Venice, the city of canals, is a marvel of human ingenuity and a testament to the enduring allure of history and culture. Known as “La Serenissima,” Venice is a city suspended between water and sky, where gondolas glide silently through the labyrinthine canals, and the past and present coexist in a timeless harmony.
From the grandeur of its palaces and churches to the vibrant energy of its festivals and celebrations, Venice is a living museum of art, history, and tradition. Its rich cultural heritage is woven into the very fabric of the city, from the Byzantine mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica to the timeless masterpieces of Venetian artists like Titian and Tintoretto.
Venice’s cultural heritage is not just confined to its art and architecture. It is also reflected in its unique way of life, its culinary traditions, and its festivals and celebrations, which are an integral part of the city’s social and cultural life.
In this guide to Venice’s Festivals and Events, you’ll learn:
- The importance of festivals and celebrations in Venice’s social and cultural life, which are deeply rooted in the city’s history and traditions.
- The allure of Venetian festivals and celebrations, which are a unique blend of tradition and celebration, deeply ingrained in the city’s social fabric.
- The role of festivals and celebrations in Venice’s tourism, offering a unique and immersive way to experience the city and contribute significantly to the local economy.
- About seven major festivals and celebrations in Venice:
- Carnevale di Venezia: Venice’s most famous festival, celebrated annually between February and March.
- Festa della Sensa: A historical celebration on water, typically on the Sunday after Ascension Day.
- Festa del Redentore: Venice’s Thanksgiving, held on the third weekend of July.
- Regata Storica: Venice’s historic boat race, every first Sunday of September.
- Biennale di Venezia: A cultural extravaganza, taking place every two years.
- Venice Film Festival: A celebration of international cinema, from late August to early September.
- Festa di San Marco: Honoring Venice’s patron saint, held annually on April 25th.
- About lesser-known Venetian festivals and celebrations worth exploring, such as Festa di San Rocco, Festa dei Gigli, Festa della Madonna della Salute, Festa di San Martino, and Festa del Mosto.
- Recommended booking resources for planning your trip to Venice, including resources for finding the best flight deals, affordable hostels, varied accommodation options, planning your excursions, and more.
Importance of Festivals and Celebrations in Venice’s Social and Cultural Life
In Venice, festivals and celebrations are not just events; they are a way of life. They are a time when the city comes alive with color, music, and festivity, and the spirit of “La Serenissima” is truly palpable. These festivals and celebrations are deeply rooted in Venice’s history and traditions, and they offer a fascinating insight into the city’s rich cultural heritage.
From the grand spectacle of the Carnevale di Venezia to the historical reenactments of the Festa della Sensa, these events offer a unique blend of tradition, celebration, and community spirit. They are a time when Venetians and visitors alike can immerse themselves in the city’s cultural life, experience its traditions first-hand, and create memories that last a lifetime.
Festivals and celebrations are also a major draw for tourists, contributing significantly to Venice’s economy. They offer a unique and immersive way to experience the city, far removed from the usual tourist trail. For the discerning traveler, they offer an opportunity to see Venice through the eyes of its people, to participate in its traditions, and to feel a sense of connection with this incredible city and its rich cultural heritage.
To truly understand Venice, one must experience its festivals and celebrations. They are a window into the city’s soul, a celebration of its past, and a testament to its enduring charm and vitality. So, let’s embark on this journey together, exploring the cultural highlights of Venice’s best festivals and traditions.
The Allure of Venetian Festivals and Celebrations
Unique Blend of Tradition and Celebration
Venice, a city steeped in history and tradition, is a place where the past is not just remembered, but celebrated with fervor. The city’s festivals and celebrations are a testament to this, each one a vibrant spectacle that brings Venetian traditions to life in the most captivating way.
From the elaborate masks and costumes of the Carnevale di Venezia to the solemn processions of the Festa della Sensa, each event is a unique blend of contemporary art, tradition and celebration. They are a showcase of Venice’s rich cultural heritage, a living, breathing display of the customs and rituals that have shaped the city’s identity over the centuries.
These events are not just for show, they are deeply ingrained in the city’s social fabric. They are a time for Venetians to come together, to celebrate their shared history and culture, and to pass these traditions on to the next generation. They are a reminder of the city’s enduring spirit, a testament to its resilience and its ability to adapt while staying true to its roots.
The Role of Festivals and Celebrations in Venice’s Tourism
Venice’s festivals and celebrations play a significant role in the city’s tourism industry. They are a major draw for tourists, offering them a chance to experience the city in a way that goes beyond the usual tourist trail. These events offer a unique and immersive way to experience the city, to participate in its traditions, and to feel a sense of connection with its rich cultural heritage.
For the discerning traveler, these events offer an opportunity to see Venice through the eyes of its people. They offer a glimpse into the city’s soul, a chance to participate in its traditions, and to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Whether it’s witnessing the grand spectacle of the Carnevale, participating in the historical reenactments of the Festa della Sensa, or being a part of the cultural extravaganza of the Biennale, these events offer a unique and unforgettable Venetian experience.
But it’s not just about the spectacle. These events also contribute significantly to the local economy, attracting tourists from around the world and generating revenue for local businesses. They are a vital part of the city’s tourism industry, helping to sustain the local economy and preserve the city’s cultural heritage for future generations.
So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler looking for a unique cultural experience, or a first-time visitor wanting to see a different side of Venice, the city’s festivals and celebrations are a must-see. They are a celebration of Venice’s past, a showcase of its vibrant culture, and a testament to its enduring appeal.
|February – March
|Carnevale di Venezia
|Masked balls and grand processions
|Sunday after Ascension Day
|Festa della Sensa
|Historical celebration on water
|Third weekend of July
|Festa del Redentore
|Commemorates end of plague
|First Sunday of September
|Historical boat races
|Every two years
|Biennale di Venezia
|World-renowned cultural event
|Late August to early September
|Venice Film Festival
|Prestigious international cinema celebration
|Festa di San Marco
|Honors Saint Mark
|Festa di San Rocco
|Honors Saint Roch
|Festa dei Gigli
|Floral spring festival
|Festa della Madonna della Salute
|Commemorates end of plague
|Festa di San Martino
|Festa del Mosto
|Celebrates grape harvest
7 Major Festivals and Celebrations in Venice
Carnevale di Venezia: Venice’s Most Famous Festival
The Carnevale di Venezia, or Venice Carnival, is one of the world’s most iconic and festive events. Every year, hundreds of thousands of masked people flock to the floating city to participate in the revelry. From masquerade balls and street parties to gondola rides and grand processions, there’s no shortage of fun.
The Venice Carnival is celebrated annually between February and March, with the exact dates changing each year. This year, the carnival will occur from February 15th to March 4th. The Carnival of Venice typically lasts 18 days, from the start of Lent until Ash Wednesday.
The tradition of the Venice Carnival dates back to the 12th century when it was a way for Venetians to let loose and enjoy life before the start of the 40-day Lenten fast. Today, Carnival is still a way for people to forget their worries and enjoy themselves with music, dancing, and parades.
The festival’s appeal was that it gave people in power a chance to let loose and misbehave without worrying about their reputation. They hid in anonymity behind elaborate carnival masks and let loose at wild parties, orgies, and gambling halls.
Today, the Venice Carnival is like a historical re-enactment that you’d find at a renaissance fair. Locals and tourists gather around the canals as stunning costumed characters with intricate masks, enjoying Venetian delicacies, free live performances, and entertainment.
For more about this festival, check out our complete guide to the Venice Carnival.
Festa della Sensa: A Historical Celebration on Water
The Festa della Sensa is a historical celebration that takes place in Venice every year, typically on the Sunday after Ascension Day. This festival commemorates two significant events in the city’s history: the city’s symbolic wedding to the sea and the end of a revolt in Dalmatia in 1000 AD.
The symbolic wedding ceremony is represented by the Doge (Venetian ruler) throwing a gold ring into the Adriatic Sea. This act signifies Venice’s dominion over the sea and its gratitude for the city’s maritime bounty.
The Festa della Sensa is a unique spectacle that draws both locals and tourists. The festival begins with a water parade led by the Serenissima, a replica of the Doge’s 16th-century ship. The parade sails from San Marco to the Port of San Nicolò, where the “wedding” ceremony takes place. After the ceremony, various events such as the Sensa Market at the Church of San Nicolò and the Venetian rowing championship races take place.
Visiting Venice during the Festa della Sensa offers a unique opportunity to witness a tradition that has been part of the city’s cultural fabric for centuries. It’s a chance to see Venice in a different light, where the past and present merge in a beautiful celebration on water.
Note: The date of the Festa della Sensa varies each year as it is based on the liturgical calendar. It is usually held on the Sunday after Ascension Day (40 days after Easter). Please check the festival’s official website or local listings for the exact date.
Festa del Redentore: Venice’s Thanksgiving
The Festa del Redentore, or the Feast of the Redeemer, is one of the most heartfelt celebrations for Venetians and a highly anticipated event for tourists. Held on the third weekend of July, this event commemorates the end of the plague that devastated Venice in the 16th century.
The plague wiped out a third of Venice’s population, and in 1576, the Doge Alvise Mocenigo II promised to build a church if the plague ended. The church, known as the Redentore Church, was built on the Giudecca island, and a temporary bridge is built every year for this festival, connecting Zattere to the Redentore Church.
The Festa del Redentore is a two-day event filled with religious sentiments, festivities, and fireworks. On Saturday, Venetians decorate their boats and the city’s canals with balloons and lanterns. As night falls, a spectacular fireworks display lights up the sky over St. Mark’s Basin, reflecting on the waters below. This is followed by a night of revelry, with parties on the decorated boats and along the canals.
On Sunday, a solemn religious procession takes place. The temporary bridge of boats is opened, and people cross over to the Redentore Church to attend the religious services. The festival concludes with the Redentore Regattas, a series of competitive boat races.
Experiencing the Festa del Redentore gives you a glimpse into Venice’s rich history and the resilience of its people. It’s a celebration of life, gratitude, and the city’s enduring relationship with the sea.
Regata Storica: Venice’s Historic Boat Race
Every first Sunday of September, Venice’s Grand Canal transforms into a vibrant spectacle for the Regata Storica, one of the most anticipated Venice events. The historical Regatta boat races are a tribute to Venice’s rich maritime heritage, a nod to a time when the city was a major maritime power.
The event kicks off with a grand parade featuring 16th-century-style boats, rowed by gondoliers in period costumes. The highlight, of course, is the series of boat races that follow. The most exciting of these is the “Campioni su Gondolini” race, where gondoliers in small, fast gondolini boats compete against each other. The sight of these sleek boats slicing through the waters of the Grand Canal, cheered on by enthusiastic crowds, is truly a sight to behold.
Did you know? The Regata Storica traces its roots back to the mid-13th century, making it one of the oldest traditions in Venice!
If you’re planning a visit around this time, make sure to secure a good viewing spot early. The banks of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge are popular choices, but for a more unique experience, consider watching the race from a gondola ride. Just remember to book in advance!
The Regata Storica is not just a race; it’s a celebration of Venice’s enduring love affair with the sea. It’s a chance to witness a tradition that has been kept alive for centuries, a testament to the city’s resilience and its people’s unwavering spirit.
Biennale di Venezia: A Cultural Extravaganza
The Biennale di Venezia is a world-renowned cultural event that takes place every two years in Venice, hence the name “Biennale”. It’s a must-visit for any art enthusiast as it is a very significant international art exhibition that brings in many of the world’s greatest contemporary artists.
The Biennale di Venezia is divided into several sectors, including Art, Architecture, Cinema, Dance, Music, and Theatre. Each sector hosts its own special events, exhibitions, and performances, turning the entire city into a vibrant cultural hub. The Art and Architecture sectors are particularly noteworthy, attracting artists, architects, and critics from around the globe.
Did you know? The first Biennale di Venezia was held in 1895, making it one of the oldest and most prestigious cultural events in the world!
The Biennale Art, also known as the Venice Art Biennale, is one of the most prestigious contemporary art exhibitions in the world. It usually takes place from May to November and features works from artists representing various countries. Each country has its own national pavilion, showcasing the best of their contemporary art scene.
The Biennale Architecture, on the other hand, is a major event in the field of architecture. It’s a platform where architects and designers can exchange ideas and showcase their works. It usually takes place in the odd years, alternating with the Art Biennale.
If you’re planning to attend the Biennale di Venezia, make sure to check the official website for the latest updates and schedules. And don’t forget to explore other things to do in Venice while you’re there!
Venice Film Festival: A Celebration of International Cinema
The Venice Film Festival, or Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica di Venezia, is one of the oldest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. It’s part of the Venice Biennale and has been a staple of Venice’s cultural scene since its inception in 1932.
The festival usually takes place on beautiful Lido Island from late August to early September at the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi. It’s a must-visit for any film enthusiast and, outside of Carnival, it is the Venice festival that brings in the most celebrities.
The Venice Film Festival is known for its prestigious Golden Lion Award, which is given to the best film screened at the festival. Over the years, it has been awarded to some of the most influential films and filmmakers in the history of cinema.
Did you know? The first Venice Film Festival was held in 1932, making it the oldest film festival in the world!
The festival is officially recognized by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Association), and its aim is to raise awareness and promote international cinema in all its forms as art, entertainment, and as an industry, in a spirit of freedom and dialogue.
If you’re planning to attend the Venice Film Festival, make sure to check the official website for the latest updates and schedules. And don’t forget to watch some amazing movies set in Venice! It really gets you in the mood for traveling to this beautiful city.
Festa di San Marco: Honoring Venice’s Patron Saint
The Festa di San Marco, or St. Mark’s Feast, is a significant event in Venice’s cultural calendar. It’s held annually on April 25th to honor Saint Mark, the patron saint of Venice. This day is not just a religious celebration, but it’s also a day of Venetian pride and heritage.
The Festa di San Marco is marked by religious processions, music, and festivities. The main event is a grand procession to St. Mark’s Basilica, where a special service is held. The Piazza San Marco, Venice’s main square named after the saint, is the center of the festivities.
Did you know? St. Mark became the patron saint of Venice after his remains were allegedly stolen from Alexandria by Venetian merchants in the 9th century and brought to Venice.
In addition to the religious aspects, the Festa di San Marco is also known for the traditional “bocolo” custom. On this day, Venetian men give a “bocolo” – a single red rosebud – to the women in their lives as a symbol of love and appreciation.
If you’re planning to visit Venice during the Festa di San Marco, you’ll get to experience a unique blend of religious tradition, local culture, and romantic customs.
Lesser-Known Venetian Festivals and Celebrations Worth Exploring
While not as well known as the Venice International Film Festival or Carnival, these smaller celebrations keep the city abuzz and are fun to experience in person.
- Festa di San Rocco: The Celebration of the Patron Saint – The Festa di San Rocco is a religious festival held in Venice in honor of Saint Roch, the patron saint of plague victims. Celebrated on August 16th, it features a grand procession and a special mass at the Church of San Rocco, known for its stunning Tintoretto paintings.
- Festa dei Gigli: The Lilies Festival – The Festa dei Gigli, or the Festival of Lilies, is a lesser-known but charming Venetian celebration. It’s a floral festival that marks the arrival of spring, with lilies symbolizing purity and grace. The exact date varies, but it typically takes place in the spring.
- Festa della Madonna della Salute: Venice’s Health Festival – The Festa della Madonna della Salute, or the Festival of the Madonna of Health, is a religious event held on November 21st. It commemorates the end of a devastating plague in 1630 and is marked by a procession to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute for a special service.
- Festa di San Martino: A Children’s Celebration – The Festa di San Martino is a delightful children’s festival celebrated on November 11th. It’s a day filled with joy, sweets, and the sound of children’s laughter as they parade through the streets with lanterns, celebrating Saint Martin.
- Festa del Mosto: Celebrating the Harvest – The Festa del Mosto is a traditional Venetian festival that celebrates the grape harvest and the first pressing of the grapes to make mosto, or young wine. It usually takes place in October on the island of Sant’Erasmo, known as Venice’s vegetable garden.
Recommended Booking Resources
Ready to take on art night Venezia or the Venice marathon? The companies I’ve listed here are my top picks when it comes to travel. Their offerings consistently outshine the competition in terms of value for money, quality of service, and exceptional customer service. These companies form the foundation of my search for travel deals, given their reliability and excellence that I have personally experienced numerous times.
Best Flights Deals with Skyscanner
Skyscanner is an excellent resource for finding the best flight deals. The website compares prices across various airlines and booking sites, helping you secure the best possible price.
Affordable Hostels with Hostelworld
For budget travelers, Hostelworld offers a range of affordable hostel options in Venice. The platform provides detailed descriptions, reviews, and ratings to help you choose the right place for your next stay in venice.
Varied Accommodation Options with Booking.com
Booking.com provides a wide variety of accommodation options in Venice. From budget hostels to luxury hotels, you can find something that suits your budget and preferences.
Cheap Flights with Going.com
Going.com searches for cheap and rare flights and will notify you when one matches your home airport and a destination of your choice. We scored a non-stop, roundtrip flight from Newark (EWR) to Milan-Malpensa (MXP) for $359 in 2021 and then again from Philadelphia (PHL) to Marco Polo Airport (VCE) for $475 in 2023.
Hostelpass for Budget-Friendly Stays
HostelPass can help you save money on your accommodation. With a single flat fee, you can stay in hostels in Venice and other European cities.
Plan Your Excursions with Get Your Guide
Get Your Guide offers a range of guided tours and activities in Venice. Whether you want a guided tour of St. Mark’s Basilica or a cooking class, you can find it here.
Efficient Train Travel in Italy with Trainline
Trainline can help you navigate Italy’s extensive train system and get you to Venice’s Santa Lucia train and bus station. It’s an efficient way to travel between cities if you’re planning to visit more of Italy during your trip.
Pocket-Sized Wisdom: Venice Travel Guide 2023 Book
For an in-depth guide to Venice, consider purchasing the Venice Travel Guide 2023. It’s packed with useful information, tips, and maps to help you make the most of your visit.
Sustainable Tourism: LifeStraw for Reusable Water Bottles
Help keep Venice beautiful by practicing sustainable tourism. Consider investing in a reusable water bottle with a built-in filter like LifeStraw. It’s eco-friendly and ensures you have safe drinking water wherever you go.
Walks of Italy for Culturally Rich Walking Tours
For a deep dive into Venice’s rich history and culture, consider booking a walking tour with Walks of Italy. The guides are knowledgeable, and the tours offer a great way to explore the city on foot while visiting the main sites and top attractions.
Final Thoughts on Venice’s Cultural Highlights
As you navigate the labyrinthine alleys of Venice, you’ll find that each turn, each bridge, and each piazza has a story to tell. But to truly understand Venice, one must experience its festivals and celebrations. They are the city’s heartbeat, pulsating with life, color, and the spirit of the Venetian people.
So, whether you’re planning your first trip to Venice or returning for another adventure, consider timing your visit to coincide with these events. You’ll find that Venice, a city steeped in tradition and festivity, has a way of celebrating life like no other.
So, pack your bags, mark your calendars, and prepare yourself for an unforgettable journey into the heart of Venice’s cultural highlights. And remember, in Venice, every day is a celebration.