Tens of thousands kick off Venice Carnival
VENICE (AFP) - Some 70,000 revellers, many wearing elaborate costumes and masks, thronged Venice's St Mark's Square on Sunday to watch the traditional "flight of the angel," a highlight of the annual Carnival.
Marta Finotto, a 20-year-old Venetian student, had the honour of performing the stunt, gliding on a harness from the 99-metre (325-foot) belltower of Saint Mark's Basilica to a stage below, wearing a black top hat and a red gown with matching boots.
The centuries-old Venice Carnival, rooted in Christian festivities ahead of the fasting period of Lent, attracts hordes of foreign and Italian tourists to its masked balls and theatrical performances.
Nadia, a visitor in her 40s from the northeastern Italian town of Biella, said the revelry helps people to forget Italy's financial crisis, at least for a while. "Once a year we forget everything, we have fun, otherwise life has no meaning," she told AFP-TV.