Lonely Planet Writer

This year’s stunning Venice Carnival launches with a colourful water parade

Large crowds gathered in a range of colourful costumes and traditional Venetian masks last weekend to celebrate the launch of the Venice Carnival 2017.

Venice Carnival
The ‘Pantegana’ (Big Rat) releases balloons and smoke on Cannaregio Canal at the end of the traditional regatta. Image by Awakening/Getty Images
Venice Carnival
A woman dressed in mask and period costume takes part in the Carnival of Venice. Image by Marco Bertorello/Getty Images

Saturday marked the beginning of the annual event, which is due to run until 28 February and features a diverse range of activities, including parades, pantomimes, musical performances, workshops and best mask competitions. Last weekend saw the traditional regatta taking place, a unique parade that sees boats making their way across the Cannaregio Canal. Pictures from the day show gondolas adorned with eye-catching decorations such as giant statues of rats and seagulls, while colourful balloons and smoke was used in celebration of the much loved event. Nightfall saw an incredible light show taking place on the canal, with a host of incredible sights such as a boat with huge illuminated jelly fish dancing above it.

Venice Carnival
A masked man poses during the masquerade parade on the Grand Canal. Image by Marco Bertorello/Getty Images

The carnival dates back to the 11th century, but was stopped in the 18th century before being brought back to life in 1979. Since then, it has been an extremely well-attended and popular event in the Italian calendar each year. Visitors and locals take the opportunity to dress in Venetian masquerade masks and wigs, with tailors throughout the city creating handmade carnival costumes of all kinds for the occasion.

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