The celebration runs from January 27 until February 13 this year. Here's how to experience the annual festival like a proper Venetian.
Although accounts on the exact start of the Venice Carnival vary–some attribute it to the 11th century while others claim it began in the 12th–most agree it was a celebration of the incognito. With a mask and a costume, poor and rich alike assumed whatever identity they wished and the disguise afforded them a freedom they didn’t have the rest of the year. So appealing was this anonymity that by the 18th century, many wore masks for as long as six months a year.
When the Republic of Venice fell to Austria in 1797 the new rulers outlawed both the carnival and mask wearing. The fascist government in the 1930s also forbade the celebration with religious roots. But Venetians never lost their appetite for disguise and in the late 1970s–after almost a 200-year break–the carnival was back. Resurrected thanks to the efforts of both costume- and mask-makers, Carnival has since been celebrated every year, drawing as many as three million visitors into the city.