Anyone who loves a masquerade will have a blast at Italy's annual Carnival festival, held in the beautiful city of Venice every February. The largest of its kind in Italy, every year people come from around the globe to partake in the merriment of this celebration in which colorfully clad masked partygoers roam the streets. Several companies whom specialise in festivals travel provide exciting tours to this amazing event.
Known locally as "Carnevale", this festive holiday is observed just before Lent, in February, but the exact date varies from one year to the next. The tradition started during the twelfth century following a local victory, its lavish and indulgent nature is also believed to stem from the fact that all excessive drinking, eating, and partying is strictly off limits during Lent.
The tradition perpetuated and by the Renaissance it was being celebrated in grand style. Locals would take to the streets of Venice adorned in fancy costumes and wearing exquisitely crafted masks, and various performances would be put on in the city's public squares. These festivities started to lose popularity over the years, first declining in the 18th century, and finally being banned altogether by Mussolini in the 1930's.
Fortunately, by the late 1970's, a group of local artisans successfully managed to get its observance reinstated. The reborn Carnival resulted in a huge boost for Venetian tourism, with about three million people from around the world visiting the city every year for this outstanding two-week event.
Masked balls, both private and public, represent the height of the festivities, but there are also lots of other fun events that take place, most of them being free of charge, such as concerts, candle-lit boat processions, and street entertainment by clowns, buskers and such. One can take in a play, participate in some traditional sporting events, or simply enjoy the abundance of delicious food and drink.