Described by many to be the best Carnival in all of Italy, Venice holds the title of having some of the most extravagant events during the Carnivale season. From the costumes made of fine materials and brilliant colors to some of the most entertaining performances and theatrical events, Venice Carnival has the bar raised quite high. With only a 2 and a half hour train ride separating Florence and Venice, this festival is a must see for any of the nearly 3 million people who visit this event every year.
The history of the Venice Carnival tradition began after 1162. The Republic defeated Ulrico, Patriarch of Aquileia in that year, and began a tradition of slaughtering a bull and 12 pigs in the Piazza San Marco around Shrove Tuesday to commemorate the victory. This celebration gradually grew and 1268 dates the first document mentioning the use of masks. This history for a time created a famous and dangerous event called “The Flight of the Turk” where tightrope walkers would walk from a boat docked on the pier of the Pizietta the belfry of the Campanile of San Marco. However, several variations of the event, and one tragic death of a fallen acrobat in 1759, led to the prohibition of the event. However, 2001 marked the first year of the return of the “Angel’s Flight”, this time at the beginning of the festivities with an “Angel” being lowered down the bell tower of San Marco to the loggia of the Palazzo Ducale, enacting the ancient rite of homaging the doge with a sceptre that proclaims the start of the Carnival in a riot of confetti and balloons.
In addition to The Flight of the Angel, there are several other traditions are still observed today such as a yearly search for the Best Mask. A series of parades and balls including the Lover’s Party and the Carnival Grand Ball provide opportunities for partakers to display their best costume in order to win Best Masked Costume Contest for the Venice Carnival. The contest this year ends at the Final Parade on Sunday, February 19th. The winner of this contest receives his or her prize on Fat Tuesday before the end of the carnival season.
Whether attending Venice to simply roam the watery streets of this truly beautiful city, or to partake in one of the biggest parties in the entire world, Venice is a magical and historical place to visit. Don a masked costume or simply enjoy the scenery of this spectacular and extravagant holiday that epitomizes the beauty and history of the Italian culture.