Just got back from Venice and here are a few high points.
Saturday night was the Grand Opening of Carnevale and the event took place on the Canale di Cannaregio between the Ponte Tre Archi and the Ponte Guglie. The first show started at 6 PM, lasted about an hour and repeated at 8 PM. Huge crowds were on the bridges, but we found standing room along the Fondementa Pescaria. A pretty good sound system gave announcements in both Italian and English leading up to the start, as well as music during the show.
The show consisted of a series of “floats” on barges moving slowly up and down the canal with costumed performers. Many of the floats had large balloons attached, not quite Macy’s Parade size, and a themed tableau taking place. My favorite was a female diver who repeatedly swan-dove into a giant clear cup of “coffee”, generously splashing her costumed spotter as well as the canal-side audience. The water was obviously heated so that it steamed, as well as provided some warmth for the diver in the 40 deg F ambient air. She then climbed out, making sure the onlookers got a soaking and remounted her platform, displaying her physique and setting up for the next coffee dive..
One float had a girl wriggling around on a huge fish hook dangling from a fishing rod held by a “fish”. Another had a satyr doing acrobatic somersaults in a mock drunken manner between big slugs from a “wine” jug. All in all, it was a very Cirque du Soleil experience. Just when we were thinking how a nice bottle of wine with go well with the show, we noticed a mom-and-pop shop on the street behind us. The owner happily sold us a 6 euro bottle of Valpolicela, uncorked it for us and gave us 4 plastic cups. The canal side party was now complete.
The following day was the boat parade at the same location. This time, it was all groups and organizations rowing every type of Venetian water craft. Each team wore theme costumes and it seemed that there must have been a competition for best costumes, themes, etc. The teams could also be seen on the Grand Canal rowing to their staging points and waving to the onlookers riding the vaporettos. Again, there was a wide assortment of costumes, many in elaborate Carnevale get-ups, others as Holstein cows (On Wisconsin!), and monks and priests with appendages that were borderline obscene. The Pink Lionesses were great. Their boat displayed the logo of the Mestre Ladies Lions Club.
There were a lot of people also wandering the streets of Venice in the full Carnevale regalia. They seem to be sponsored by Carnevale committee, as they happily posed for photos, and unlike the “Gladiators” in Rome, never asked for money. At the end of the parade there was another surprise, free food! Food stands were set up on both sides of the canal and the crowds lined up to get a plastic plate of whatever was being served. We got a plate of bean and carrot stew, others got spaghetti carbonare. The food was apparently prepared and donated by local service organizations. Lots of people were walking around in masks and children and even their dogs in costume. The mask shops and venders were doing land office business. All-in all, a quite enjoyable weekend.
To be continued.