Venetians were cloaked, masked and robed in style for the first full day of the Venice Carnival on Sunday (February 1) as they rowed their way along the canals followed by crowds of curious onlookers.

A freezing winter chill and grey skies didn't deter cheerful, masked revellers as the lagoon city's annual carnival got underway in earnest with the traditional first day boat parade.

Scores of boats representing different organisations and affiliations made their way to the fabled district of Cannaregio cheered on by visitors on bridges and piers.

"It's fantastic. I've never seen anything like this before, all these people here. We've been to carnival later, in the weeks later but never at the beginning like this so it's fantastic," said tourist Susan Beckley from Leeds, United Kingdom.

The Venice Carnival is world famous - it always takes place during the ten days leading up to Lent.

Carnival, being a pre-Lent festival, means 'farewell to meat' and is celebrated throughout Italy. It was first held in Venice in the 11th century and consisted of over two months of revelry, until it fell into decline during the 18th century.

Having been revived in 1979, visitors come from all over the world to visit Venice during this period.

"It's become very commercial and now the Venetian elements, the social side of the carnival doesn't exist anymore, it's all just commercial now. That is my opinion. All the Venetians have left the city, there are no Venetians here," Rosan said.

The 2015 edition, which is running with the theme "The Most Delicious Feast in the World", will celebrate Italy's culinary traditions and triumphs.

This year's carnival runs until February 17.