Around the end of January and the beginning of February the city is awaking from its winter hibernation.

For the streets and squares it’s a lively, colourful, noisy awakening, attracting a diverse crowd of people.

It’s the Carnival of Venice.

An event which attracts brings visitors from around the world to the city year after year.

Walking around you meet people with the most strange and amazing masks, all brought together in a blaze of extravagance and rich colour, with a bit of harmless exhibitionism and a great desire to have fun; entertainment for big kids and little ones alike.

From the magnificent masks of ladies and knights from 1700s Venice, rich and elaborate with satin, velvet and lace, transporting you back through the centuries; to the classic masks of the Italian commedia dell’arte; to more original masks, born from the imaginations of the creators who wear them.

Finally, the easiest attire for this festive period: a simple mask over the eyes, hiding the face.

At the Carnival is there are nearly as many photographers as there are masks; armed with all their equipment, they wander the city to find the perfect angle for a shot that frames the most beautiful or unusual masks, who are in turn ready to strike a pose.

Alongside the professionals is a large group of amateurs or simple tourists, brandishing their cameras to take home some memories of this incredible Venetian event.

The preferred stage is, of course, Piazza San Marco, where it’s almost impossible to walk due to the amount of people, especially on weekends.

It’s a fun crowd, and there’s no use hurrying to get anywhere; just dive in and get carried away, like floating in the waves, with your camera or phone to snap those essential photos.

The square is also one of the main places where some of the events organised by the municipal city administration are held.

One of the best known is the so-called “flight of the angel/flight of the dove” in which a young girl, with a suitably sturdy harness, is lowered on a strong rope from St Mark’s Campanile down to a stage set up in the square, while a crowd of masks watches on with their noses in the air.

Many other varied events take place around the city during the carnival, with an extensive calendar available on the internet.

This is an unconventional opportunity to explore the city in a whole new way, either as a spectator or as an actor, whether you wear just a simple mask on your face or rent rich costumes and immerse yourself completely in the charm of a city that, once again, manages to surprise visitors with new perspectives.

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