Translation edited by: Arianna Cassani.
Since we were young kids, we have always been used to think about Carnival like a moment of the year in which, no matter how, people must dress up in any possible way.
People think about how to look beautiful, but at the same time people also think about how to look odd or bizarre. They participate in parades in the town squares or go to private parties where they show off their costumes.
I’ve always thought that the Venice Carnival was something of that kind, but enclosed in an evocative atmosphere. I was wrong.
The Venice Carnival is much more than what I have always thought: it is a spiritual experience that is handed down over time, and the ones who take part in it identify with it.
The term Carnival comes from Latin, and it means “to eliminate meat”. It refers to the day after Mardi Gras, the day in which starts the period known as Lent that imposes renunciation and fasting.
During Roman times, Carnival was identified as a moment of the years in which it was possible to live a joyful and allegorical collective ritual, where there was no difference between social classes, no difference between genders and hierarchies.
Some documents testify that in Venice there are ancient trails of past Carnival celebrations, an edict of the Serenissima Senate dated 1296 says that Carnival was considered a public celebration, but there are also some testimonies coming from craft ateliers that started producing masks many years before.
Finally, during the 18th Century, the Venice Carnival had becomefamous in the whole Europe: it was at its high noon.
The theme of the celebration is obviously the costume: without the masks and the dresses the atmosphere may vanish. The charm and the light-heartedness recall a transgression that can be experienced only in that period of the year.
The masks and the costumes guarantee anonymity, and during the Carnival the streets of Venice turn into a huge stage where people can live and show their innermost fantasies.
The symbolic and exclusive mask of Venice Carnival is the “bauta”. It is generally associated with a black cloak and a black cocked hat. The mask that has to be put on the face is white, and its main characteristic is the deformed upper lip that modifies the voice of the person who wears it.
People who wear this mask can eat and drink without removing it, so that they can remain anonymous.
This transgressive soul was handed down over centuries, and people can live this experience still today. There is just one clause that must be observed: respecting its own spirit, living the experience in an almost mystical and evocative way, just like many people do every year coming from different parts of the world, visiting Venice as if they are on a pilgrimage and re-invoking this ritual through its elegant and sumptuous costumes.
The Venice Carnival cannot leave You untouched, and – using a quote belonging to Stendhal – : “I willingly put a mask on my face and with delight I would change my name.”