Carnevale has long been a moment of the cold winter when Venetians and their visitors don exquisite masks and costumes, drink and celebrate during a two-week long festival. Known to many throughout the world simply as "Carnival," the celebration of life, love and Italy begins Saturday and runs through Feb 9.
Masks have been a part of Venice culture as far back as the 13th century, when people used them to hide their social class owing to the community’s strict caste system, the Telegraph reported. Different iterations of the festival continued until the late 18th century when France took control of the city and got rid of the revelry, fearing it would encourage social chaos.
A Carnival festival resembling what many people think of today, with colorful costumes and ornate masks officially resumed in 1979 as a way for locals to encourage tourism to the city during the off-season.
While revelers can find dancing and parties throughout the city, several key events are not to be missed. The Volo dell’Angelo or "Flight of the Angel" occurs Jan. 31 where the winner of a beauty pageant rides a zip line across San Marco's square, flying like an angel above the crowd. The official carnival website lists a whole host of varied events, including highlights such as a mask contest, parades, activities for children and concerts for all ages.
Venice, and particularly the surreal mystery of masks has inspired authors from all over the world for centuries. “This yearning for new and distant scenes, this craving for freedom, release, forgetfulness -- they were he admitted to himself, an impulse towards flight, flight from the spot which was the daily theatre of a rigid, cold, and passionate service,” Thomas Mann once wrote in his short story “A Death In Venice.”