Famous for its elaborate masks and period costumes, the annual festival of Carnevale di Venezia is on again, and as usual it’s living up to its name as one of the most vibrant and colorful festivals in the world.
Originally said to have started around the 12th century in honor of Venice being founded as a ‘Serene Republic’ or safe haven for people escaping persecution in mainland Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, the locals began to sing and dance in San Marco square.
Historically, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the baroque festival was in full swing, but when Napolean Bonaparte conquered Venice in 1797, the Republic was finished and so were the somewhat token remnants of Carnivale.
The carnival made fleeting appearances during the 19th century, but was more or less abandoned until the late 1970’s, when the Italian government decided to bring back some history and culture to Venice, using the Carnivale as the centrepiece.
Today it’s a riot of colour and festivities, with floats on the Grand Canal, lively performances and pageants throughout the city, and one of the main attractions, the Best Mask competition.
The use of masks is a little hidden in history – some say that the wearing of masks was a uniquely Venetian response to the rigid class hierarchies plaguing Europe at the time. The most commonly held belief is that they allowed participants to mix with members of society that would normally be outside the bounds of that person’s normal circle.
Whatever the case, the Carnevale di Venezia is a vibrantly colorful festival that enjoys its reputation as one of the top festivals in the world, attracting around 3 million visitors over the approximate 3 weeks it is held.
This year it runs from Feb 11 to Feb 28, finishing on the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter.
Below is a little video of last years event to get you in the mood!