Festivities begin on Friday afternoon with a masked procession that begins in St. Mark's Square at 4 p.m.
Giovedi Grasso (second Thursday) or Martedi Grasso (Tuesday, the last night) in St. Mark's Square. There's live music, dancing and a visual spectacle of masks as well as the Notte de la Taranta event and fireworks.
Watch for spontaneous water parades
and make sure to take a gondola ride or two.
Ride along with the candlelight gondola procession on Shrove Tuesday
It's a stunning, romantic and fitting end to the festivities.
Venice may be sinking, but Venice Carnival is elevating in its latest incarnation. It's amazing that this festival full of nostalgia is just a few decades renewed after going dark for two centuries. Both this city and this celebration are about getting lost and wandering. The meandering maze of alleyways is a metaphor for one's mind, soul and identity. Wearing a mask allows both reflection and fantasy to arise. In this modern day of cyber-avatars, Venice Carnival is much more real, rich and resonant than any video game. While some may see it as just a set of aristocratic, fancy masquerade balls, I see it as more mysterious and full of serendipity. Fate lurks behind that mask in front of you or down some barely-lit, winding lane. This Carnival is made for visually-minded introverts, and it doesn't have to be expensive. The grand masquerade balls might cost a fortune, but all you need is a mask and your wild imagination and you can wander the mist-shrouded alleys for days marveling at the mystery of our many ghoulish identities.