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The Warsaw Voice » Other » May 28, 2008
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Carnival Time in Venice
May 28, 2008   
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The Venetian carnival is one of the best known and oldest in the world with written sources dating back to the early 14th century. The carnival used to start any time from October to December and lasted several months. These days, it barely lasts 10 days and usually starts in February, but the age-old carnival philosophy of "turning the world upside down" still prevails.

The masked parades still go on for hours as they did in days of yore, accompanied by additional attractions like baroque music concerts and balls, the most famous of which is held in the Sala del Ridotto of the Palazzo Dandolo where the famous 18th century lady killer Casanova achieved his greatest amorous successes.

The biggest carnival attractions are still the masks and these have not changed all that much over the centuries. Among the best known Venetian masks are the bauta for men and the moretta for women. The bauta is a white leather mask with a protruding jaw that completely conceals the wearer's identity. It distorts the voice but the wearer can eat and drink without removing it. The moretta is an oval mask made from black velvet and is kept on the face by a thin rod clenched with the teeth.

Venetian masks were traditionally made from leather, paper-maché and velvet. Nowadays, masks are also made from ceramics and luxurious fabrics and are colorful and elaborately decorated.

But you do not need a mask to join in the revelry. Go to Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) on any carnival day and, for a token fee, you will find students from the nearby Academy of Fine Arts happy to make up your face so that it is completely unrecognizable.

The most popular women's carnival attire is an extravagant wig and a baroque gown or cloak. And fastidious followers of tradition from the not-so-fair sex choose the famous black cloak of Casanova.

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