In 2020, there will again be plenty of interesting events and exhibitions taking place in Venice. There are the traditional events, such as Carnevale or the Festa del Redentore. There are also some relatively recent initiatives which have been successful and will be repeated this year, such as Homo Faber or The Venice Glass Week. The 17th edition of the Architecture Biennale will bring a variety of architectural events to the city. And of course, there are many temporary exhibitions which look very intriguing. There are too many to list them all, so I made a selection of those that appeal most to myself and which I look forward to discover this year.
The activities are well-spread across the entire year, so whenever you plan to visit Venice, you will have many options to choose from. On top of that, most events last a couple of weeks or months, so you can easily combine a few on your trip to Venice. So, what is going on in Venice in 2020?
Venice is a stunning city – Domus Grimani – Carnevale di Venezia – Henri Cartier-Bresson. Le Grand Jeu – Venice and American Glass Studio – Opera. The Stars of Melodrama – Architecture Biennale – Festa della Sensa – Vogalonga – Art Night – Festa del Redentore – The Venice Glass Week – Regata Storica – Homo Faber – Festa della Salute
1. Venice is a stunning city
All year round
The city in itself is the most important reason to visit it. You will be blown away by the beauty of the canals, the streets and the palazzos, by the silence when walking around, by the amazing products created by the local artisans and by the wonderful people who live there. I have been numerous times to Venice and I really can’t get enough of it. There is always something new to discover, whether it’s one of the events below, a palazzo which I never visited or a new bar or restaurant. Even though Venice is often crowded, there are plenty of possibilities to avoid these and plan your days accordingly. You can find some tips in my post ‘9 insider tips to escape the crowds in Venice’.
2. Domus Grimani – Palazzo Grimani
Exhibition Until March 31, 2021
For the first time in 430 years, you can admire the ‘Abduction of Ganymede’ as well as 100 sculptures in the tribuna of Palazzo Grimani. This room was designed by Giovanni Grimani to display his vast collection. Inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, the only light comes from the top. It is really very impressive. Besides the current exhibition, Palazzo Grimani is the only Renaissance Roman mannerist-inspired house in Venice and worth a visit in itself. You can read more about in my post ‘Palazzo Grimani, an extraordinary Roman palazzo hidden in Venice’.
3. Carnevale di Venezia
Tradition February 8-25
Carnival is without any doubt the most famous event in Venice. It was first celebrated at the end of the 12th century. Over time, it evolved into a combination of historical re-enactments, such as the Festa delle Marie or the Nicolotti e Castellani, and festivities, such as the Festa Veneziana or the Best Masked Costume Competition. The new artistic director Massimo Checchetto has chosen ‘Il Gioco, l’Amore e la Follia’ (Game, Love and Folly) as the theme of this year’s event. You can find a detailed overview of all the events in my post ‘The insider’s guide to Carnevale di Venezia 2020’.
4. Henri Cartier-Bresson. Le Grand Jeu – Palazzo Grassi
Exhibition March 22 – January 10, 2021
The exhibition on the first floor of Palazzo Grassi looks at the work of photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004) through the eyes of five different curators. Annie Leibovitz, Wim Wenders, Javier Cercas, Sylvie Aubenas and François Pinault have each selected fifty works each from the original ‘Master Collection’. This ‘Master Collection’ is a selection of 385 images which Henri Cartier-Bresson considered to be the most significant of his work. After you finished admiring these stunning pictures, you can continue your visit at Palazzo Grassi with the monographic exhibition ‘Once Upon a Dream’ of Youssef Nabil.
5. Venice and American Studio Glass – Le Stanze del Vetro
Exhibition March 23 – July 26
155 outstanding glass vessels, sculptures and installations created by 60 American and Venetian artists will be on display in this exhibition. It will closely examine the influences of traditional Venetian glass-working techniques, as well as the Venetian aesthetic, on contemporary American art in glass from the 1960s to the present. Le Stanze del Vetro is a wonderful glass museum on the San Giorgio Maggiore island and can easily be reached by vaporetto. Their exhibitions are always very interesting and free to enter. You can read more about in my post ‘Why San Giorgio Maggiore is worth your visit’.
6. Opera. The Stars of Melodrama – Palazzo Ducale
Exhibition April 9 – August 30
The fascinating history of opera, from its origins in Italy and in particular in Venice to the contemporary era, will be exhibited as a multi-sensory experience in the Doge’s Apartment. Operas bring a wide range of different players together: patrons, impresarios, composers, singers, costume designers, set designers and the public. They are also influenced by historical, social, political and economic factors. The exhibition will show paintings, drawings, dresses, librettos, sets, and memorable premieres. To prepare yourself for your visit, you can already read about the history of La Fenice in my post ‘Teatro La Fenice throws you back to the golden era of Venice’.
7. Architecture Biennale
Event May 23 – November 29
The Architecture Biennale attracts less visitors than the Art Biennale, I find it certainly as interesting to visit. The 2020 edition will focus on ‘How will we live together?’ and is curated by Hashim Sarkis. He asked architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together. As usual, the Biennale will take place in Giardini, Arsenale and in different palazzos across Venice. I will start publishing previews of the national pavilions on my website in March. If you are curious about what you can expect, I suggest you subscribe to my biweekly newsletter. My post on ‘How to prepare your visit to the Architecture Biennale’ will also be updated in the coming days.
8. Festa della Sensa
Tradition May 24
The Festa della Sensa is an ancient celebration of the relationship between Venice and the sea. The large procession at sea consists of the ceremonial Serenissima boat and hundreds of boats from the rowing associations of Venice. The parade starts in front of San Marco, from where it sails towards Lido. You can easily watch it from the Riva degli Schiavoni between San Marco and Arsenale. Finally, the symbolic wedding ceremony, in which a ring is thrown into the sea, is held in front of San Nicolò. You can find more information in my post ‘The Festa della Sensa is the wedding of the year in Venice’.
Event May 31
The Vogalonga is a non-competitive race where rowers from all over the world take over the lagoon and canals in Venice in a wide variety of colorful boats, from canoes to dragon boats. The event started in 1975 as a protest against the growing use of powerboats in Venice and the damage they do to the historic city. The 30 km course starts in the Bacino di San Marco and extends over the northern lagoon, past the islands of Sant’Erasmo, Burano and Mazzorbo and through the centre of Murano before returning to the finish in Venice. If you would like to participate, you will need plenty of rowing classes to last the 30 km. After 2 rowing classes (see ‘Rowing is the ultimate local experience when visiting Venice’), I don’t think I’m yet to it yet but I would certainly love to participate.
10. Art Night
Art Night is an annual event organized by the Ca’Foscari university. It consists of a series of cultural events, in the broad sense of the word, all over Venice. The 2020 date and program aren’t available yet, but you can expect visits to palazzos and other historical buildings which open exceptionally, meetings with authors in bookstores, guided tours, concerts, light shows, activities for children, and so on. The entrance is usually free, but reservations might be required depending on the location. The main difficulty is to choose what to attend, as it only lasts one night.
11. Festa del Redentore
Tradition July 18-19
The Festa del Redentore is a traditional event to remember the plague of 1576. It is one of my favourite events in Venice. During this weekend, a pontoon bridge connects Giudecca and Zattere, so you can cross the Giudecca canal by foot. On Saturday evening, the fireworks above the San Marco Bacino are very impressive. On Sunday, you can watch the procession, attend the mass or enjoy the regatas in the afternoon. More information on the different events and the historical background can be found in my post ‘Enjoy the Festa del Redentore with these insider tips’.
12. The Venice Glass Week
Event September 5-13
The 2020 edition of The Venice Glass Week is the fourth international festival dedicated to celebrating, supporting and promoting the art of glassmaking in Venice. The program hasn’t been revealed yet, but the activities should be similar to those in previous years such as exhibitions, glass masters who open their furnaces for the public, conferences, musical evenings and guided visits. My post about the activities of 2018 will give you an idea of what to expect: ‘The Venice Glass Week triggers many exciting glass events’. The entrance is usually free, but reservations might be required depending on the location.
13. Regata storica
Tradition September 6
The regata storica is a combination of a historical parade and several rowing races. The historical procession commemorates the welcome given in 1489 to Caterina Cornaro, the wife of the King of Cyprus, who renounced her throne in favour of Venice. The brightly colored parade with ornate boats and rowers in 16th century costumes sails along Canal Grande. It is followed by four competitive regatas: the champions’ regata in gondolini, the regata in caorline, the women’s regata in mascarete and the young rowers’ regata in pupparini. More information on the different events and the historical background can be found in my post ‘Don’t miss a thing of the Regata Storica’.
14. Homo Faber – Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Event September 10 – October 11
Homo Faber 2020 will celebrate the best of European and Japanese craftsmanship. 17 exhibitions will showcase master artisans and exceptional objects curated by a world-class team of leaders in their fields of design, architecture and curation. From live workshops, installations to conferences, film screenings and a garden exhibition, Homo Faber 2020 will offer an immersive programme. You can find the overview of events on the website of Homo Faber. The event also offers a unique opportunity to explore the magnificent structures of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. I didn’t attend the first Homo Faber exhibition in 2018, but the reviews I read were unanimously positive.
15. Festa della Salute
Tradition November 21
The Festa della Salute is another traditional Venetian event to remember the end of a plague. The plague of 1630 killed tens of thousands of Venetians or almost 30% of its citizens. This event is very popular amongst Venetians. They cross Canal Grande via the votive bridge connecting the sestiere of San Marco with Dorsoduro to attend one of the masses held in the Salute basilica from 6am to 8pm. Candles are lit in memory of those that died in the plague, and of loved ones who might be ill. The area around the basilica is filled with street food stalls which creates a warm and busy atmosphere.
Now that you know what’s going on, you can take your agenda and decide when to take your next trip(s) to Venice. This is one of the first steps I do when planning my trips, as you can read in ‘How I prepare my trips to Venice as a frequent visitor’. I will publish more details about these events closer to their start date. If you don’t want to miss these updates, subscribe to The Venice Insider newsletter or follow The Venice Insider on Facebook.
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