The Carnival of Venice

The Carnival of Venice

the Venice carnival is known to be the most famous in the world, for 10 days a year in fact this marvelous city transforms into a huge stage where any disguise is allowed, where social orders are reversed and anyone can become whoever they want.

This magic is allowed by the masks , an ancient tradition of more than 900 years, which allows the transgression and the typical joy of this event. The birth of the masked carnival is more remote than one might think, in fact it is recorded in many cultures a holiday that would allow you to dress up and let yourself go, releasing your inhibitions and mixing with other social classes.

In Venice all this took place between balls and luxurious dinners, in the old casinos and foyers, the only places where gambling was permitted.

In the 18th century, the Venice carnival reached its peak of success, becoming an international event known throughout Europe.

Piazza San Marco came alive with parades and skill tests, the canals were filled with colorful boats and masked characters.


Here are the most famous and traditional carnival masks:

The Bauta: the typical Venetian mask par excellence, is white worn together with a tricorn (typical Venetian hat) and a tabarro (black cloak). Its particular shape makes it perfect for a disguise as it is not necessary to remove it to eat or drink. I wrote an entire article on the history of this mask, if you are interested you can find it here: La Storia Della Bauta

The moretta, a black velvet mask worn by women. The peculiarity of this mask was that it was held by means of a button in the mouth which however did not allow one to speak, whoever wore a mask was also called "mute servant".

The Gnaga : a simple female disguise for men, often accompanied by a cat-like mask.
The masks of the Commedia dell'Arte such as La Colombina, Arlecchino and Pantalone.

The plague doctor: typical Venetian Venetian mask

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Its origins are lost in the mists of time, but there is a first testimony dating back to 1094, a document of the Doge Vitale Falier, in which the word Carnival is mentioned for the first time.

It is thought that this festival was established for political and social reasons, in fact in the Republic of the Serenissima there was a need to grant citizens of the humblest classes days dedicated to celebrations and public banquets, with the intention of appeasing souls of the unluckiest.

Even in ancient Rome, with the "bread and circuses" the people were allowed to have fun in exchange for their benevolence. In this period of festivities it was allowed to dress up and mix with other social classes, just as it was allowed to dress up from man to woman and vice versa.

Even satire was tolerated, considered as a form of outlet for the rigid moral dictates of the Serenissima.


The first edict that declares the day before Lent a holiday, and which therefore transforms the Carnival into an official celebration for the city of Venice, dates back to 1296 .
The Carnival lasted six weeks, from December 26th to Ash Wednesday.

By wearing masks and disguises it was possible to transform into another person, get rid of one's social class and gender, and live carefree the days of celebrations. The famous greeting "Buongiorno Siora Maschera" was precisely the only thing that could be said when crossing another person whose identity was not known.

The essence of Carnival has remained unchanged over time, even if today it is more a ritual than a moment of transgression.

Below we leave you some images of the Venice Carnival with its splendid masks ..... this certainly will not be just a parade of Italian masks .... it will always be much more, appreciate the beauty of our country and its beauties, let your heart and eyes be filled. The costumes of the timeless Venetian carnival..... Beautiful!


As the Carnival and its notoriety grew throughout Europe, so did the demand for masks and costumes, and so it was that from 1271 the first artisan workshops were born in Venice that produced masks in clay, papier-mâché, plaster and gauze.

The decorations became increasingly rich and sophisticated and the so-called mascareri obtained their statute in 1436 , preserved today in the state archives of Venice. original papier-mâché masks are more expensive than plastic imitations.
However, buying an original mask means supporting this city and the carnival itself, keeping this festival and all its history alive.


The festivities were mainly held in Piazza San Marco and along the Riva degli Schiavoni, passing through all the Campi di Venezia. There were jugglers, acrobats, and shows of all kinds for adults and children. Soon, however, parties also began in private homes, in theaters and cafés.

Masquerade parties and sumptuous balls and banquets began to be organized in the Venetian palaces. In the 18th century, Carnival reached its peak of popularity throughout Europe. And it is in these years that the figure of Giacomo Casanova becomes famous for his transgressions, for his spiciest stories and for the most incredible adventures.


This ancient festival dates back to 943, and is celebrated on February 2, the day in which the twelve poorest and most beautiful brides of the city were blessed in Venice at the Basilica of San Pietro di Castello.

Their dowry was in fact donated by the most noble families, and the Doge contributed by lending them jewels and sumptuous clothes. It is said that in 943, with the Doge Pietro III Candiano, some Istrian pirates kidnapped the twelve girls with the jewels of the Dowry and ran away among the incredulity of the people.

Valiant Venetians led by the Doge set out in pursuit and managed to capture and kill the pirates near Caorle. In the name of this noble enterprise, the Doge decided to institute the Festa delle Marie (perhaps Maria was the name of many of the kidnapped girls, or perhaps the name derives from the feast of the purification of Maira).

From that year, 12 girls were chosen, two for each district and renamed Maria, the noble families gave them clothes and jewels and their procession paraded through the whole city, to the admiration of the people.
The number of girls was then reduced to four, and subsequently to three, to reduce the costs borne by the patrician families. The most radical transformation came one day to change the girls with wooden silhouettes, to prevent attention from shifting from the religious theme to the mere admiration of wonderful women.

The citizens protested so animatedly that in 1349 the throwing of objects towards them was forbidden . Maria de tola (Mary of the table) is an expression still used today to indicate a type of cold and breastless woman. In 1379 the festival was suppressed and then officially resumed in 1999 albeit with some variations.


The Flight of the Angel was born from an extraordinary event that took place in the mid-16th century, when a Turkish boy managed to walk balanced on a rope, from the bell tower of San Marco to Palazzo Ducale, paying homage to the Doge.
The event was immediately scheduled for subsequent editions as well, where the protagonists were initially professional tightrope walkers and then also courageous Venetians.

It then came to exhibit a man with wings, hoisted to the rope and made to descend at great speed, and from there the name became Il Volo dell'Angelo.

When the performance ended in tragedy in 1759, the acrobat was replaced with a wooden dove that dropped confetti into the crowd.


Masks and disguises gave everyone the opportunity to hide their identity, unfortunately also to the bad guys, who in those years could wander around the city undisturbed and commit mischief.

The authorities first decided to ban the use of disguises during the night with a provision dated 1339 and subsequently issued a series of decrees aimed at limiting the improper use of masks.

One of these, dating back to 1458, forbids masked individuals to enter sacred places , to avoid unorthodox acts. Prostitutes were forbidden to disguise themselves and the sanction was heavy to say the least, they would have been whipped from San Marco to Rialto, banned for 4 years from the territory of the Serenissima and also subject to a fine.

In 1703, cross-dressing was also prohibited in lodges and foyers, and in 1776, married women were forbidden to go to the theater without a mask. In 1797, after the fall of the Republic of the Serenissima, the use of masks was completely prohibited, only to be restored in 1979 thanks to the Teatro la Fenice, the Venice Biennale and other tourist organizations.


To date, the Venice Carnival attracts many visitors from all over the world, offering cultural events and masked balls.
The total duration is 11 days with a very rich and organized calendar of events.
The Flight of the Angel is again performed by an acrobat, this time secured to a metal cable.

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