The Carnival of Venice (Carnevale di Venezia) is the biggest annual celebration in Venice, with its own anthem and a long history. The Carnival starts on a Saturday 57 days before Easter and ends 11 days later, on the Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras).
Every year at the beginning of the festival masked Venetians enter the streets of the city and follow them to San Marco square to take part in various performances, from where then begins the carnival procession with music, fireworks, improvisations and balls. City squares are full of actors dressed up as Harlequin, Pierrot, Pantalone and Colombina, recreating funny scenes and sketches. These are the stock characters of Commedia dell'Arte, where each has their own character, a way to dress and behave, and who are now famous as the symbols of the Venetian Carnival.
Carnival masks are symbols of Venice in their own right, frequently decorated by precious stones and bird feathers. The legend goes that during the ancient Roman festival Saturnalia, the predecessor of carnivals, slaves were allowed to sit at the table right by their masters, and to smooth the class prejudices everyone involved hid their faces under colourful masks. In Venice carnival masks had gained such popularity that they had been worn even on regular days, often to remain anonymous for depraved acts. This had compelled the Church to ban wearing of masks outside of carnivals. Today, masks are sold year-round by souvenir shops and expensive boutiques alike. Many tourists who come to Venice for the Carnival, create their masks, costumes and capes themselves.
Minuet, quadrille and other dances in the exquisite setting of ancient palazzo; costumed river walks on gondolas along the most beautiful canals of Venice; dinners among precious paintings and frescoes; acrobatic performances set to classical music; the parade of costumes and the burning of "Winter" - these events and many more await visitors during the ten days of the Venetian Carnival, the most eagerly anticipated and beloved in Italy, in the eternal city of love and romance!
The official website of Carnival of Venice