In my view, Venice is a wonderland for photographers, and opportunities for great pictures abound there anytime of year. However, the winter festival of Carnevale di Venezia, or Venetian Carnival, is a truly remarkable experience and my favorite event to photograph. During Carnival, models and spectators appear throughout Venice dressed in elaborate and vividly colored costumes, masks and face paint making this a spectacular event by all accounts.
Carnevale di Venezia dates back to the 12th Century when it began as a celebration of the Venetian victory over Aquileia. Each year following the defeat, Aquileia was required to provide Venice with a bull and twelve pigs, which were slaughtered and consumed by the Venetians in a daylong feast. The festival expanded to nearly two weeks over time, and wearing masks allowed commoners and royalty to mingle and revel together anonymously without consequence. Control of the participants and their excesses became increasingly difficult, allowing the festival to degenerate to the extent that Napoleon banned it when he conquered Venice in 1797. Carnevale never really recovered until 1980, when it was resurrected by the city to provide a source of tourist income during the winter.