Guidebook Carnival: Venice in its party prime

Festival city

Carnival: Venice in its party prime

It was once a time “when Venetian aristocrats and peasants alike could don masks and go wild,” writes Krisanne Fordham in Conde Nast Traveller. But times have changed, and Venice is “no longer a den of illicit activity during Carnevale -- in fact, it’s become quite the family-friendly event.” The Carnival is the city’s most internationally known festival, as well as being one of the oldest. This congregation of masked people began in the 15th century, but the tradition can be traced back to the beginning of the 14th century. While Piazza San Marco forms the hub of Carnevale, the festival boisterously sprawls onto the Arsenale, the city’s spectacular historic shipyard, and “donning a mask is just the beginning.”  

It’s a time when Venice “fills with a mass of masked party-goers,” writes Anne Hanley at The Telegraph. The tradition of masking has a long history in Venice, explains Walks of Italy -- “by the 18th century, Venetians were allowed to wear masks for six months of the year.” To understand more about looking at the world from the inside of a mask, watch this video interview with mask maker Sergio Boldrin who also worked on Stanley Kubrick’s film Eyes Wide Shut. And see what all the fuss is about yourself in this short video of the opening night parade: Grand Opening of the Carnival.  

There are several different styles of masks that are worn during the Carnival, and here Planet EU explains them:  

Bauta Venetian Mask: In the 18th century, the Bauta become a standardized society mask regulated by the Venetian government. It was obligatory to wear it at certain political events during that time. This mask was usually worn by men.  

Colombina Mask: It is actually a half-mask which covers the eyes, nose, and upper cheeks. It is often decorated with gold and silver. It is said it was designed for an actress because she did not wish to have her beautiful face covered completely. However, the Colombina is a modern creation as there are no historic paintings depicting its use.

The Plague Doctor Mask: (Medico della peste) is one of the most bizarre and recognizable of the Venetian masks. It did not start out as carnival mask at all but as a method of preventing the spread of disease. Those who wear this mask often also wear the associated clothing.

Festival city
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