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VENICE, Italy (Reuters Life!) - Venice will turn its centerpiece St Mark's Square into a Renaissance garden for this year's carnival, the kickoff to the city's tourist season, organizers said on Wednesday.
The square will get a green makeover, with nearly 4,000 plants laid out as a formal garden for the February 14-24 carnival, organizers told a news conference.
Admission to the layout of plants, hedges and walks on the crowded week-ends will be limited to people wearing masks.
The carnival celebrations will include processions, concerts, art shows, food displays and plays.
Events range from Dario Fo, Italy's Nobel laureate playwright, reading from his work "Mistero Buffo" on February 14 to a drag queen beauty contest.
Mayor Massimo Cacciari underscored the economic importance of the event, especially given the financial downturn.
"We've got a hard year ahead of us and authorities have to work together to do everything to help out what is the most important industry of our region -- tourism," he said.
Investments include 1.5 million euros from the city's marketing agency and another 4 million euros from commercial partnerships.
Organizers expect 800,000 to 1 million visitors for carnival, whose end marks the beginning of Lent. The festival signals the restart of Venice's tourist season, which runs into the fall.
Reporting by Ian Simpson, editing by Paul Casciato