Inspiration for Europe
Travel and dream: discover the continent’s meeting points and explore the traces of its history through fresh eyes.
February arrives, and the streets of Venice are transformed into a theatrical scene of masquerade costumes and masks. Carnival is here, and this year will take place from 16 February to 5 March. Are you ready? The party’s about to begin!
Origin of the festival
Carnival originates in the Bacchanalia and Saturnalia festivities of the Roman Empire, when the people took to the street and partied wildly. The masks were used as an element of disguise to maintain anonymity. It was a way of enabling the lower classes and the upper classes to feel equal, then everyone could enjoy themselves without constraint. The festival was banned in Napoleon’s time, but resumed in 1896.
An opportunity to discover the carnival characters
Harlequin, Pantalone, Pulcinella, Colombina, Pierrot and Brighella, all are typical characters from the 16th century Commedia dell’arte. A theatrical representation which opposed the traditional ‘noble’ and ‘academic’ theatre. Consequently, the most curious aspect of these characters is that they are a satire of Italian society, symbolising naivety, love, humour, greed and ignorance, among other things.
Despite the masks being characteristic of the 17th century, many people today still faithfully follow the original designs. Among the most popular are: the maschera nobile, a white mask with black silk robe and a three-cornered hat; or the bauta, a mask which stood out from the face and allowed the wearer to talk, eat and drink without having to remove it.