Where: Venice, Italy

Reckoned as one of the oldest carnivals on the earth, the incredible ‘Carnival of Venice’ is considered as the cradle of the European carnival tradition! The Venice Carnival is renowned as one of the most spectacular street festivals in the world & it attracts hordes of fun-loving free-souls from the every corner of the world! Throughout the duration of the carnival, the city of ‘Venice’, famous for its laid-back lifestyle & soothing tranquility, gets transferred into the vivacious place of the masked, wild, party-animals who spend their nights in dancing, posing, grooming & philandering!

During its earlier manifestations, the carnival used to take place for ten days, culminating on the Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras before the beginning of Lent. However, in order to cash on the growing popularity of the festival, several events start at least a week prior to the actual celebration. The main events for the 2015 ‘Carnevale di Venezia’ will start from 7th February & will last up to 17th February. The carnival revives the days of the 18th century ‘Venice’ when wearing masks in public had meaning far greater than just fun! The masks are associated with the Venetians’ inclination towards indulging anonymously into the unruly activities! The unique, elaborate Venetian masks & designer costumes are the most prominent features of the ‘Venice Carnival’!

Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival Cherishing Centuries Old Tradition

How it was Started?

The start of the ‘Carnival of Venice’ supposedly dates back to the 12th century, when Serenissima Repubblica defeated the ‘Ulrico di Treven’, Patriarch of Aquileila. The San Marco Square became the center of the celebration, wherein all the Venetians gathered for the grand celebration to commemorate the victory. The trend was set-up from there onwards & by the beginning of the 14th century, the carnival became official.

The carnival, however, got its identity & fame during the 18th century as it prompted Venetians to experience the pleasures of their choices without exposing their true identity. The unique idea of the carnival of concealing one’s true identity by wearing masks & enjoying life at own terms, made it an instant hit all across the Europe & foreigners started flooding into ‘Venice’ to spend their fortunes & to enjoy their life like there is no tomorrow!

Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival Cherishing Centuries Old Tradition

The restrictions, however, were imposed by the ‘Serenissima’  council over the use of masks in public places. In the 17th century, the Council of Ten prohibited the Venetians from wearing masks on the occasions other than the carnival & official banquets. The fortune of the carnival dramatically changed during the reign of the King of Austria, when the carnival was completely forbidden & the use of masks was banned. In the 19th century, carnival resurrected for a little while, although it remained limited only till the private gatherings!

In 1979, the carnival was again started with a bang as the Italian government decided to promote the Venetian culture & traditions in order to allure the tourists from all over the world. The carnival soon became the center of attractions & it opened a rich source of revenue for the government. Today, the spectacular Carnavele di Venezia is visited by around 3 million visitors from all across the world, making it one of the biggest street festivals on the earth!

How is it Celebrated?

The highly decorated & somewhat eerier-looking Masks & bizarre costumes are the most prominent highlights of the ‘Venice Carnival’! The iconic Piazza San Marco becomes the center stage of all the festivity although, several other squares in the city also host a bevy of graceful events! The Masquerade Parade is the most loved attractions of the carnival alongside several other events, including Free Entertainment Shows, Live Concerts, Period Costume Parades, Masked Balls & wild parties! Sumptuously dressed merrymakers can be seen roaming through almost every lane of ‘Venice’!

Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival Cherishing Centuries Old Tradition

Masks & Costumes: Intricately designed costumes & typical Venetian masks have earned all the name & fame for the ‘Venice Carnival’! Every mask that revelers wear has its own importance & reputation. Heavily gilded mask called the Bauta that covers the entire face is the most celebrated mask of all. The mask, named Columbina that conceals eyes, upper cheeks & nose is also hugely popular among the revelers. Medico della peste mask, which has a long beak, is the most quirky one. The other classical Venetian masks include ‘Moretta’, ‘Volto’, ‘Pantalone’, ‘Arlecchino’ & ‘Zanni’. People pend fortunes to buy the most bizarre looking mask!

Events in San Marco Square: The ‘San Marco Square’ overflows with unstoppable torrents of the revelers. All the events in the square are open to everyone. Masquerade revelers can be seen parading & posing for the photographers, while the visitors just try to get soaked into the carnival spirit. The event, called ‘il volo dell’angelo’ (Flight of the angels) marks the beginning of the carnival. The costume parades are also famous among the visitors & on each day, the best dressed person is selected from the pack of paraders depending upon the votes of the spectators. Winners get an opportunity to participate in the final day costume parade wherein the carnival’s best dressed person is chosen! Apart from the costume parades, several other entertainment programs, including dance shows, concerts & street theater shows also take place in ‘San Marco Square’!

Venice Carnival

Venice Carnival Cherishing Centuries Old Tradition

Masked Balls: Special paid events, parties & balls are also organized throughout the city during the carnival. These events, however, need to book tickets well in advance & these tickets are, more often than not, come at very hefty prices. Several hotels & restaurants also make arrangements of the private balls for their guests.

Key Highlights of Venice Carnival 2015:

31st January: Opening of the Carnival with Cannaregio event.

1st February: Cannaregio (Boat Pageant).

7th February: Festa delle Marie. (Traditional event).

8th February: il volo dell’angelo (Flight of the angels)

15th February: Flight of the Eagle, Flight of the Donkey.

17th February: Crowning of the ‘Maria 2015’ for the best costumed contestants, Flight of Lion.