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’s glassblowers scorched by soaring energy costs

The blown glass creations forged in the furnaces on Venice's Murano island are prized around the world - but a recent sharp rise in gas prices is threatening the centuries-old craft.

Venice's glassblowers scorched by soaring energy costs

“It’s a huge problem… A hurricane has hit the economy,” Luciano Gambaro, head of the Promovetro glass association, told AFP, describing bills that have risen a whopping 600 percent.

Murano’s artisans fashion everything from tiny, coloured animals to majestic chandeliers, seven days a week. To do so, they need one key thing: heat.

Energy is their second biggest expense, after labour costs, and they are suffering amid the record rise in gas prices seen worldwide.

They were paying 20 cents ($0.23) per cubic metre until September.

“On the December bill, the price was 1.27 euros, a rise of over 600 percent,” said Gambaro, who employs six people and is feeling the strain.

READ ALSO: Rising energy prices: How to save money on your bills in Italy

There have been glassmakers on Murano – a series of islands linked by bridges – since the 13th century, when they were moved from Venice proper after devastating fires which began in their furnaces.

Venetian glass blowers create “murrine”, small cylindrical elements with a characteristic floral motif, on the island of Murano. Photo: ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

Some have kept their creations in vogue by partnering with renowned designers. Others have seen their glass included in art displayed in major museums.

In a bid to stave off a crisis, the Veneto region forked out three million euros in November to help compensate for the glassmakers’ spiralling energy costs.

“Unfortunately, that will all be used up by the end of February,” said Gambaro, who admitted to being “very worried” about the prospect of “paying the full price from March”.

It is “a bigger problem than Covid”, he said, in reference to the coronavirus pandemic forcing a series of financially-punishing lockdowns, emptying Venice of tourists.

Cristiano Ferro, whose company Effetre Murano employs 32 people and makes semi-finished products — brightly coloured blocks, rods and sheets to be shaped and crafted by glassmakers — in 16 kilns, says gas prices are “just the tip of the iceberg”.

“All the raw materials have increased by 20, 30, 40, 50 percent: sand, soda and all the mineral oxides used to colour the glass,” he said.

READ ALSO: Why Italy’s fuel prices are among the highest in Europe – and rising

Glass products for sale along the canals on the island of Murano, Venice. Photo: Tiziana FABI / AFP

Companies like his have few solutions, apart from upping their own prices.

“We have increased the costs by 15 to 30 percent, now we’ll see how the market reacts,” Gambaro said.

There is no quick fix, he explained: it is very costly to shut down and restart the furnaces.

Instead, he said European countries need to put pressure on supply countries — in this case Russia — with jointly-agreed countermeasures.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said many of the reasons for the energy price increases are temporary but called for long-term action, including at a European level, to address the problem, including through diversifying supplies.

Italy is highly dependent on imports and consumes a large amount of gas.

Some 40 percent of its primary energy consumption is gas, compared with about 15 percent in France, according to official statistics for both countries.

Manufacturers and consumers across Italy have been repeatedly hit by soaring gas and electricity bills over the past year, and the government has so far pledged 5.5 billion euros in financial support which has limited – but not prevented – the steep increases.

Despite the threat to Murano and its glassmakers, Gambaro refuses to despair.

“We have a problem, but we will overcome it,” he said. “We have been here for a thousand years.”