13 of the best photos from this year’s Venice carnival

Despite lower than usual attendance, this year's Venice carnival got off to a flying start.

13 of the best photos from this year's Venice carnival
Masked revellers in St Mark's Square on February 16, 2020. All photos: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Thousands of people, many dressed for a traditional masked ball, crowded into Saint Mark’s Square on Sunday to witness “the flight of the angel”, the opening event of the annual Venice Carnival.

Each first Sunday of the carnival, a young woman chosen as “Marie” has the honour of performing the stunt, gliding through the air on a harness attached to a cable from the 99-metre (325-foot) bell-tower of Saint Mark’s Basilica to a stage below.

“It was extraordinary, I felt the wind, the sea, the ground and the fire in me,” this year’s angel Linda Pani told AFP-TV.

This year’s “angel” Linda Pani after her flight.

She described the experience as “perhaps the happiest three minutes of my life”.

The centuries-old Venice Carnival, rooted in Christian festivities ahead of the fasting period of Lent, attracts crowds of foreign and Italian tourists to its masked balls and theatrical performances.

It is now one of the most famous carnival celebrations in the world, with around three million visitors coming to the city each spring to watch or join in the festivities.

READ ALSO: ‘Tourism is killing Venice, but it’s also the only key to survival’

However this year attendance has reportedly dropped, with some visitors staying away following severe flooding in November. Fears of the coronavirus are also thought to have stopped many people from travelling.

As a result, some parties and annual events had to be cancelled this year.

However, many were able to continue as usual, with grand masked balls being held in the city’s most famous hotels and venues.

The carnival, which lasts until February 25, was created in Venice in 1162, the day after a military victory.

All photos: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

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Italy to pay €57m compensation over Venice cruise ship ban

The Italian government announced on Friday it would pay 57.5 million euros in compensation to cruise companies affected by the decision to ban large ships from Venice's fragile lagoon.

A cruise ship in St Mark's Basin, Venice.
The decision to limit cruise ship access to the Venice lagoon has come at a cost. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The new rules, which took effect in August, followed years of warnings that the giant floating hotels risked causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city, a UNESCO world heritage site.

READ ALSO: Venice bans large cruise ships from centre after Unesco threat of ‘endangered’ status

Some 30 million euros has been allocated for 2021 for shipping companies who incurred costs in “rescheduling routes and refunding passengers who cancelled trips”, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

A further 27.5 million euros – five million this year and the rest in 2022 – was allocated for the terminal operator and related companies, it said.

The decision to ban large cruise ships from the centre of Venice in July came just days before a meeting of the UN’s cultural organisation Unesco, which had proposed adding Venice to a list of endangered heritage sites over inaction on cruise ships.

READ ALSO: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from its lagoon?

Under the government’s plan, cruise ships will not be banned from Venice altogether but the biggest vessels will no longer be able to pass through St Mark’s Basin, St Mark’s Canal or the Giudecca Canal. Instead, they’ll be diverted to the industrial port at Marghera.

But critics of the plan point out that Marghera – which is on the mainland, as opposed to the passenger terminal located in the islands – is still within the Venice lagoon.

Some aspects of the plan remain unclear, as infrastructure at Marghera is still being built. Meanwhile, smaller cruise liners are still allowed through St Mark’s and the Giudecca canals.

Cruise ships provide a huge economic boost to Venice, but activists and residents say the ships contribute to problems caused by ‘overtourism’ and cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.