Is there anything more flamboyant and mysterious than the Carnevale di Venezia, aka Venice Carnival, which this year lights up the waterways of this mesmerising city from 15 February to 4 March 2014.
Steeped in centuries-old tradition, the Venice Carnival is held in the lead up to Ask Wednesday, as part of the Easter celebrations. The alleyways and waterways of Venice welcome locals and travellers alike clad in exquisite costumes and of course, opulent masks. This oh-so grown up elegant festival is an opportunity to don 18th century-themed outfits and behave as outrageously as you dare – after all, you are concealed by a mask!
The place to be seen is undoubtedly one of the high society Carnivals Balls, where the rich and famous go to party. If you are limited by budget (or connections) simply revel in wandering the shadowy alleys where seemingly each costume is more extravagant than the last.
An early incarnation of the festival was established in 1162, although it took a further 100 years for the event to gain official status. It peaked during the 18th century when Venice was known as the hedonistic capital of Europe!
The nineteen-day long must-experience spectacle features a packed cultural programme of workshops and exhibitions where you can learn to make the flamboyant papier-mache masks and browse historical exhibits of dresses and accessories from years gone by. There is also a Kids Carnival, costume content and a fascinating (and truly inspiring) photographic contest. Full details can be found on the official website http://www.carnevale.venezia.it/?slang=en
Also during the Carnevale di Venezia period many of the city’s museums, churches and cultural sights offer discounted admission. Spend the day admiring the opulent Doge’s Palace and the highly ornate Italian artists’ frescos within the Saint Mark's Basilica Gloriosa dei Frari. Wander the National Archaeological Museum and admire the modern art on display at the Cà Pesaro International Gallery. Then spend the evening mingling mysterious with the Venetians who sure know how to party!
Image credits; 1; heatherbroster via flickr CC BY 2.0, 2; heatherbroster via flickr CC BY 2.0