Nightlife & the Arts in Venice
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Visit www.aguestinvenice.com for a preview of musical, artistic, and sporting events. Venezia News (VENews), available at newsstands, has similar information but also includes in-depth articles about noteworthy events. The tourist office publishes a handy, free quarterly Calendar in Italian and English, listing daily events and current museum and venue hours. Venezia da Vivere is a seasonal guide listing nightspots and live music. Several Venice websites allow you to scan the cultural horizon before you arrive; try www.turismovenezia.it, www.veneziasi.it, www.veniceonline.it, and www.venicebanana.com. And don't ignore the posters you'll see plastered on the walls as you walk—they're often the most up-to-date information you can find.
Although Carnevale has traditionally been associated with the time leading up to the Roman Catholic period of Lent, it originally started out as a principally secular annual period of partying and feasting to celebrate Venice's victory over the patriarch of Ulrich Aquileia in 1162. To commemorate the annual tribute of a bull and twelve pigs Ulrich was forced to pay, a bull and pigs were slaughtered each year on the day before Lent in Piazza San Marco. The use of masks for Carnevale was first mentioned in 1268, and its direct association with Lent was not made until the end of the 13th century. Since then, for centuries the city marked the days preceding quaresima (Lent) with abundant feasting and wild celebrations. The word carnevale is derived from the words for meat (carne) and to remove (levare), as eating meat was restricted during Lent. Venice earned its international reputation as the "city of Carnevale" in the 18th century, when partying would begin several months before Lent and the city seemed to be one continuous masquerade. During this time, income from tourists became a major source of funds in the Serenissima's coffers. With the Republic's fall in 1797, Carnevale was prohibited by the French and the Austrians. From Italian reunification in 1866 until the fall of fascism in the 1940s, the event was alternately resumed and banned depending on the government's stance.
It was revived for good in the 1970s when residents began taking to the calli and campi in their own impromptu celebrations. It didn't take long for the tourist industry to embrace the revival as a means to stimulate business during low season. The efforts were successful. Each year over the 10- to 12-day Carnevale period (ending on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday), more than a half million people attend concerts, theater and street performances, masquerade balls, historical processions, fashion shows, and contests. Since 2008 Carnevale has been organized by Venezia Marketing & Eventi (www.carnevale.venezia.it). A Guest in Venice is also a complete guide to public and private Carnevale festivities. Stop by the tourist office (041/5298711 www.turismovenezia.it) or Venice Pavilion for information, but be aware they can be mobbed. If you're not planning on joining in the revelry, you'd be wise to choose another time to visit Venice. Crowds clog the streets (which become one-way, with police directing foot traffic), bridges are designated "no-stopping" zones to avoid gridlock, and prices skyrocket.
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