Masked revellers swarmed the streets and waterways of Venice on Sunday as the historic Italian city launched its annual Carnival.
Hundreds of tourists and locals braved wintry weather to watch a 60-horse street parade, followed by a performance of an 18th-century comedy set in Venice, "The Servant of Two Masters" by Carlo Goldoni, on Saint Mark's square.
On Sunday thousands of tourists are set to throng the main piazza to watch the Carnival's traditional "flight of the angel" in which a young woman glides on a harness from the belltower of Saint Mark's basilica.
The centuries-old carnival, rooted in the Christian festivities ahead of the fast of Lent, had fallen out of favour but was reinstated -- in part as a tourist attraction -- in 1980.
Masked balls and theatrical performances will liven up the city streets through out the 10-day period, with a special carnival programme for children.
This year Venice shares the limelight with Rome which launched the second edition of its own carnival on Saturday, as well as Viareggio in Tuscany whose 137-year old carnival is known for its papier mache puppet politicians.