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IN PICTURES: Venice Carnival gets off to a flying start

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IN PICTURES: Venice Carnival gets off to a flying start
People in carnival costumes parade across St. Mark's Square on February 3, 2024. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

The Venice Carnival kicked off in typically extravagant style over the past week, as thousands of visitors to the lagoon city joined locals at the annual festival.

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Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

Each year, Venice's world-famous Carnival injects some colour into the grey days of January and February with extravagant shows, festivities, and of course magnificent costumes.

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

The Venice carnival is believed to have first started in 1162, when Venetians gathered to celebrate a military victory in Saint Mark's Square.

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

During the Renaissance period, the carnival became an official celebration, offering Italians of the era the chance to forget about their everyday worries by donning elaborate masks and costumes and attending lavish parties.

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

After the Austrian conquest of Venice in 1797, however, the festival was abandoned, and in the 1930's Mussolini's fascist government banned the celebrations altogether.

READ ALSO: Venice Carnival: What to expect if you’re attending in 2024

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

It didn't start up again until 1980, when locals decided to revive the carnival to promote Venetian culture and history (and try and get the city's off season tourism industry going).

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

These days, Venice is grappling with the problem of overtourism, with around one million visitors arriving on average over the course of the festival. Local transport services are increased for the festival's duration to avoid overcrowding on buses and water buses.

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP.

The carnival opens with the 'Flight of the Rat' (Svolo della Pantegana), when a giant model rat leads colourful decorated boats in the opening parade sailing down the Grand Canal.

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READ ALSO: Beyond Venice: Eight other carnivals to visit in Italy in February 2024

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP.

The parade typically features over 100 boats with 800 costumed rowers, accompanied by traditional Venetian songs.

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP.

It's followed by the Festa delle Marie – a historic beauty pageant during which 12 young local women are dressed up in Renaissance costumes and paraded throughout the city. A vote is then held at the end as to which of them makes the best Maria.

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

The annual competition to judge the most beautiful mask started this year on February 3rd, and will be held daily until the 13th.

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP.

These days you'll find some more unconventional costume choices in amongst the traditional Renaissance costumes.

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

The theme of this year's festival is 'To the Orient: Marco Polo's Amazing Journey', to mark the 700th anniversary of the explorer's death.

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.
 
 
 
 

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