By: Francesca Montillo, Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures
You’ve certainly seen images of it, and perhaps have been intrigued by it all. The masks, the loud music, the rowdy behavior, the overindulgence, but what exactly is Carnival? There’s more to it than the masks, right? And why even wear a mask?
Venice has been celebrating Carnival “on again, off again” since 1162. Having just won their victory over the Patriarch of Aquileia, Venetians took to the streets for celebration. Masks were always important to Venetians, and they were permitted to wear them from the day after Christmas until the day before Ash Wednesday. Also worn during other times of the year, it wouldn’t be unheard of for Venetians to wear masks for upwards of six months of the year! Masks permitted the generally reserved and “high society” Venetians to partake in risky business, such as gambling, or mingling with the higher class. Masks took one out of character and allowed one to become someone else (transgressions were not unheard of).
There certainly isn’t a lack of entertainment in Venice during this time of year, and this can last anywhere from 12 to 14 days, leading to Ash Wednesday. St. Mark’s Square becomes a festive and joyous piazza filled with locals and tourists alike wearing masks and costumes. Food stalls are common selling local items such as the famous peach Bellinis to frittelle, or fried dough. (If you’re looking for a great recipe eaten during Carnival, be sure to check this recipe for Chiacchiereout!) Many events are family-friendly and free, while some require tickets and an admission fee. Many parades include children dressed as cartoon characters. Music festivals fill the streets and “invite only” masquerade balls are also very common.
Many celebrations can be very expensive but numerous hotels host their own masquerade balls, so this may be a great option. Fancy dress-up gowns can be rented, though I advise buying a mask and keeping it as a souvenir. They are wonderful ornamental items that can be carefully displayed on your wall. They make for a great addition to any home office.
But remember; don’t get too risqué while wearing your mask. You may be wearing a mask today, but don’t do anything you wouldn’t be able to look yourself in the mirror for tomorrow!