The Carnival of Venice (Italian: Carnevale di Venezia) is an annual festival held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, on Shrove Tuesday (Martedì Grasso or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday. The festival is world-famous for its elaborate masks.
It's said that the Carnival of Venice was started from a victory of the Venice Republic against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven in the year 1162. In the honour of this victory, the people started to dance and gather in San Marco Square. Apparently, this festival started in that period and became official in the Renaissance. In the seventeenth century, the baroque carnival was a way to save the prestigious image of Venice in the world. It was very famous during the eighteenth century. It encouraged licence and pleasure, but it was also used to protect Venetians from present and future anguish. However, under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and later Emperor of Austria, Francis II, the festival was outlawed entirely in 1797 and the use of masks became strictly forbidden. It reappeared gradually in the nineteenth century, but only for short periods and above all for private feasts, where it became an occasion for artistic creations.
After a long absence, the Carnival returned in 1979. The Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centrepiece of its efforts. The redevelopment of the masks began as the pursuit of some Venetian college students for the tourist trade. Since then, approximately 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for the Carnival. One of the most important events is the contest for la maschera più bella ("the most beautiful mask") which is judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers.