The Carnevale di Venezia (Venice Carnival) has been celebrated since the 11th century, making it one of the oldest carnivals in the world.

Carnival of Venice
Marco Bertorello/AFP
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters

This year, the carnival cheer exploded on Sunday (12 February) with hundreds of people gathering around the Grand Canal to admire a flotilla of boats carrying spectacularly dressed revellers wearing flamboyant costumes and masks – a nod to the city's historic origins. In the eighteenth century, masks were used by noble Venetian's in order to keep anonymity whilst voting on council matters. Masks were also used to enable people to avoid the bad smell of the canals or if plague hit the city.

During the two weeks of carnival the city fills with thousands of tourists from across Italy and the world. Masked balls are held in ancient Venetian palaces, while concerts and gondola parades are organised in the piazzas and canals. IBTimesUK presents some of the best photos from the carnival so far:

Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
A masked reveller has make up applied during Venice CarnivalTony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Tony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Venetians row during the masquerade paradeTony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Venetians are seen on the Grand Canal during the masquerade paradeTony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
A man paddles on a surfboard during the masquerade parade on the Grand CanalTony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Dancers perform during the opening ceremony of the Venice CarnivalTony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
A dancer performs during the opening ceremony of the Venice CarnivalTony Gentile/Reuters
Carnival of Venice
Dancers perform during the opening ceremony of the Venice CarnivalTony Gentile/Reuters