Venetian Carnival: Masks, pastries and wine

Venetian Carnival

“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty — this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.” – Thomas Mann

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The Venetian Carnival is one of the most famous carnivals in the world portraying the long history of wealth and aristocracy, as well as mystery and playfulness. The 11-day long carnival starts two Saturdays before ‘Ash Wednesday‘ and ends with ‘Fat Tuesday“, i.e. 40 days before Easter. In the Carnival time whole Venice becomes a stage of theatrical joy embodied in lavish masks and extravagant costumes. The overall ecstasy is spiced with Venetian delicious pastries and tasty wine.

Venetian Carnival


The Volto

Venetian Carnival

Also called Larva (meaning ghost in Latin) is an iconic mask of the Venetian Carnival.  It covers the whole face and depicts basic fascial features (usually nose and lips) ensuring complete anonymity. If someone wants to enjoy in absolute anonymity with a touch of mystery, then they wear the Volto mask.

Venetian Carnival

Venetian Carnival

The Bauta

Venetian Carnival

The Baùtta is another standard mask of the Venetian Carnival that covers the whole face.  It has square jaw, large chin and no mouth. Usually it is white or heavily gilded and often comes with tricorn hat. Historically men wore it at political decision-making events, since it guaranteed complete anonymity.

Venetian Carnival

The Colombina 

Venetian Carnival

Opposite to the Volto and Bauta masks, the Colombina or Columbine is a half-mask. It covers only cheeks and rarely nose. The Colombina is richly decorated with precious metals, feathers and crystals. It was named after a Commedia dell’ Arte character of maid servant. Historically women who didn’t want to hide their natural beautiful faces wore the Colombina. Later during the time, men started wearing it also.

Venetian Carnival

The Medico delle Peste

or Doctor of the Plague is a bird-like mask of the Venetian carnival with extremely long hollow beak and round eyes. Historically plague doctor used to wear it for preventing spreading the disease. Usually those who are, or just want to pretend to be, kinky or hypochondriacal wear it.

The Pantalone

Venetian Carnival

Another half-mask is the Pantalone or Pantaloone. It is similar to the Doctor of the Plague for its beak-like nose. It was named after a Commedia dell’Arte character of old man with bushy eyebrows and slanted eyesHistorically it depicted witty and intelligent, but arrogant and greedy personality of the Venetian merchant.

The Zanni

Venetian Carnival

The mask holds the Venetian version of the name Gianni. It has short forehead and long nose reversed at the end. Named after a Commedia dell’Arte character, it depicts stupidity. The longer nose is, the stupider character should be.

The Moretta 

or Servetta Mutta is an oval mask with black veil and no lips or mouth depicting a mute servant woman. Historically aristocratic women wore it wanting to make themselves mysterious to seduce men, but to stay anonymous by hiding their lips.

The Arlecchino

Venetian Carnival

or the Harlequin is a colourful joker-like mask with short nose and arched brows. Sometimes it has a large collar and bells on. It was named after a Commedia dell’Arte character depicting servant of the more intelligent Pantalone. Often it is known for his irregular colored patched outfit and big smile. During the Venetian Carnival usually those who wish to behave themselves as pranksters and bon-vivant people wear it.




Venetian Carnival

Galani are sweet fried crispy thin pastry strips prepared traditionally during the Venetian carnival. The Venetian Galani are large rectangles with slits in the middle, made in a such way that you can’t stop eating them once you started.


Venetian Carnival

Frittelle are another Venetian highly addictive pastries. The original Venetian frittelle are fried doughs with raisins inside and sprinkled sugar powder from the outside.

Venetian Carnival



Vino Ombre

Venetian Carnival
Andiamo a ombra! Saluti!

Finally, when in Venice you should try Vino ombre. It is generic, ‘on tap’, white or red wine from the Veneto region, ordered by glass and drunk between the meals. Un’ombra means the shadow in Italian. In Venice, phrase ‘Andiamo a ombra (Let’s go in the shadow)’ means let’s have a glass of wine.


Have you ever been in Venice during the Carnival? Which one is your favourite mask? Have you tried some of the Venetian pastries? And the wine?

Have you seen beautiful Venetian ladies?

Venetian Carnival

Venetian Carnival

Venetian carnival


  1. Carnival looks amazing!!! The history of the masks is fascinating, I did not know there were stories behind each kind. I really want to see Venice someday, and maybe try one of those frittelle!

  2. You’re lucky to experience the carnival in Venice. I’m sure everywhere you look is a photo opportunity. Frittelle is something I need to try when we’re back in Venice. Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

  3. That’s nice! I visited Venice, it was such a lovely city but… I’ve never seen such numbers of tourists anywhere else in the world. It was almost unbearable :/ Thanks God I discovered the town of Burano which is also amazing yet stays underrated in the shadow of Venice. But as I know, you’ve visited Burano as well so you know what I’m talking about 🙂

  4. Oh, my that first picture is magical! I definitely need to visit during Carnival now. I’ve always had Mardi Gras on my bucket list, but this looks way better.

  5. What a site to behold! I didn’t know this was a thing in Venice, but it’s easy to see why! How spectacular. Those costumes are incredible!

  6. ooh, I saw those masks on display and sale but did not realise that there was a festival where you could celebrate them. This is so cool and vibrant and you have captured them beautifully in this post.

  7. I love this post and all the beautiful and ornate costumes that all the participants wear. The Pantalone mask cracks me up every time, with the long nose. And who can go wrong with costumes and Venetian pastries!!!Yum!!!

  8. I was in Venice for a weekend in January and I loved it, but now I’m slightly sad I missed out on the carnival! I love your in-depth descriptions of all the masks and pastries – I can feel some story ideas brewing!!

  9. Oh wow! The nature and names of the different masks is my favorite part of your article. I’ve been fascinated with masks and sometimes think it’ll be grand to be part of a masquerade. Blame it from watching Phantom of the Opera, I guess. Anyway, a mask is a mask for me before and didn’t gave a thought what the different masks are called. Needless to say, I enjoyed this post very much!

  10. I’ve always wanted to go to Venice at that time of the year but I’ really scared of the amount of people and the raise of the prices for the occasion. My brother visited a couple months ago and brought back a mask. thanks to your article, I now know that it is more than just a mask, it is a Volto !

  11. Amazing….. I always wanted to go to Venice for the film festival. Now I have to rethink my timing! I would want to bring a costume as well and attend a party or two..

  12. Such gorgeous photos! The Venetian carnival has always fascinated me.The masks and costumes are works of art and I’d love to experience it all first hand. Hopefully, i can make that happen soon 😀

  13. I am from New Orleans, so have done Carnival there a few times (at least..), I have been to Brazil for Carnival, and now I live in the only place in Germany which celebrates Carnival in a big a way (Cologne region). So I have my Carnival experiences but had NO IDEA that Venetian Carnival was a thing! From your photos, it looks like it would also be my favorite! I have made a note to look into going there next year for the Carnival! Thanks!

  14. Great post! I was in Venice in January, so, unfortunately, before carnival. But it was fun to window shop for costumes and masks. My favorite Venetian pastry would be the fritelle. 🙂

    Buon viaggio!

  15. We have visited Venice but not the carnival. I would definitely love to see it. I love all the costumes and masks. Have you been to Germany during the carnival. That is fun too. Great pictures!

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