The Venice Carnival arises from the tradition of the sixteenth century, where the nobility disguised themselves to go out and mingle with the common people. Since then the masks are the most important element of this carnival.
The costumes that are used are characteristic of the eighteenth century, black silk clothing, three-point hat and the maschera nobile (noble masks). Since 1979 other colors have been added to the costumes, although the masks remain white, silver and gold.
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 Carnival of Venice lasts for 10 days. During the evenings, dances are held in salons. Companies known as Compagnie della Calza perform parades throughout the city.
Learn more about the Venice Carnival at http://www.carnevale.venezia.it/