The Venice Carnival festivities should have already started, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made its annual appointment impossible. Last year authorities shut down the Carnival on its third day, just before Italy became the first country in the West to face an outbreak.
Now Italy has logged more than 2.5 million confirmed virus cases, including more than 88,000 deaths. A “surge” has taken on a different, more ominous context.
Alleys are eerily empty. Italy’s current infection-control restrictions do not allow traveling between regions. Even if Carnival had been held, relatively few people would have made it to Venice.
The Carnival’s appeal is rooted back centuries, when, for a brief stretch in the run-up to Lent, the Catholic period of penitence that begins on Ash Wednesday, ordinary Venetians would strut about masks, taking on temporary new identities, and for a few days become indistinguishable from members of the proud maritime city’s ruling class.