One of the most famous and probably one of the oldest running carnivals in the World.  The elaborate masks, costumes and the immense entertainment usually takes place this time of the year.  Lasting a couple of weeks, culminating with the most important days being those between the last Thursday and the very last day, Tuesday. These are called giovedì grasso and martedì grasso, translated ‘fat Thursday’ and ‘fat Tuesday,’ in opposition to the following Ash Wednesday that marks the beginning of Lent. 

It’s believed that the tradition to celebrate the Venice Carnival may have started as far back as 1162 with the celebration of the victory over Ulrich II of Treven, the Patriarch of Aquileia (an ancient Roman city in Italy). Urich II who was taken prisoner together with his 12 vassals and after some time was released on one specific condition. That was, every year on Holy Thursday the Patriarch was obliged to pay a tribute to Venice that included the slaughtering of a bull and 12 pigs in the Piazza San Marco in front of Venetians to commemorate the victory. On that day the street celebrations, games, people dancing, and bonfires would take over the streets of the city.  By the 18th century the Venice Carnival became one of the most popular tourist attractions and attracted people from all over the Europe. The festivities continued for 6 months of the year. A time where Venice was famous for its gambling and parties. Then the decline of the carnival started when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio and Venice became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia in 1797. On January 18, 1798, the Austrians took control of the whole city and the Carnival almost disappeared for nearly two centuries. In the 1930s Venice Carnival was banned by the fascist government and was finally revived only in the 1980s with its distinctive traditions and celebrations making Venice as one the best Carnival destinations for tourists from all over the world. 

Now days (excluding pandemic period) there are whole programmes. The centre of all happenings is St. Mark’s Square. On the last Sunday and last Tuesday of carnival, a big wooden stage hosts the award ceremony of the best masked costume. This stage is also the theatre of different plays and performances.  It is also possible to participate to sumptuous, masked parties in 18th century style, organised in ancient Venetian buildings, but the most popular are always the bustling squares and streets. The carnival is enriched with art and tradition, where St. Mark’s Square is adorned with stands of Venetian traditional artisans and every year the theme may vary but the traditions are always highlighted and celebrated.

The whole event would not be the same without its unique, artistic and elaborate masks and costumes.  These masks are a must and many visitors instantly purchase one on arrival to the city.  They can be found cheaply from street vendors but many get lured into the mesmerising shops displaying extravagant masks still made by the traditional way.  They element of wearing a mask during the carnival was to hide their identity and most importantly remove any social indifferences.  Allowing everyone to relax and enjoy the frenzied parties which would take place. 

The carnival is magical and creates an enchanted atmosphere throughout the city.  Streets echo the sounds of laughed, people wonder the streets dressed as impressively if not more than days gone by of the 18th century.  It certainly is a spectacular event and we hope that 2022 will bring this event back for us to enjoy.

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