Thousands of people, many dressed for a traditional masked ball, crowded into Saint Mark’s Square on Sunday to witness “the flight of the angel”, the opening event of the annual Venice Carnival.
Each first Sunday of the carnival, a young woman chosen as “Marie” has the honour of performing the stunt, gliding through the air on a harness attached to a cable from the 99-metre (325-foot) bell-tower of Saint Mark’s Basilica to a stage below.
“It was extraordinary, I felt the wind, the sea, the ground and the fire in me,” this year’s angel Linda Pani told AFP-TV.
This year’s “angel” Linda Pani after her flight.
She described the experience as “perhaps the happiest three minutes of my life”.
The centuries-old Venice Carnival, rooted in Christian festivities ahead of the fasting period of Lent, attracts crowds of foreign and Italian tourists to its masked balls and theatrical performances.
It is now one of the most famous carnival celebrations in the world, with around three million visitors coming to the city each spring to watch or join in the festivities.
However this year attendance has reportedly dropped, with some visitors staying away following severe flooding in November. Fears of the coronavirus are also thought to have stopped many people from travelling.
As a result, some parties and annual events had to be cancelled this year.
However, many were able to continue as usual, with grand masked balls being held in the city’s most famous hotels and venues.
The carnival, which lasts until February 25, was created in Venice in 1162, the day after a military victory.
All photos: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP