Venice’s 2020 Carnival was cancelled at the last moment as Covid began to spread throughout northern Italy, and the 2021 edition was moved almost entirely online amid ongoing health restrictions.
But with Italy now beginning to reopen, the 2022 festival will bear much more resemblance to those of years past – though a number of safety measures remain in place, and some of the major events have been cancelled.
If you’re planning to visit, here’s a quick guide to what you need to know.
What will the Carnival look like this year?
As is traditional, the 2022 Venice Carnival opened on February 12th (Saturday) and will run until March 1st.
The main events take place over the weekend of February 19th-20th, though there is a reduced programme this year due to Covid restrictions.
This year’s festivities started with a music concert and a theatre programme for children, and the Carnival officially opened on Sunday evening with the traditional water parade of 20 boats on the Grand Canal.
Activities for the 2022 festival are split into two formats:
The first, ‘Venice Wonder Time‘, takes the form of a series of music, circus, puppets, acrobatics, clowning and theatrical displays held on weekends (February 12th-13th and 19th-20th) and from Thursday, February 24th to Tuesday, March 1st in various locations across the city.
The second main event, named ‘Nebula Solaris’, is a light and circus show which will take place on the Venetian Arsenal from Friday, February 18th to Sunday, February 20th and from Thursday, February 24th to Tuesday, March 1st.
Each date will have two performances – one at 6.45pm and one at 9.15pm – and tickets must be bought in advance, either online or at sale points across the city.
For the duration of the festival, there will also be street art and small-scale performances, workshops, exhibitions and dinners at venues across the city – some of which require advance booking, others of which will welcome participants at the door until capacity is reached.
What Covid restrictions are in place in 2022?
In-person events this year are subject to a number of Covid safety measures.
Some Carnival traditions that typically attract very large crowds have been cancelled altogether this year as a precautionary measure, and capacity has been restricted to allow for social distancing measures at all events.
Visitors will also need to show a health pass for entry to some events, as well as for access to public transport, hotels, restaurants, bars, and most other venues across Italy.
The official Venice Carnival website states that the Nebula Solaris shows, for example, can accommodate up to 1,230 people, which it says will allow for social distancing (which Italian government rules state must be at least one metre between all non-cohabiting spectators).
A vaccination certificate showing that the holder is boosted or has received their last Covid-19 shot within the past six months, or a recovery certificate demonstrating the holder has recovered from Covid in the past six months, is required to access the Nebula Solaris shows and to enter other events and exhibition spaces.
High-grade FFP2 masks are also needed to gain entry to the Nebula Solaris spectacle, and to access many other Carnival events.
Face masks in general are required by law in Italy in all indoor public spaces and in all outdoor spaces where people are gathered together.
Which events are cancelled?
The traditional Volo dell’Angelo (‘Flight of the Angel’) opening ceremony, in which a costumed woman wearing wings ‘flies’ down a cable from the bell tower in St. Mark’s square to the centre of the piazza and pays tribute to Venice’s ‘Doge’, was cancelled again this year, Sky News reports.
Other casualties of the pandemic in 2022 are the Volo dell’Aquila (very similar to the Volo dell’Angelo, but performed by an athlete), and the Svolo del Leone (‘Flight of the Lion’) a ceremony which normally closes out the Carnival in which a giant flag with bearing the emblem of the winged lion that is the symbol of the Most Serene Republic of Venice descends to cover St. Mark’s square.
The Festa delle Marie or ‘Celebration of the Marias’ – something between a historical reenactment and a beauty pageant during which 12 young women are dressed up, paraded throughout the city, and then subjected to a vote as to which of them makes the best Maria – has also been cancelled; as has the Taglio del Toro, in which a (fake) bull is paraded and then ritually decapitated in St. Mark’s square.
Finally, the parades of floats which typically take place both on land and in the water will not take place this year to avoid large crowds of spectators.
How busy will this year’s Venice Carnival be?
While it’s still unclear exactly how many people will participate in this year’s Carnival, news agency Ansa reports that Venice registered 100,000 visitors over the weekend, one quarter of which came from overseas.
For more details, see the official Venice Carnival website