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Experiencing Festivals Abroad: Carnevale in Venice, Italy

 Gondolas near St. Marcos in Venice, Italy
 
 Venice, Italy near Accademia

Venice may be the most gorgeous city I have been to yet. Visit during Carnevale and you will get a free show of how decadent the city can be. No one has to seek out any entertainment -  just wander around the city and you will bump right into Venetians in full costume.

Throughout the city, men and women alike dress in elaborate ensembles and continue on as if it is a regular day. Although, do not be fearful of asking for photos as they are more than happy to oblige. Most costumed Venetians stroll through the city posing for tourists, however they will not speak to you as that would put them out of character.

 Traditional Venetian Carnivale attire.

Carnevale is an ancient tradition dating back to the thirteenth century. There are many theories as to why the citizens of Venice began to wear masks, though the most common theory is that it allowed all citizens to socialize equally. It is thought that for a few nights a year society could mask itself and the people would then be free to commit any acts they pleased without fear of social repercussion. It is also thought that masks were used to bring the city together, thus for a few nights there were no social classes; maids and merchants could roam among royalty without anyone knowing.
 Burano Island
 
 Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell'Assunta, Torcello Island

Though Carnevale is a sight to see, Venice is packed during these weekends and in fact there is much to see on other islands. In Venice, be sure to visit Doge's Palace, St. Marco's and Rialto Bridge, which has beautiful views of the city. Most of Carnevale takes place at St. Marco's, which is jam-packed with people from all over the world dressed in crazy costumes, as well as citizens of the city dressed in traditional Carnevale attire. When a break is needed from Carnevale, go island hopping and enjoy what the rest of the region has to offer. Murano Island, which is famous for glass making, features a glass museum where you can watch a live demonstration of glass blowing, as well as shop for handmade figurines.

Burano Island, also known as the rainbow island, features fresh fish and houses painted vibrant colors. Burano is also known for artisan lace and anyone could spend hours there perusing the shops looking at everything from lace umbrellas to dresses made from Venetian lace.

Torcello Island is the oldest commune of Venice, and includes the seventh century Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell'Assunta. Although a quieter island, Torcello has incredible structures from twelfth century Venice and is perfect to get away from the crowds.

 
 St. Marco's at night Venice, Italy

Zamzam Abdulgani is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in the French Alps. She is currently a junior at Washington State University. 

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