CARNIVAL OF VENICE: CARNEVALE
When: 13 February 2018
Where: Venice, Italy
About: Carnival in Italy (or “Carnevale”) is a huge winter festival, usually complete with masks, parades, music and parties. Starting as a final celebration before Lent begins, Carnevale is as popular in Italy now as it was in the 1200s, with thousands of Italians and visitors from all over the world coming to see Italy dressed in full costume. Many Italian towns celebrate Carnevale the weekend before the last day of carnival, which is on Shrove Tuesday.
The Carnival of Venice (Italian: Carnevale di Venezia) is an annual festival held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, on Shrove Tuesday (Martedì Grasso or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday. Because the date of Easter changes yearly, so do the dates for carnival festivals, which can be anywhere from February 3 – March 9. The festival is world famous for its elaborate masks.
There are many events on which you can attend during the Venice Festival each year. The “Festa Veneziana” is the opening ceremony of the Venice Carnival. An outstanding evening show will bring music, rhythm, joy on the banks of Cannaregio and it is a truly a unique experience.
Italy has many Carnevale celebrations, but Venice, Viareggio, and Cento hold the biggest and most elaborate festivals.
Venice’s Carnival season starts about two weeks before the actual date of Carnevale. Events and entertainment are held nightly throughout Venice, with people in costumes wandering around the city and reveling. Venice’s main Carnevale events are centered around Piazza San Marco, but events are held in every sestiere. There are gondola and boat parades along the Grand Canal, a mask parade in St. Mark’s Square and a special Carnevale for Children event in the Cannaregio district. A fireworks show in Piazza San Marco, which can be seen all over Venice, marks the climax of Carnevale.
Viareggio on the Tuscany coast has one of the biggest Carnevale celebrations in Italy. It’s known for its giant, allegorical paper maiché floats used in parades not only on Shrove Tuesday but also the three Sundays before and two weekends following. The final parade is held on Saturday night and is followed by a huge fireworks show. Festivals, cultural events, concerts and masked balls take place throughout the carnival season both in Viareggio and its surrounding areas, and restaurants have special Carnevale menus.
History: Carnevale has roots in pagan festivals and traditions and as is often the case with traditional festivals was adapted to fit into the Catholic rituals. Although carnival is actually one date, in Venice and some other places in Italy the carnival celebrations and parties may begin a couple weeks before.
Masks, maschere, are an important part of the Carnevale festival and are sold year round at many shops in Venice, ranging from cheap versions to elaborate and expensive ones. People also wear elaborate costumes for the festival and there are costume or masquerade balls, both private and public.
It’s said that the Carnival of Venice was started from a victory of the Venice Republic against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven in the year 1162. In the honour of this victory, the people started to dance and gather in San Marco Square. Apparently, this festival started on that period and became official in the Renaissance. However, under the rule of the King of Austria, the Venice Carnival was outlawed completely and the use of masks became strictly forbidden during that time. It reappeared gradually in the nineteenth century, but only for short periods and above all for private feasts, where it became an occasion for artistic creations.
After a long absence (more than 180 years), the Carnival returned in 1979. The Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of its efforts. The redevelopment of the masks began as the pursuit of some Venetian college students for the tourist trade. Since then, approximately 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for the Carnival. One of the most important events is the contest for la maschera più bella (“the most beautiful mask”) which will be judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers.