The many lives of the Venice Carnival

The Venice Carnival is believed to have started in the 12th century as an spontaneous celebration of a military victory by the Serenissima Repubblica against Aquileia, at a time Italy was fragmented into city states. It grew to become a splendid feast in the 18th century until the Austrian occupiers of Venice prohibited it, as well as the wearing of masks: the Paris attack by Islamic terrorists last year threatened it this year, but common sense prevailed (under heavy security). Since reintroduced by the Italian government in 1979, it has recovered its magnificence of old. But it still retains, if only superficially, a major value for the public at large: it is still a social equalizer, for we all become one and the same under the mask, and can escape, albeit briefly, the strictures of routine and life in society. And as Napoleons and Madame Pompadours, as well as characters from the One Thousand and One Nights walk by you at St. Mark’s Square, another notable feature emerges: it is a merry opportunity to experience the fantasy of a time and being that is not ours, a small correction that once a year we are afforded to return to the era, place and name we would have wanted to be born into. (Photos by Leandro Doeyo)

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