A woman wearing a traditional carnival costume poses in front of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. The famous bridge takes its name from a legend which tells of how prisoners on their way to their cells would be able to take one last look at beautiful Venice and sigh. The annual Venice Carnival is known around the world for its spectacular costumes and parties. The festival’s history reportedly reaches back to the 12th century, when the Republic of Venice defeated the Patriarch of Aquileia in 1162. While having a centuries-long history, the carnival (famed for its elaborate masks) has been banned for extended periods, including under Mussolini, and festivities were only officially resumed in 1979. The streets of Venice will be filled with masked revellers until February 9th, the day before Ash Wednesday.