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Venice packed for carnival finale

Mardi Gras celebration coincides with International Women's Day

09 March, 15:26
Venice packed for carnival finale

(ANSA) - Venice, March 8 - All hotels in this picturesque lagoon city have hung out their no vacancy signs as hordes of costumed merrymakers gather for the finale of Italy's most famous carnival celebration Tuesday night.

Over 280,000 visitors arrived last weekend filling all available beds not only in Venice but also on the Lido island facing it and the neighboring city of Mestre on the mainland.

"This is the highest occupancy we've ever seen in the three areas, a far cry from last year," said Vittorio Bonacini, head of the Venice Hoteliers Association.

Carnival will conclude here at midnight with a procession of gondolas and other traditional row boats along the Grand Canal, under the Rialto bridge to the dock at St Mark's Square, with all palaces and homes illuminated only by LED candles as thousands of balloons will be released to usher in the beginning of Lent.

In order to handle the massive crowds, police have put an additional 160 men on the streets, many of which have been made one-way to ensure the flow of people.

Because this year's Mardi Gras coincides with International Women's Day, the celebration has been dedicated to women.

Aside from Venice other famous carnival celebrations in Italy include the one in Ivrea, near Turin, where the traditional 'battle of the oranges' left hundreds of 'victims' at the weekend, and one in the Tuscan seaside town of Viareggio where a traditional parade of allegorical floats takes center stage.