How to Attend Masquerade Balls at Venice’s Carnival

by Chris Atwood

In the weeks before Fat Tuesday (martedì grasso), Venice revels in Carnevale (Carnival). Dating back to the 1200s, the Venetian Carnival season precedes the Christian period of Lent—the 40 days before Easter. 

A view of a Venice carnival mask

Because believers will fast during Lent, Carnival is the feast before a self-imposed famine. During Carnival, Venetians fill their faces with decadent fried treats–which locals call frìtole. If Lent is a time for restraint, Carnival in Venice fêtes glamorous gluttony. One of the most prized Carnival traditions in Venice is the midnight ball — when guests wear elaborate Carnival masquerade costumes.

What Do Venetian Carnival Masks Mean?

During this time, Venetians don traditional maschere (masks). Rich or poor, noble or servant, masks hide the wearer’s identity. To access Carnival in Venice’s exclusive parties, you need — a mask, a costume and inside connections. 

Attendees at midnight masquerades stroll – like peacocks – through candlelit palaces near the Grand Canal. Costumes are a must for all Carnival masquerade balls — thankfully, we know a tailor or two in Venice.

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Where Are the Carnival Balls in Venice, Italy?

Discover 5 Exclusive Carnival parties See Italy can unlock for you—from Canal-front revelry to Baroque balls. Here’s an overview of Venice’s most exclusive masquerade balls this Carnival season:

The Tiepolo Ball

The Ballo Tiepolo, also known as The Grand Ball, takes place in the Palazzo Pisani Moretta — a 16th-century palace, overlooking the Grand Canal. The Main Hall is transformed for the night into an 18th-century ballroom – lit with hundreds of candles. Dance Masters, accompanied by an orchestra, guide guests through minuets and waltzes. Opera singers entertain guests, as they dine upon a 5-course meal.


The Ca’ Vendramin Ball

The Ca’ Vendramin Ball is housed in a historic palace on Venice’s Grand Canal. This elegant Renaissance palazzo was built between 1481 and 1509. Guests will be treated to a feast of sights, sounds and flavors — including a 5-course dinner, gambling room and after-midnight dancing.

   

The Doge’s Ball (Il Ballo Del Doge)

The Ballo del Doge is considered the most exclusive event of Venice’s Carnival. Held at the historic Palazzo Pisani Moretta, the ball starts at 8:30PM. After a welcome cocktail, dinner will be served throughout the palace’s centuries-old halls. Artistic performances, classical music and period dancing can be enjoyed until the early morning. The event has been organized by internationally-famed atelier Antonia Sautter since 1992.

    

The Casanova Ball

Inspired by the romantic legend of Giacomo Casanova, this ball will seduce your senses. Held in the majestic Palazzo Contarini, dating to the 15th century, the Casanova Ball begins with a welcome cocktail in the building’s courtyard. Next, guests will be wowed by performers — including dancers, acrobats and musicians.

The Carnival Extravaganza Ball

The Carnival Extravaganza Ball is one of your last chances to experience an authentic masquerade. During and after dinner, you can learn the steps to dances from the 1700s and 1800s. A baroque ensemble will play music throughout the delectable 4-course dinner. The splendid setting for this event is Palazzo Dandolo, a canal-facing palace. It takes place the Saturday before Fat Tuesday.

   

Exploring Winter in Italy

Whether you crave Carnival soirees or exploring Venice’s quiet canals, See Italy Travel has the inside connections in Italy to turn your trip to Italy into a journey of a lifetime.  

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