Venice is currently in the midst of its annual Carnivale di Venezia, with elaborate masks, costumes, parades and partygoers taking over the city!
The world-famous festival starts around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday or Martedi Grasso, the day before Ash Wednesday.
The Carnival of Venice is said to have first started in 1162, after the victory of the “Serenissima Repubblica” (later the former Republic of Venice) against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven. Venetians were dancing in the streets in honor of the victory, and they would meet back up to dance each year in San Marco Square.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the reunion in San Marco had grown popularity and had become an official festival. But in 1797, under the rule of the King of Austria, the festival was outlawed and the use of masks became strictly forbidden.
It was not until 1979, that the Carnival was brought back to full operation in Venice by the Italian government as a way to highlight the culture and history of Venice. Today, an estimated 3 million visitors come to Venice each year to participate in the Carnival.
One of the many highlights of the festivities is la maschera più bella (“the most beautiful mask”), placed at the last weekend of the Carnival and judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers.
Learn about the Carnival celebrations held all throughout Italy here.
Take a photo tour of Carnival celebrations around the world here.