Costumes out as Venice Carnival gets under way

Masked balls are a highlight of the Venice Carnival. (AP)

Masked revellers swarmed Venice over the weekend as the historic Italian city launched its annual Carnival.

Hundreds braved wintry weather to watch a street parade and performance of 18th-century Venice-set comedy The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni on Saint Mark's Square.

Yesterday, tourists thron-ged the main piazza to watch the Carnival's traditional "flight of the angel" in which a young woman glides on a harness from the belltower of Saint Mark's Basilica.

The centuries-old 10-day carnival had fallen out of favour but was reinstated – in part as a tourist attraction – in 1980.

This year, Venice shares the limelight with Rome, which launched the second edition of its own carnival on Saturday, and Viareggio in Tuscany whose 137-year old carnival is known for its papier maché puppet politicians.

 

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