Venetian New Year’s EveBy
If you had been here, you could have done any or all of the following to celebrate the Night of Saint Silvester, as it is also known here.
You could have ingested a festive dinner at Harry’s Bar for a trifling 500 euros ($662) per person. It was marked down at the last minute from 1,200 euros ($1,590) because times are hard. I’m not sure how much profit they made at that price considering that the menu covered champagne, caviar, truffle ravioli, tournedos and so forth. Maybe they downgraded from Beluga to Sevruga. That’s what we’ve certainly done.
And yet, the transcendent Arrigo Cipriani, owner, scion, and namesake of this legendary establishment, has not only made it sound as if he has slashed prices more drastically than a tire/mattress/car salesman, he also made it known that in spite of the hard times, almost all the tables were already taken, so you had to book fast. I guess I understand that. Make it sound like a sale and people automatically think they’re saving money.
After you had reveled in your Lucullan repast, you could have gone around the corner to the Piazza San Marco not only to watch the fireworks but create your own (metaphorically speaking) by throwing in your osculatory lot with all the other couples thronging the piazza who have been primed by weeks of publicity to come here to kiss each other at midnight.
It’s the third year that this experience has been offered and it was an immediate success; it is now referred to as a tradition. Four thousand lips beating as one.
Two years ago a family from Milan lost their golden retriever in the crush and the city was plastered with their appeals for months, complete with photo (was her name Molly? Lucy?). Eventually she was found, which kind of surprised me, but not how long it took. Considering how many dogs there are here, she must have been having the best time of her life.
Then there will be the homemade explosives set off around town. Usually here they aren’t big or dangerous enough to blow away arms and put out eyes and all the rest of what happens in Naples and other places addicted to New Year’s ordnance.
Speaking of things going crash and boom, Lino remembers when people here still marked midnight by throwing out the window everything they wanted to get rid of. “Everything!” he repeated when I asked for examples. Dishes. Glasses. Chairs. Toilets. (I did not make that up.) He says that people in Rome and Naples still do it. I’m making a note of it on my “Not To-Do” list. Right next to my note that says “Wear black fishnet stockings, hard hat.”
Otherwise, though, he says that, until the Seventies, New Year’s Eve wasn’t regarded as an event to celebrate in any particular way here. “At midnight, all the ships in the port blew their horns. Otherwise, people just went to bed like any other night.” Making their own pyrotechnics.
Wherever you were, I hope your celebrations were just what you wanted, no less, and certainly no more.
Happy New Year!