Archive for Carnevale

Jan
19

Carnival closing in

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This year Carnival is starting early, thanks to the lunar schedule which governs Easter (January 27 – February 13, if you’re keeping track; two and a half weeks, which seems long, but it’s three weekends, which is what really matters).  Therefore we are enjoying a shorter-than-usual interlude of calm and tranquility between Epiphany and the aforementioned Carnival — a mere three weeks, which isn’t nearly long enough to take all those deep breaths you so urgently need.  But there’s no arguing with the Paschal Full Moon, counting backwards from, and I imagine the city fathers would be happy for it to run for six months, as it did in the olden days, considering how much lucre spills into the municipal coffers therefrom.

What I am enjoying are the jolly signs of its approach.  Here are just a few glances around the neighborhood.  And yes, as every year, the frittelle are appearing in the pastry shops, and wild swaths of confetti have already been seen strewn across the pavement.  I notice that the garbage-collectors have been sweeping them away.  Why?  They’re not a health hazard.  They’re not a safety hazard.  They’re not ugly or offensive.  I wouldn’t have thought it possible to find yet another reason to complain about the garbage-collectors-and-sweepers, but I can’t see why they don’t devote whatever small, random spasms of energy they may experience with their brooms to sweeping away real trash, and just leave these merry little fragments of frivolity on the pavement, where they can cheer people up.  But so many things perplex me, no point in picking just one.

This is all it takes to make me happy.  The people just distract me — it’s much better if I come across the confetti as if thrown by an occult hand.

The first indication I saw of the oncoming juggernaut was the entire section of the Coop supermarket window stacked with boxes of galani, bags of confetti, a packages of streamers.

Shards of flour, fat and sugar. You deserve a close-up of these little monsters, they are so good.  But what — no masks?  Not so fast…

Just around the corner, in the sensible-food aisle next to the shelves of dried legumes and cellophane-wrapped bread are some masks. They thought of everything.

As did Mario and his wife in the nameless housewares and detergent and mops and toothpaste shop.  You can get glitter eyeliner here too, while it lasts.

They’re keeping pace with the Carnival Diet in the Conad supermarket on the Lido. Boxes and boxes of galani brought in from some demented factory where the ovens are baking night and day.  I wonder if these are any better than the ones in our neighborhood?  I wonder if I should seek the answer to that question?

 

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Feb
28

The Carnival spirit

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As I may or may not have ever mentioned, Carnival has lost most of what little appeal it ever had for me.  That is why I have made very few photos of this event this year.  Or last year.  However, my not being interested in Carnival as she is practiced here doesn’t mean I don’t know how madcap it could be for the thousands who come to enjoy madcappery for a few days.  The knell rings at midnight tonight, as you know, so tote those frittelle and haul those masks.

Here are just a few images from the past few days, things that made me smile.  That’s my version of Carnival.

A few mornings ago, I cast an affectionate eye on our little boat across the canal. It has been sprinkled with confetti from time to time, which has made it look cheerful.  I may not dress up, but I’m all for the boat looking giddy. But there was something on the plastic cover…

It’s something all dressed up as a dead rat. How original! And repulsive!

I may be the last person to have discovered this little trove of hats, most of them of the gondolier variety, arranged on a wall at the squero of San Trovaso. Venice, city of a million hats and behind each one a story….

In the center we see the two hats of Janus, in straw: “Dopo” (after) and “Prima” (before).  Perhaps we’re meant to read from right to left.  Or maybe time is running backward.  It sometimes feels like that.

This succinct note, on a closed newsstand in Udine last Sunday: “‘Dear’ petty thieves, on the third time you’ve come here you still haven’t understood that there isn’t any money here to steal.”  It’s not a joke but it still makes me laugh — not at the owner, but at the thieves.

Don’t even imagining laughing here. Her strategic position in Campo Santa Maria Formosa, on the trajectories from San Marco, Rialto, the Fondamente Nuove, Oslo, Cape Town and Zagreb, have stretched her to the limit. I don’t think this is a Carnival joke. Just buy the newspaper and move on.

If I had stayed up all night trying to compose a picture (in my mind, on canvas, with crayons, whatever) that said “Carnival is over,” I couldn’t have come up with this. Sorry it’s so perfect because now you’re all feeling sad.  Never mind, it’ll be Easter soon.  The chocolate eggs are beginning to appear and Lent hasn’t even started yet.  Gad!

 

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Feb
10

Ready, aim, Carnival

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I don't know what the rest of this partyer looked like -- I was too busy admiring her hands and mask.  I love her mitten -- it's like a hunting glove for stalking smurfs. Don't let the word get out that you don't have to encumber your entire body with pounds of upholstery fabric, and a long ton of accessories, to be all dressed up for Carnival.

I don’t know what the rest of this partyer looked like — I was too busy admiring her hands and mask. I love her woolly handwarmer.  It’s like a hunting mitten for stalking Smurfs. Don’t let the word get out that you don’t have to encumber your entire body with pounds of upholstery fabric, and a long ton of accessories, to be all dressed up for Carnival.  There would be civil unrest.

For whatever reason, Carnival does not attract me anymore.

Headlines such as the one yesterday reporting on Sunday’s attendance:  “100,000 yesterday for the opening of Carnival” could have something to do with my lack of enthusiasm.  Headlines such as one today: “The purse-cutters have arrived,” referring to the young pregnant Bosnian women who now, to expedite the lifting of your wallet, have taken to slashing your handbag, could also be relevant.  Crowds, however amusingly dressed, make life awkward, at best, for most people except other dressed-up persons and, of course, the purse-cutters.

But let’s do a fast rewind on the festivities so far.  Last Saturday — the day which opens the 11-day clambake — we saw the first major organized entertainment: The Procession of the Marias.

The main reason we saw it is because it takes place mere steps from our front door.  Also, the weather was beautiful and it was great to be outside.  Also, the participants outnumbered the spectators (or almost).

The program is simple.  Everyone lines up in Campo San Pietro and wends their way slowly, and with great clamor, across the wooden bridge and along the fondamenta to the foot of via Garibaldi.  Here the space opens comfortably and everyone has a chance to see the many costumed processioners, and the Marias themselves, close up.

“Everyone” includes the Marias (obviously), the phalanx of young men assigned to carry the Marias, and abundant and varied troupes of trumpeters, drummers, knights, commoners, banner-twirlers, and the doge and his wife and some Venetian senators and councilors, all in vaguely Renaissance garb.

The girls are loaded onto their respective wooden platforms, hoisted on the shoulders of their bearers, and carried at the head of the procession all the way to the Piazza San Marco, where they mount the stage and are generally admired and photographed.  On February 16, the penultimate day of Carnival, the Maria of 2015 will be chosen and crowned.

In case this doesn’t sound like much of a big deal, the Maria of today will become the “Angel” of next year, sliding down a wire from the top of the campanile of San Marco to the pavement on the opening day of Carnival.

Here are some things I enjoyed seeing this year.  Yes, there were things I enjoyed.  Briefly.

Not really marching, more like strolling.  The important thing is not to stop suddenly.  Or at all.

Not really marching, more like strolling. The important thing is not to stop suddenly. Or at all.

I’m guessing that the three life-size paperdolls (which ought to be of wood), recall the eventual fate of the Marias and their festival. Conflict and strife arose between the participating families (when your daughter’s in a beauty contest with really rich prizes, you tend to get tetchy), so the Serenissima substituted Marias made of wood, and when nobody was happy with those, stopped the festival altogether. That was in 1379, so I guess they made their point.

    I like the lookers at least as much as the looked-upon.

I like the lookers at least as much as the looked-upon.

This little guy was my favorite. But why is he trapped behind the window? Everybody else has got their windows open and their mufflers on.

This little guy was my favorite. But why is he trapped behind the window? Everybody else has got their windows open and their mufflers on.

The grandmothers are hardier than anybody.

Case in point.

The Marias had lovely costumes but I was appalled to see that they had spent the morning in hairdo hell.  When you consider the labor involved in arranging all this hair, and applying 146 layers of hairspray, not to mention the pain, they might as well have gone one step further and just worn wigs.

The Marias had lovely costumes but I couldn’t stop looking at their hair.  They must have spent the morning in hairdo hell, the tonsorial equivalent of Scarlett O’Hara getting laced into her corset. When you consider the labor involved in arranging all this hair, and applying 146 layers of hairspray, not to mention the pain, they might as well have gone one step further and just worn wigs.

I've already picked my favorite, if anybody cares.  No idea what her name is, but if she doesn't win, I'm going to have to take action.

I’ve already picked my favorite, if anybody cares. No idea what her name is, but if she doesn’t win, I’m going to have to take action.

Let the procession proceed, immortalized by the everlasting selfie.

Let the procession proceed, immortalized by the everlasting selfie.

He may be asking the Carnival equivalent of "What's the weather up there?"

He may be asking the Carnival equivalent of “How’s the weather up there?”

And the caravan moves on, up via Garibaldi toward the Riva degli Schiavoni.  Better keep moving while the sun's still shining because as soon as it starts to set, the cold will make your hair break off.

And the caravan moves on, up via Garibaldi toward the Riva degli Schiavoni. Better keep moving while the sun’s still shining because as soon as it starts to set, the cold will make your hair break off.

These are major trumpeters, evidently saving their fanfares for the Piazza San Marco.

These are major trumpeters, evidently saving their fanfares for the Piazza San Marco.

Bringing up the rear is a quartet of "sbandieratori," or banner-throwers-and-twirlers.

Bringing up the rear is a quartet of “sbandieratori,” or banner-throwers-and-twirlers.

Moving on to the next banner-throwing stop.

Moving on to the next banner-throwing stop.

Speaking of banners, I have no idea what regiment, nation, creed or sport this might belong to, but it looked great in the wind.

Speaking of banners, I have no idea what regiment, nation, creed or sport this might belong to, but it looked great in the wind.

And the Maria-cade moves on toward the distant Piazza San Marco.  Better them than us.

And the Maria-cade moves on toward the distant Piazza San Marco. Better them than us.

No pressure, but if you know one of the judges, remind him or her that this is the winner.

No pressure, but if you know one of the judges, remind him or her that this is the winner.

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Feb
14

Carnival for everybody else

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Monday night looked sort of like this, except that the water was much higher and there was more snow, which was lifted up in large undulating slabs like polar icepack. But this is just our little corner of the universe. Multiply all this by quadrillions and you can imagine the Piazza San Marco. Still, the real problems weren’t where there was water, but where there was snow. And ice. And so forth.

You know the old saying: “Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed.”  (Is that an old saying, or did I just make it up?)

Following that bit of wisdom gave me a Carnival which was modest to the point of self-abnegation.  With lots of fritole.  The only unpleasantness was the acqua alta, but it did not reach the predicted epic proportions. (In fact, let the record show that one positive aspect of the imminent threat of water in the house is that, when all the stuff was piled on our two pieces of furniture, I cleaned and washed and dusted objects and places which hadn’t seen the hand of man since we moved in.) We had no plans or projects or desires or dreams or anything which could have been frustrated or ruined. And we didn’t lose power.

Reading the rundown in yesterday’s Gazzettino, though, I get a picture of a Carnival which for lots of other people — most of whom had needs far surpassing ours, primarily to travel in some way or to some degree in the culminating days –should have been called, not “Live in Color,” but “Going to Hell in Color.”

If you wanted to come to Venice on Monday night, with or without an expensive costume — or more to the point, if you really wanted to leave Venice on Monday night — you’d have found yourself involved in a sort of Ironman Triathlon: Riding the Train/Bus, Crossing the Square, and Finding Your Way Home in the Dark.

I could write a long post full of details, and I’ll keep the paper for a few days in case anybody asks me for more information.

But the headlines howling from a few pages of the paper tell enough. The thing to keep in mind is that island Venice covers some three square miles; mainland Venice covers some 21 square miles (Mestre is 8 square miles, Marghera is 13 square miles). It’s not Mexico City.  It’s not even Hampton, Connecticut.

Translation: How hard could it be to clear away some snow and keep the buses and trains running?

Answer: Hard.  Very hard.  Harder than building the Eupalinian aqueduct. Especially since it appears that nobody believed this storm was really going to hit.

There is a rundown in the paper of how many squads were working, and how many snowplows and salt trucks.  Unfortunately, they must have been phantoms; hardly anyone seems to have seen either them or evidence of their passage. In fairness, I note that there were people out working to deal with it all. Not enough, but some.

The second thing to keep in mind is that this large and violent storm, with snow and high water thrown in at no extra cost, was forecast for at least three days.  And it had already hit the west coast of Italy, and much of the south.  In other words, it wasn’t some bizarre anomaly which struck without warning.

In the order in which they appear, starting on page one of the local section (translated by me):

Under the snow, the inefficiency of the Veneto.  The prefect calls in the chiefs of public transport.  Consumers resort to the Procura (that is, the court. The prefect is the local representative of the President of the Republic, and pretty much outranks everybody.)

The precipitation caught just about everybody unprepared, from the Comune of Venice to the trains and at the airport. There were photos of people deplaning and struggling across the slippery slush covering the tarmac to get to the terminal. The baggage handling system went haywire. And so on.

There were blackouts all over the place, including the train stations in Venice and in Mestre. Not only tourists, but lots of commuters were either stranded or left to wait indefinitely for trains that were late, late, and late.

SNOW PLAN, everything has to be redone. If you read the whole article, you’ll ask yourself what they think “plan” might mean, when you consider how it worked out. The plan is ten years old, for what that’s worth.  And why, you ask, does the municipality keep a plan that has to be dusted every year because it’s never used until it’s useless?

Acqua alta, a night of terror.  The wind saves Venice and Chioggia. As previously noted by me, but without the “terror” part, at least in our little hovel.

Bad weather freezes the arrivals; Fat Tuesday for 60,000. This would only concern people with something to sell, because it’s less than half of the numbers which were expected.  Having fewer people around was the only good news I can see for emergency crews or any other group which had to contend with the breakdown of the plan.  I mean “plan.”

Transport chaos: the prefect isn’t having it. Ca’ Corner (headquarters of the prefect) retorts to the accusations of the transport people and wants to shed light on the reasons for the inconveniences (meaning no excuses).

“Crushed in the few buses which left Piazzale Roma.”  Needs no explanation except why there were so few buses, something the prefect also will be wanting to know. But remember that the buses to the mainland are operated by the ACTV, which has shown such impressive skill in managing transport by vaporetto.

Burano: Blackout on an island which finished under water — volunteers at work the entire night. High water doesn’t affect only Venice, when you stop to think about it.  The people on the islands have to get out the mops too.  In this case, they had to do it in the dark.  Fun.

Between water and blocks of ice; the fear finishes at midnight.  Bridges and streets slippery, people walking with tall boots alarmed (the people, not the boots) by the prediction of 160 cm.  Merchants on alert.  Nobody could help that there were blocks of ice floating around, which actually were more like heavy slushy shards; the street outside our door looked like the polar sea in spring, and so did the Piazza San Marco. Unlike the last acqua alta, there were no bare-chested tourists frolicking blithely in the gelid waist-deep water.

On the Giudecca, fondamente in the dark because the electricity was out.

Chemical toilets (port-a-potties) adrift in campo San Polo. Wow….

A storm of protests; the snow plan has to change.  The Comune demonstrates the efforts made to deal with Monday’s weather emergency, but even City Hall admits that in the future it will be necessary to do much more. Brains on fire! Smoke coming out of their ears!

No buses at the hospital (in Mestre); the employees forced to sleep in the hospital. 

And so on, and on, and on.

There are 220,000 Scouts in Italy; surely somebody in the Comune must have been a Scout at some time.  But “Be Prepared” seems to have been replaced by “Let’s just hope for the best.” 

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