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A Garden in Venice

Garden art & lifestyle

How do Venetians perceive Carnival in their town

Carnival morning, February 2014: Caffé Florian, Piazza San Marco
The Venetian Carnival has two faces, and is perceived in an ambivalent manner by inhabitants: Flipping through the newspapers these last few days, you could have read that the weather was really bad, driving tourists and "masks" away with the constant threat of heavy rain and even hail pouring down on Saturday afternoon. Not more than 40 thousand visitors were expected to come into town this domenica grassa (Carnival Sunday), and there really were less costumed people around than there are usually. Still, according to the papers, there were 75,000 visitors arriving in town by 9:30 am, mostly disembarking at the train station and walking towards Piazza San Marco along the direttissima - Lista di Spagna and Strada Nova. This year, they were carrying umbrellas and wearing these typical masks covering eyes and nose, and traditional black-and-white fluffy Carnival hats. Wearing costumes would have been rather difficult with the lots of umbrellas and wet weather anyway, and recurring acqua alta bouts.
THe Piazza this year is rather empty, with the threat of acqua alta and no mask in sight at 10 am.
For those people participating in the exhibitions located at the Arsenal, the fact that during Carnival, the passarelle had been removed, was making return a bit more difficult when acqua alta was on the rise towards midnight.  And the same was true for those people witnessing festivities in the Piazza.
Crowds a few nights ago at the Gran Teatro in Piazza San Marco
But let us not forget about the hosts of Carnival: How do Venetians perceive Carnival festivities in town? 
By now, the local papers title "Il Carnevale contestato" (Controversial Carnival), and"Via il Carnevale dai campi" (away with Carnival from our little squares in town). Papers also write that "I Veneziani se ne vanno a Cortina per il Carnevale" (Venetians leave for Cortina d'Ampezzo to escape Carnival).
But there is news this year: One very high-quality feature has been added to the numerous Carnival events, by the Venezia Rivelata project, in addition to historic events coming alive at the Arsenale ...
There is some truth in the fact that Carnival does not make daily life easier for residents, in particular on weekends and during afternoons and early evening. It is also true that some Venetians leave for the mountains to enjoy skiing and the snow, some really do so to escape the crowds.
Still, some fundamental changes have been made in how Carnival events were organized in the last few years: When I was a child in the 1980s and 1990s, Carnival festivities involving crowds took place in Piazza San Marco, there was music, people passed by wearing masks and drinking hot chocolate in the coffee houses lining the Piazza. The little squares used to be a playground for Venetian children ... Last year I posted an installment describing what Carnival was like in the 1980s, please click here to read it.
These days, Carnival is spreading out into the small squares in Venice, and the "Notti in campo"events program is taking over. That means that the crowds also come to the smaller campi (squares) that are farther away from the Piazza. This year, some events and festivities even took place at the Arsenal (click here to read more about that program). One event even depicted the battle of Lepanto, a historic battle that took place in 1571 between Christians (amongst them the Venetians) and Turks.
La battaglia di Lepanto, Arsenale
Other campi involved in the Carnival events are that of Santa Margherita, but also Campo Manin or Campo Sant'Angelo. This meant that the people living there had a hard time to sleep - with music and loud voices resounding until past 3 am. So when you would like to sleep it may be quite hard to love Carnival in Venice..
Still, there are advantages of Carnival too, beloved by Venetians of course ... if you think food-wise. Now is the time to taste special seasonal and Carnival biscuits, like the ones called Arlecchini offered now by Pasticceria Marchini (Campo San Luca) that you can see in the picture above. But also lots of other typical Carnival sweets, fried and hot and sweet, such as fritole, castagnole, galani, krafen ...
Few visitors in Campo San Zaccaria on a morning last week
My absolute personal favorite event during Carnival 2014 was the evening hosted by Venezia Rivelata and story teller Alberto Toso Fei:

You can watch the event in the official videoI attached below. It took place in the Monastery of San Salvador near Rialto, including the well-known writer and story teller Alberto Toso Fei, relating about how Carnival was celebrated in the times of the Venetian Republic.
If you would like to take a look at Carnival festivities in the Piazza, where a Teatro Grande stage has been set up at one end, click here for the very convenient Webcam: (offered by Hotel Concordia):


Posta un commento

Line ha detto…
I feel sorry for those who don't work for the tourism industry and don't want to celebrate during carnevale, and I think it is getting out of proportions. I'm not sure it should spread in the smaller campi for so late at night.
Do you know what is the proportion of tourists / Veneziani that celebrate the Carnival?
Furbiziahs ha detto…
Dear Line, Venice had approx. 58,000 inhabitants as of end-2013. During the two Carnival weekends in 2012 and 2013, when the weather was sunny and mild, 150,000 visitors were counted on Saturday and Sunday. So visitors outnumber Venetians considerably. For this last Carnival weekend, 75,000 visitors were counted, but then the constant rain fall including acqua alta deterred many people from coming into town. So it can get really crowded. Still, as I wrote, such a nice feature has been added to the Carnival program this year, I mean the Venezia Rivelata iniative ...

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