Join the masked revellers as one of the world's most beautiful cities scintillates with costumes, parties and processions. Held over the two weeks preceding Ash Wednesday, the Carnival ends on Shrove Tuesday and begins two Fridays before.
The Carnival dates back to 1268, but became famous as an essential stop on the Grand Tour in the 18th century. Banned by Mussolini in the 1930s, it was revived in 1979. The locals embrace the festivities and it is a major event in the Venetian calendar.
Synonymous with the Carnival are the ornate masks, originally worn to conceal status within the hierarchical structure of Venetian society, and to aid anonymous flirting and gambling. Masks are still a must and are widely available. The bauta, often considered to be the most traditional mask, can cover the whole face, or just the top half, leaving the mouth free for eating and drinking. Today, Carnival-goers are still addressed as 'Sior Maschera' (Signor Mask).
The Carnival is centred on Piazza San Marco, but parties, dances and street theatre will be encountered at every twist and turn in the city. Regular events are the Volo Dell'Angelo ('Flight of the Angel'), when confetti and balloons are showered from the top of the campanile onto the crowds gathered below in the loggia of the Doge's Palace. La Festa Delle Marie is a historical pageant, free for all to join, which starts in San Pietro di Castello. The Gran Corteo Storico and the mask procession - La Sfilata delle Maschere - are also not to be missed.