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By Cheryl Tieken
"A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale." Roughly translated, anything goes at carnevale. A great way to celebrate the coming of Lent is Mardi Gras, and an amazing place to experience all the festivities and grandiosity that come along with lavish celebrations such as this is at Venice's Carnevale. For almost two weeks every February before Lent, Venice celebrates with ornate parties, luxuriant masquerade balls and spontaneous parties in the streets. All the madness begins two Fridays before Ash Wednesday and finishes on Fat Tuesday.
Carnevale is literally the world's best-known baroque fancy-dress party. You spend 12 days running around in Phantom of the Opera like masks, sampling some amazing cuisine and partaking in events left and right. Venetians themselves have been celebrating this great holiday since at least the 15th century. Back then, private clubs organized masked balls and bull-baiting. In the 18th century, Venice became known as a very hedonistic place and the indulgent festivities of Carnevale lasted nearly two months! When the city was taken over by Napoleon in 1797, the event fell by the wayside and was completely abandoned when Mussolini banned the wearing of masks. It wasn't until 1979 that the event was once again brought alive, rightly taking its place among the world's finest festivities.
Perhaps the most iconic image of Carnevale and of Venice itself is the mask. You will need one to attend the festival's high point, the Gran Ballo delle Maschere (Grand Masked Ball), which takes place in a different location each year, usually at a very fitting grand palace. As long as you have a mask and a proper costume, you are welcome to join the festivities. A couple of notable mask makers in Venice are Ca'Macana and L'Arlecchino. If you are interested in attending the masked ball, you can make reservations on the Carnevale website. An Italian vacation would certainly not be complete without a trip to Venice, to see the home of this amazing festival. And certainly if you are in Europe during February, you must stop by to see the wonder of Carnevale.
Sceptre Tours is a European vacation provider, currently specializing in Ireland, Italy, the UK and river cruising.
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