Life and theater, all in a mask. This is the theme of the 2012 Venice Carnival (Carnivale Venezia) and what better stage setting could you find for acting out your daily life than Venice. Carnival marks the beginning of Lent; it is the extravagant celebration of food and fun that leads up to the forty days and nights of abstinence before Easter.
Begun as a Venetian tradition in 1296, the Carnival ceased in the mid-19th century and was revived in 1980. Since then it has grown every year as one of the city’s greatest traditions and definitely its biggest annual party.
Finally a chance to wear one of those masks you see in so many shops in Venice, a chance to wear a costume, a cloak, to eat all those wonderful pastas and tortas without guilt, and drink plenty of fine Italian wine. There are masked balls to attend, although tickets are expensive and you’ll need to pre-book and make sure you have a costume.
The Flight of the Angel in San Marco Square is the event that marks the real beginning of Carnival, when an angel descends from the Campanile or bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica to signal the beginning of festivities. This year the Flight of the Angel is at noon on Sunday, February 12th, and will feature a live “angel” dressed in feathers – usually it is someone famous. The original carnival always included an acrobat as the angel but only recently was the tradition of a live angel revived after decades of using a dummy.
On February 11th there will be children-focused events in St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), although a preview weekend will happen on February 4th and 5th. The main focus of Carnival is Piazza San Marco, with ongoing free events but you’ll find celebrations take over the whole city.
Carnival ends with yet another party in Saint Mark’s Square on February 21st. Then we have to take off our masks and return to real life.