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Venice Carnival kicks off in Italy

As many as 50,000 people arrived in Venice starting this year’s Carnival celebrations. As the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations has been gradually declining in recent weeks, the authorities decided to launch the festival for the first time since 2019.

“This is the carnival of hope. COVID-19 is ending and we hope to return to our life as always. We hope to return to our normal lives, with hope and enthusiasm,” one of Venice’s residents told the Reuters news agency.

The decrease of COVID-19 infections led the government in Rome to lift the obligation to wear facemasks outdoors under most circumstances. Some key attractions, however, such as parades will remain suspended to avoid contagion.

The centuries-lasting carnival

The Venice Carnival began centuries ago as a period of excess before the rigors of Lent, the 40 days of fasting that traditionally precede Easter. A traditional Carnival costume often included a mask – not as a guard against disease as in current times, but so festival-goers could hide their identities and do as they pleased.

On Saturday, only a few people were seen wearing costumes and the mood was more subdued than usual, but this is expected to change in the coming days as this year’s edition, officially entitled “Remember the Future”, gets going.

“I am sorry not to see the [Venetian Carnival] masks that I would have expected, but it is a restart,” Ketty Milano, a Venice resident, said.

The Carnival is due to run until March 1.

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