s fried in oil and sometimes you can find inside some whipped cream. In the ancient times, you found a lot of frittelle sold by fritoleri in the streets of Venice. Now, you will find them at food stalls and more in the bakeries.
A cookie you will find during the Carnival but now-a-days also throughout the year is the zaletti. It’s a small crunchy cookie made with, inter alia, wheat and corn flour which gives it the yellow color (zalo in venitian), lemon zest and raisin (traditional) or chocolate. Like the fritelle you will find a lot of different zaletti, including their alternative form — oval or diamond-shaped. Maybe you will like to eat it the Venetian way — taste zaletti with a dessert wine and enjoy!
No time to stop discovering. As the Italian food is varied and abundant, and even more during this period, you’ll have to taste a variety of pasta meals, including lasagna, gnocchi, tortellini and other specialities of Carnival from other cities like the Migliaccio cake from Naples: it’s like a lemon cheesecake but lighter because it’s made with ricotta and semolina instead of flour.
And if it’s cold outside you could warm yourself with a dense hot chocolate. The Venetian hot chocolate is a real travel of the senses: so dense, you can almost eat it with a spoon like a pudding but also very creamy and flavoured. You will find dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, with or without liqueur. You even have a specific menu for that!
And what about wine? The Veneto region is a great wine producer. You will have a lot of choices between red and white wine, sparkling and still wine. And moreover, during the Carnival, they propose Bellini: it’s a cocktail with peach juice and Prosecco, sparkling white wine. You could also enjoy some mulled wine that you can easily find during Carnival.
Taste all you can and delight your eyes and your stomach during the Venice Carnival!
Pack Your Bags
February in Venice is cold. The temperatures will be between three-degrees Celsius and nine. So ensure that you have warm clothes and shoes with you! This month is almost dry, even if it can rain some days during February. As one of the European Union member countries, the Italian currency is the Euro (EUR). Italy is on European Standard Time (EST), one hour ahead of Greenwich Meantime (GMT).
You can take a train (good prices from other Italian cities). You would arrive in the station Venezia Santa Lucia (VSL) and then take a vaporetto to go to your hotel. If you come by plane you will arrive at Venice airport (main companies -VCE) or Trevise airport (TSF- low cost companies). Buses will take you to the North of Venice (Piazzale Roma) in 15 minutes to more than an hour. You also can take a taxi. If you come by car, you will have to leave it in one of the parking areas at the entry of the city. Be aware that it can be very expensive.
- You will find a lot of people in Plaza San Marco. It’s the place to enjoy Carnival and make beautiful photos.
- To taste the best fritelle, consult the website of la Nuova di Venezia e Mestre, they have tasted for you the 10 best bakeries.
- The museums are heated and empty at this period, so don’t hesitate to visit some of them.