Venice’s pre-Lenten merry-making has inspired many a pithy axiom. For centuries Carnevale sumptuously celebrated the pleasures of the “flesh” both literally and figuratively, with its seductive devil-may-care ambiance. The word carnevale is derived from the Latin noun for “meat” (carnem) and the verb for “remove” (levare). A long ago church edict declared that whoever ate meat during the forty days of Lent could not receive communion on Easter, which was a big deal back in the day (also a clever way to ration meat which could be in short supply during the winter months).
Over the years the celebration of Carnevale expanded and expanded … with its festivities beginning with the Epiphany in January (when the Three Kings visited Jesus) to la settimana grassa (the fat week) leading up to Ash Wednesday. By the end of the Venetian Republic (the late 1700’s) Carnevale lasted, believe it or not, for nearly half the year (!) with merry revelers donning costumes and elaborate maschere (masks) and doing whatever (!) with whomever (!). Each year around this time, you can experience a joyous re-enactment of the original grand old party (about a 10-day affair) … and also partake in a dizzying photographic feast without equal! (All the photographs featured in this post are courtesy of Anita Sanseverino who has been taking dazzling photos of La Bella Italia for decades.)