Revellers preparing to mark the first full day of the Venice Carnival on Sunday (1 February) awoke to a flooded city as high waters washed over canal walls and flooded St Mark's Square.

Locals and tourists were forced, once again, to walk along raised wooden walkways and carry their luggage in order not to get wet. Cafe chairs and tables sat forlornly in the piazza turned into a lake.

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Masked revellers walk on raised platforms during a period of seasonal high water on the first day of carnivalStefano Rellandini/Reuters
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Tourists walk on platforms installed on the flooded St Mark's SquareStefano Rellandini/Reuters
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People walk past a cafe on the flooded St Mark's Square during a period of seasonal high waterStefano Rellandini/Reuters

According to Italian media reports the median level of the Adriatic Sea rose to a height of 114cm above sea level, putting some 18% of Venice's historic centre under water on Sunday.

While Venetians are used to the "acqua alta", or "high waters", tourists waded through the water and posed for photos on the flooded streets. Many covered their legs and feet with plastic bags or sported thigh-high rubber boots. In some places, it was impossible to distinguish where canals ended and pavements began.

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A man carries his dog as he walks around the flooded St Mark's Square in VeniceStefano Rellandini/Reuters
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A supplier carrying goods across the flooded St Mark's SquareStefano Rellandini/Reuters
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A masked reveller poses along the flooded St Mark's Square and on the first day of carnivalStefano Rellandini/Reuters
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People wearing carnival costumes on platforms over the flood waters on St Mark's SquareStefano Rellandini/Reuters

The world famous Venice Carnival takes place during the 10 days leading up to Lent. Carnival, which means 'farewell to meat', was first held in Venice in the 11th century, but fell into decline during the 18th century. It was revived in 1979 with huge success and nowadays it is a great excuse to don a mask and costume, parade around the city and enjoy the live music in the main squares of the city.

Visitors come from all over the world to visit Venice during this period. Claudio Rosan, a resident, lamented that the carnival had turned from a local celebration into a commercial event targeting foreigners over the years. "It's become very commercial and now the Venetian elements, the social side of the carnival doesn't exist anymore. All the Venetians have left the city, there are no Venetians here," he said.

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Masked revellers pose in front of gondolas in VeniceStefano Rellandini/Reuters
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A reveller wearing a traditional carnival costume poses in front of the Venice lagoonStefano Rellandini/Reuters
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A carnival reveller takes a picture of friends in front of the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)Stefano Rellandini/Reuters
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Iranian mask artisan Hamid works in his shop Ca' del Sol, near St Mark's Square during the first day of carnivalStefano Rellandini/Reuters
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Costume designer Stefano Nicolao holds up a dress in his atelier, which stocks more than 10,000 costumesStefano Rellandini/Reuters
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A gondolier rows a gondola past Giudecca island in the Venetian lagoonStefano Rellandini/Reuters

The 2015 edition, which has the theme The Most Delicious Feast in the World, will celebrate Italy's culinary traditions and triumphs, and runs until 17 February.