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Venice Carnival: What you need to know about attending in 2022

Venice's world-famous Carnival is back this year. But with some pandemic restrictions still in place, we look at what to expect if you're planning to attend.

Masked revellers wearing a traditional carnival costumes pose on St Mark Square during Venice's Carnival on February 13, 2022.
Masked revellers wearing a traditional carnival costumes pose on St Mark Square during Venice's Carnival on February 13, 2022. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

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.

IN PHOTOS: Venice celebrates 2021 carnival without tourist crowds

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.

READ ALSO: Nine fun things to do in Italy in February 2022

A masked reveller wearing a traditional carnival costume poses on St Mark Square during Venice's Carnival on February 13, 2022.

A masked reveller wearing a traditional carnival costume poses on St Mark Square during Venice’s Carnival on February 13, 2022. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

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.

A masked figure poses in St Mark Square during Venice's Carnival on February 12, 2022.

A masked figure poses in St Mark Square during Venice’s Carnival on February 12, 2022. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.

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.

READ ALSO: The best events and festivals in Italy in 2022

A costumed couple poses on St Mark's Square during Venice's Carnival on February 13, 2022.

A costumed couple poses on St Mark’s Square during Venice’s Carnival on February 13, 2022. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

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 

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VENICE

EXPLAINED: How will the tourist-control system work in Venice?

Venice is introducing a new system to discourage day-trippers in hopes of curbing problems with overtourism in the popular hotspot. Here is what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How will the tourist-control system work in Venice?

After years of discussing a possible “tourist tax”, the city of Venice has confirmed it will make day-trippers pay from €3 to €10 for access to the city centre starting on January 16th.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the goal of the new tourism fee is to discourage day tourism at certain times of the year and encourage overnight tourism. Day-trippers will have to pay a fee, but those who stay overnight continue only to have to pay the city tax of €2 to €5, according to a government press release.

The Commission and the City Council will now examine the regulatory text for the final green light scheduled for the summer.

“We are the first in the world to introduce this system, and we are aware that not everything will work well from the beginning, but we will be ready to improve in the course of work. We want to guarantee the tourist the best quality of the visit and make sure that the city is able to give visitors all the services they need”, said Tourism Secretary Simone Venturini.

READ ALSO: After flooding and coronavirus, is it time Venice stopped relying on tourism?

How much will I have to pay?

The contributo di acesso, or access contribution, will cost from €3 to €10, depending on factors such as tourism numbers for the day and season.

The city will determine a certain threshold of tourists, after which people will be required to pay higher sums. Travellers are encouraged to book in advance to avoid price increases.

Does the payment have to be made in advance?

The government said that nobody would be denied entry to Venice, meaning a pre-registration is not necessary. However, the mayor said that those who book their visit in advance would be “rewarded”. The reward will likely discount the fee.

How will the system work? Where do I pay?

According to the City of Venice, the payment is an alternative to the city tax. It will be required from every person that goes to the old city centre of Venice, as well as other major tourist destinations and islands in the region.

READ ALSO: 16 surprising facts about Venice to mark 16 centuries of the lagoon city

A single payment guarantees access to the old town and the smaller islands.

Tourists will be able to pay through an online and “multilingual” platform where they will receive a QR code to present in case of controls. Tickets should also be available to buy in connection with public transport – so if you are arriving by train, it will be possible to buy the train ticket and the entry pass together.

Who is excluded or exempt from the payment?

There are several exceptions to the payment, according to the website. Among them are residents from the Comune di Venezia, those who work or study there, and those who own homes in the city.

Additionally, exceptions include those born in the Comune di Venezia, children under six years of age, people with disabilities and their accompanying person, public workers, volunteers, people visiting family members, prisoners, or attending funerals, and many others.

Residents of the Veneto region “up to the thresholds that will be set by a specific Council resolution” are also exempt.

Those who stay overnight and, therefore, already pay the city tax through their hotel or short-term rental booking are also exempt from the fee.

The city of Murano, in the metropolitan region of Venice (Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash)

What about people arriving on cruises?

Venice is a very popular stop for cruise ships and people visiting the city on a cruise tour will also have to pay the fee as they disembark in the old town. However, the City of Venice said they might determine a lump-sum measure in agreement with the relevant carriers.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why more of Italy’s top destinations must limit tourist numbers

Which smaller islands are included?

Only one ticket and payment is required for those travelling to multiple islands, including Venice. The islands that are part of the group are:

  • Lido di Venezia
  • Pellestrina
  • Murano
  • Burano
  • Torcello
  • Sant’Erasmo
  • Mazzorbo
  • Mazzorbetto
  • Vignole
  • S. Andrea
  • La certosa
  • S. Servolo
  • S. Clemente
  • Poveglia

What if I simply don’t pay?

If you fail to produce proof of payment or that you are exempt from the fee, the sanction is from €50 to €300. The fine is the same in the case of people making false statements trying to obtain exemptions or reductions.

Additionally, visitors who don’t pay in advance will have to pay the full €10 fee.

For more info click here.

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