Venice - Carnival

Venice celebrates sombre Carnival due to Covid pandemic

Venice Carnival 2021
Venice Carnival 2021 © Sabina Castelfranco

This year's Venice Carnival under coronavirus restrictions marks an edition that nobody wants to repeat. Normally the most fun and colourful time in the lagoon city, Venice has never been emptier than at present, with the few people that ventured out into Saint Mark’s Square dressed in costumes all from the city itself or the Veneto region. 

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Last year the Carnival events had to be cut short early as Venice began to feel the effects of the virus which would soon spread across the country at an alarming rate. This year, the celebrations never even began. 

Italians from other parts of the country are not allowed to travel between regions. Others watched a virtual closing ceremony online.

Normally during the Carnival weeks, three million people speaking many different languages descend on Venice. This year there were no other languages being spoken in the narrow alleyways and no gondola rides as most lay empty and moored.

Venice Carnival 2021 - Piazza San Marco
Venice Carnival 2021 - Piazza San Marco © Sabina Castelfranco

Along the Grand Canal the normally busy hotels were mostly locked up. Owners of tourist shops selling masks and Venetian glass are in despair. They describe this year as "terrible for business" and the "worst in living memory".

The bad spell for Venice began on 13 November 2019 when the city witnessed its second highest tide this century with strong winds which flooded most of the city.

It was the start of bad business and no tourists which only grew as Venice was hit by the pandemic three months later.

Venice Carnival 2021
Venice Carnival 2021 © Sabina Castelfranco

The high tides problem seems to have now been resolved with the Mose mobile barriers now being activated whenever the tides rise. But the tourists will not be back for some time yet and certainly not until the coronavirus has been brought under control.

Venice will be celebrating its 1600 birthday next year and there are high hopes among those working in the tourism industry that there will be a new boom and rebirth of Venice, similar to what happened when the Fenice theatre burned down and then rose again from its ashes.

Venetians have been enjoying their city like they have never been able to before but know that without the tourists that normally crowd this unique place it cannot survive.

Many, though, express the hope that a new type of tourism can emerge after the pandemic, with visitors who will not just come to spend a day or two but spend longer periods to enjoy and visit the many attractions the city has to offer.

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