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Venice, "Il Giorno delle Marvellie"

The origin of Mardi Gras celebrations in Venice can be traced back to the 11th century. At that time, on March 3 each year, the city held its own carnival, known as "Il Giorno delle Marvellie", which would end on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. This was a day of feasting and merrymaking, with citizens wearing masks and elaborate costumes while they paraded the streets of the city. This practice of wearing masks and costumes dates back to the Venetian Republic, where it was common for nobles and other members of high society to conceal their identities to protect their reputations.

During the Renaissance period in Venice, the tradition of Mardi Gras began to evolve. From the late 15th century onward, Mardi Gras began to take on the religious form of a procession led by the Doge in his ceremonial robes, accompanied by Venice's nobility, an orchestra and floats. The main parade through the city streets took place on the Tuesday of Carnival week, with smaller processions occurring throughout the week. These processions became more elaborate from the 17th century onward and would often feature figures from classical mythology and other celebrated people of Venice’s past.

Traditionally the modern Carnival opens with the Flight of the Angel, an ancient tradition known as the Flight of the Columbine, in which a young girl dressed in a sumptuous vintage dress launches herself from the top of the Campanile of Piazza San Marco to land in the crowd in the presence of the Doge. The Carnival of Venice 2024 (Carnevale di Venezia 2024) will take place between Saturday, January 27, and Tuesday, February 13, 2024, in the beautiful city of Venice.

But in recent years, since 2011, the task of opening the Carnival belongs to the most beautiful Maria elected during the Carnival of the previous year. This tradition has its roots in an ancient and popular Venetian festival, perhaps dating back as far as 943: this is the Festa delle Marie. On the afternoon of the first Saturday of the holiday period, 12 Venetian girls parade in period costumes to Piazza San Marco, where the next day a jury chooses the most beautiful, which, bearing the title of Mary of the Year, in the following Carnival will represent the angel who, flying from the Campanile of San Marco, will give the official start to the festivities.

Carnival is one of the most famous "monuments" in Venice. Because this time of the year that sees transgression, amusement and carefree lightness as its connotative elements, reaches its maximum virtuosity in the lagoon city, with a great resonance all over the world. Once upon a time, when Carnival took up most of the year, about six weeks, people indulged in fun in a goliardic spirit that united all, people and aristocracy, prelates and authorities, giving an unusual and permissive social leveling, unrepeatable on other days. Today, Mardi Gras continues to be an important part of the Venetian culture and an integral part of the Carnival celebrations. Thousands of people wear costumes and masks during the two-week Carnival festivities and the main parade, now known as the "Festa della Sensa", still follows the same route through the city streets every year. On the eve of Ash Wednesday, a magnificent firework display at the Piazza San Marco, brings the carnival to a close.

Masks were completely handmade, mixing clay, papier-mâché and plaster. On this white and neutral base, creativity was unleashed, creating rich and sumptuous decorations, made of colors, embroidery, precious stones and high and light feathers.

It became real job: the mascareri, a bit of craftsmen, a bit of artists who worked all year to the creation of carnival masks. Even today the tradition of the mascareri is very rooted in the city, and also very much in demand.

The most famous mask was undoubtedly that of the bauta, which included an entire disguise. The mask was white, with the particular shape of the pointed and protruding chin that gave the possibility of drinking and eating without having to take it off the face: this was the most widespread, both for men and women. And it was worn with the tricorn, the famous three-pointed black headdress, and a wide black cloak.

Women, instead, loved to wear the moretta, a dark-colored velvet mask with a round shape that was supported on the face thanks to a button held in the mouth and that made it impossible to speak. Today little used since it is not comfortable to wear.

Around the city one of the masks that you will often see is that of the doctor of the plague, which in reality was used by doctors to visit the plague patients: it is a mask made with a long aquiline beak that allowed to contain within it a filter made with salts and aromatic herbs, which "isolated" the doctor's sense of smell from the unpleasant odour that surrounded him. Today this mask is linked to the carnival festivities because over time it has acquired a superstitious and exorcistic value with regard to diseases.

If you want to feel like a Venetian for a few days I recommend booking an apartment to feel like a citizen. I advise you to choose one of the beautiful apartments of Venice Heavens Apartments. You can choose from six apartments all located in the heart of the city, which will allow you to experience the real Venice, the authentic one, choosing between the most famous and the most peaceful areas. The apartments San Marco 1 and 2 are just behind the famous square, the Cà Giulia with a splendid terrace on the red roofs of the city is in the heart of the area once inhabited by the Greeks, close to the elegant Riva degli Schiavoni, the Cà Matilde is located in the young part of the city, close to Campo San Stefano, a stone's throw from the Accademia Bridge, while the Biennale 1 and 2 are immersed in the quieter Sestiere Castello, a few meters from the Arsenale, far from the hustle and bustle of the center.

The apartments are all freshly restored, tastefully furnished, in a modern language that leaves significant traces of the typical Venetian style: an original and authentic accommodation. Large and spacious, can accommodate a minimum of 2 people, for young couples, up to a maximum of 8 for those located on the same landing, for larger families.

Beyond the Carnival there is so much to experience in this magical city.

1. St Mark’s Basilica: A stunning Roman Catholic church located on Piazza San Marco, St Mark’s Basilica is a must-visit for anyone looking to explore the history and sights of Venice. This beautiful church offers tours during the day and evening, and it’s a great place for tourists to sit and admire the grandeur of the city below.

2. Doge’s Palace: Another grand attraction in Venice, the Doge’s Palace is a grand palace with a rich history. Within the palace, tourists can explore the museums and state apartments of Venice’s former residents, as well as seeing some of the impressive artwork on display.

3. Grand Canal: The Grand Canal offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the city from the water. Tourists can take a boat tour and explore some of the city’s main attractions, or stop for a gondola ride for a true Venetian experience.

4. Rialto Bridge: This iconic bridge stretches across the Grand Canal and is one of the most photographed places in Venice. Stop by to admire the beautiful architecture, or simply to take in the amazing views of the canal below.

5. Guggenheim Museum: The Guggenheim Museum is perfect for any art lover who is looking to explore Venice’s art history. Located on the Grand Canal, the museum houses pieces from some of the most renowned artists in the world, including Picasso, Pollock, and Warhol. 6. St. Mark’s Square: This iconic square plays host to a range of activities, from concerts to markets, and it is well worth a visit for tourists hoping to get an authentic taste of Venetian life. As well as visiting the numerous eateries and cafes located near the square, visitors can also take in the majestic buildings that flank it.

7. Lido di Venezia: Head to the picturesque island of the Lido for some much-needed relaxation. Tourists can dip their toes in the crystal clear waters, or take part in some of the various activities and attractions on offer. For more information about sites, hotels, restaurants and night clubs in Venice, visit the following website: For tips specifically for tourists, visit the official website of the Venice Tourist Board. The following are some of the top hotels in Venice with their contact phone numbers: • Belmond Hotel Cipriani: +39 041 5207744 • Hotel Aquae Oasi: +39 041 2411063 • The Gritti Palace: +39 041 794611 • The Westin Europa & Regina: +39 041 792911 • Bauer Il Palazzo: +39 041 5207022 • Sina Centurion Palace: +39 041 34191 • Hotel Saturnia: +39 041 5241341 • Hotel Canal Grande: +39 041 5244891 • Ca’ Pisani Hotel: +39 041 2411014 Some of the top restaurants in Venice with their contact phone numbers: • Osteria da Fiore: +39 041 5223888 • Trattoria da Remigio: +39 041 5236899 • Da Ivo: +39 041 5200640 • Cantinone Già Schiavi: +39 041 5228141 • Antica Trattoria Da Gigio: +39 041 5226475 • Il Refolo: +39 041 721004 • La Colomba: +39 041 5235127 • Ai Due Soldi: +39 041 5236592 • La Zucca: +39 041 296 0793 Some of the top night clubs in Venice with their contact phone numbers: • Blu Marlin: +39 041 5230188 • Momentum Club: + 39 041 528 0991 • Moon Club: +39 041 5258179 • Skyline Club: +39 041 5204272 • Mirtillo Club: +39 041 2631085 • Caffè del Doge: +39 041 528 5419 • Free Banus: + 39 041 524 4843 • Arsenal: + 39 (0) 41 723506 Finally, here are some tips for tourists visiting Venice: • Wear comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking in and around Venice. • Make sure to have enough cash with you when you go out, as not all establishments will accept cards. • Take the time to try some of the delicious Venetian specialties such as risotto and tiramisu, or just a cold glass of prosecco. • Plan your itinerary in advance to make sure you make the most of your time in Venice. • Check the weather in advance as it can be quite hot during the summer months. • Take plenty of photographs to keep the memories of your trip alive.

by Roy Webb


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