25 February 2007

Carnevale a Venezia

Carnevale in Venezia is well-attended and well worth the effort. The city may be packed with tourists, and you may need to flee to the modern art museums during the day for breathing space (as we did), but Carnevale in Venice is too grand an event not to warrant a visit.

What exactly is Carnevale, you ask? I'm not sure. By the looks of it, Carnevale involves wandering the city dressed head-to-toe in elaborate costume and occasionally lifting your mask a bit to enjoy a 10:00am glass of wine at the coffee bar. If you're a child it's your opportunity to unabashedly launch handfuls of confetti at all passers-by while if you're a young adult your aim is to launch, instead, bottles of wine down your throat.

For all of the Bacchanalean behavior, it's a somewhat organized affair. You wind your way down to the Piazza San Marco -- the Piazza of postcards and pigeons fame -- and either strut around showing yourself off, or stand around watching the others strut. There are also performances scheduled throughout the day and night; the most enthralling involving either rock music or fire. (It's hard not to be impressed by a 15 foot flaming stick figure. I should also mention that the early 90's dance music leading up to the performance was top rate. I don't know when I last heard Rhythm is a Dancer, Mr. Vain, and Show Me Love in one continuous set. We weren't ashamed to shake a tail feather in the Piazza.)

You can watch giant men, in giant ball gowns with hoop skirts underneath, work their way through the crowds. You can watch tiny, adorable Winnie the Poohs charm everyone in their path. (We couldn't get a good shot of Pooh because everywhere he went the crowd converged around him. Even drunken teens were enamoured and would stop dancing to crouch down and give him a tap on the head or take his picture.) And you can watch Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf take a load off and rest a while.

Piazza San Marco was covered in confetti and crammed with people. The mood was joyful and the folks in costume would pause to let everyone else take their photos. There was impromptu singing and long conga lines of young people swirling through the crowds -- the line getting longer and longer with each spiral around the square. Vendors with carts covered in masks lurked at the edges while husbands balanced cameras on their wive's heads in order to steady the nighttime shots.

What a wonderful place to be. With art and illustrations projected on these historic buildings and the bell tower. With live music and dance. With wine and fire and confetti fluttering in the air. The nights were crisp and clear and Stefano and I stood in the midst of it all, soaking it in.

And after the concert the crowds filtered out into the maze of tiny Venetian streets. Costumes drifting over the pavement, the canals reflecting color and light. Is there a better place for Carnevale to unfold?

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