Venice Carnival celebrations open amid tighter security
Thousands attended the grand opening in St Mark's Square of the Venice Carnival, celebrated yesterday under heightened security following the sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in Cologne and the ongoing terror threat in Europe.
Authorities increased surveillance throughout the city, including the number of officers on patrol, both undercover and in uniform, but rejected a proposal to ban revellers from wearing masks.
By Venice tradition, elaborately costumed Carnival-goers stroll through the canal-laced city showing off their finery, finished with hand-painted masks.
DANGER OF MASKS
Venice police chief Angelo Sanna told The Associated Press that the discussion about masks was approached "with balance and attention because Carnival is the masks. It is difficult to have Carnival without them".
He said spot checks would be made of masked revellers to check identities. Law-enforcement officials were also being posted throughout the city to eye visitors as they stream to St. Mark's Square, the focal point of the event, and other major sites.
The pre-Lenten festival opened yesterday with a two-hour show at the Cannaregio canal and continues through to February 9.