Carnevale di Venezia (Venice Carnival) is undoubtedly one of the most famous carnivals in the world. The beautiful costumes and typical Venetian masks magically transform the city. Typically held in the first half of February each year, the carnival attracts about 3 million visitors. The carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter. This 2-week-long festival is about parades, concerts, markets, and of course the ornate Venetian masks.


Most sources mention the festival have started in 1162 when Venice had celebrated the victory against the Patriarch of Aquileia. While other sources claim that the Doge Vitale Falier (the chief magistrate in the former republic of Venice) and the government of la Serenissima had allowed the poor people already in 1094 to enjoy a short period of fun and festivities.  Over time, the event has appeared and disappeared. However, under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and Austrian, Francis II, the festival has outlawed entirely in 1797. And the use of masks became strictly forbidden. It reappeared gradually in the nineteenth century, but only for short periods and above all for private feasts.  It was only in 1979 that the ancient tradition has restored. By the government and some Venetian associations, in the form still seen today.

The Masks

The masks are the center of the centerpiece action. Venetian masks have made of leather, porcelain, or using the original glass technique. Nowadays, most Italian masks have made with the application of gesso and gold leaf. And have hand-painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate. Covering the face in public was a uniquely Venetian response to the most rigid class hierarchies in European history. Several distinct styles of the mask have worn in the Venice Carnival, the main being Bauta (heavily gild full-face white mask). Colombina ( decorated half-mask), Medico della Peste ( long beak mask), Moretta( black oval mask), Volto ( gilded and decorated stark white porcelain mask), Pantalone(oversized nose mask with a beak-like a crow), Aelechhino( leather half-mask painted black) and  Zanni( half mask in leather)


The carnival is full of activities, fun competitions, and performances:  Venetian Mask Competition, Ice Skating, Grand Masquerade Balls, Concerts, and Street performances.

The magic of the carnival gives to Venice an enchanted atmosphere. Masked people fill the streets with smiles and laughter, and several events are organized all around the city. The carnival usually lasts a couple of weeks, but the most important days are those between the last Thursday and the very last day, Tuesday. These are popular as giovedì Grasso and martedì Grasso, literally ‘fat Thursday’ and ‘fat Tuesday,’. the center of all happenings in St. Mark’s Square.

On the last Sunday and last Tuesday of the carnival, a big wood stage hosts the award ceremony of the best-mask costume, which has elected after several parades that take place during the central days of the festival. This stage is also the theater of different plays, where traditional masked characters like Arlecchino interpret comic adventures. It is also possible to participate in sumptuous masked parties in 18th-century style, organized in ancient Venetian buildings, but the dimension of the squares and streets is the most popular one.

Also read, The Falles.

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