Archive for festa

Dec
26

Bring on the Santas

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Yes, Virginia, those are  Vikings masquerading as Santa Claus.  Hide the chickens and the cow.

Yes, Virginia, those are Vikings masquerading as Santa Claus. Hide the chickens and the cow.

Before we leave the subject and the scales and bones and gift-wrapping of Christmas behind, one last glimpse of holiday merriment. I wasn’t there, I’m sorry to say — I was sorry to say it the day it occurred, too, which was December 21.

The event: A “corteo,” or boat procession, in the Grand Canal, composed of anyone who wanted to row as long as he or she was dressed as Santa Claus (or “Babbo Natale,” as he’s known here).

The reason: First, because it seemed like a fun thing to do.  Second, because it seemed like an amusing occasion for the Coordinamento delle Remiere (the association of rowing clubs) to give a prize and a big round of applause to the dwindling group of hardy souls who have rowed in all 40 Vogalongas.  I say “dwindling” because in May there were 24 such persons, and on Santa Sunday there were 22.

The special bonus: Fog.  Fog and just enough wind to make the air feel even sharper.  But would this deter anyone willing to pull out the boat and pull on the red-and-white outfit?  Obviously not.

Because I was busy elsewhere, Lino armed a modest sandolo and headed for the lineup joined (happily for Lino and I think also happily for the others) by Gabriele De Mattia, a former rowing student of his and ex-cadet of the Francesco Morosini Naval School, and his girlfriend, Francesca Rosso.  She had never rowed before, but Lino soon took care of that.

So the three of them spent the morning rowing, and Lino was awarded a red pennant, such as those given to the winners of races here, with his name on it, and everybody was happy. Especially when the sun finally came out.

So a big shout-out to Francesca, who when she wasn’t rowing, was taking pictures.  If she hadn’t been there, you all would just have had to imagine it.  As would I.  This is better.

Floating around while waiting for the official start ("official" being whenever somebody said "We're ready, let's go"), this batch of Saint Nicks had time to make sure their reindeer was comfortable at the bow.

Floating around while waiting for the official start (“official” being whenever somebody said “We’re ready, let’s go”), this batch of Saint Nicks had time to make sure their team of  reindeer was comfortable at the bow.  It appears that one of them is either trying to get in, or attempting to disembark.

No reindeer, caribou, or moose were harmed in the making of this boat.  But I would like to see the paperwork on those beards.

No reindeer, caribou, or moose were harmed in the making of this boat. But I would like to see the paperwork on those beards.

How very "Be Prepared" -- they brought their own tree, in case somebody needed a place to put their presents.

How very “Be Prepared” — they brought their own tree, in case somebody needed a place to put their presents.

DSCN6794  babbo crop

Here is Gabriele, rowing away.  It wasn't snowing, but evidently there were interludes of unusually aggressive fog-flakes, or drops, or crystals, or something.

Here is Gabriele, who clearly had forgotten nothing despite a year into university life. It wasn’t snowing, but evidently there were interludes of unusually aggressive fog-flakes, or drops, or crystals, or something.

It's the invasion of the Kris Kringle-Snatchers, heading upstream to the Rialto Market where something hot to drink must be waiting.

It’s the invasion of the Kris Kringle-Snatchers, heading upstream to the Rialto Market where something hot to drink must be waiting.

Not strictly Venetian, but any boat bearing a Saint Nicholas is welcome at the party.  If this boat were to capsize, they'd all be bobbing around like Yuletide buoys.

Not strictly Venetian, but any boat bearing a Saint Nicholas is welcome at the party. If this boat were to capsize, they’d all be bobbing around like Yuletide beach balls.

And speaking of the party, here was the entire regiment waiting for the prizes and refreshments. Did you know that in the Germanic tradition, it ws Odin, king of the gods, who left presents in the boots left by children by the chimney?

And speaking of the party, here was the entire regiment waiting for the prizes and refreshments. Did you know that in the Germanic tradition, it was Odin, king of the gods, who left presents in the boots that children left by the chimney? Not that I’m trying to rank Saint Nicholas, just trying to add to the holiday atmosphere.

 

Categories : Boatworld
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Jul
31

Santa Marta: party on!

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"La Vigilia di Santa Marta" (The Eve of Santa Marta) by Canaletto. c. 1760.  (wikigallery).  The view is looking toward the mainland, with a glimpse of the island of S. Giorgio in Alga.  That myriad of illuminated boats is either late, or all in the Giudecca Canal.

“La Vigilia di Santa Marta” (The Eve of Santa Marta) by Canaletto. c. 1760. (Wikigallery.org). This view shows the Zattere, with the church of Santa Marta the last building in the distance.  I realize that they did not have stadium lighting back then, but I’d have hoped to see more of the famous illuminated boats.  I think he was paying too much attention to the geometry of the painting and not enough attention to what was really going on.  Or maybe that’s just my way of saying “I wish I’d been there.”

July 29, as all the world knows, is the feast day of Santa Marta.  Or in any case, now the world knows.

She is essentially forgotten here; her church has been deconsecrated, swallowed and partially digested by the Maritime Zone, and her celebration — once one of the greatest of the many great festivals here — is gone forever.  Only a painting by Canaletto brings us the tiniest (and darkest) glimpse of what was once a very big night in Venice.  Her name today is used mainly to refer to the adjacent neighborhood.

The reason I didn’t get this post finished by July 29 is because I got lost reading assorted accounts, some of them first-hand, about this uber-fest. It didn’t take me long to conclude that the fabled feast of the Redentore, which has remained a very big deal, was really nothing so remarkable compared to Santa Marta’s.  The Redentore had fireworks, it’s true, but Marta had fresh sole.

Fish was an excuse for a colossal boating party?  Why not?  The Venetian civil and religious calendar was bursting with events of every type and voltage. A very short list would note the festivals of Santa Maria della Carita’, Palm Sunday, S. Stefano, “Fat Thursday,” May 1, or the Doge’s Visit to the Monastery of the Virgins, S. Isidoro, the taking of Constantinople (1204), the regaining of Candia (1204), S. John the Baptist “Beheaded,” Sunday after Ascension Day, the victory over Padua (1214), the defense of Scutari (1479), the victory of Lepanto (1571), S. Rocco, Corpus Domini, the victory of the Dardanelles (1656), and the conquest of the Morea (1687).  These are just a few of the major events; the Venetians also commemorated defeats. There was something going on almost every day.

But there was always room for more, and although Santa Marta couldn’t claim to have sponsored any particular victory, discovery, or other noteworthy occurrence, her feast day conveniently fell in the period when the weather was suffocatingly hot, and the sole were in season.  Plus, her church was located on a little lobe of land facing lots of water, and there was a beach.  All this says “Put on your red dress, baby, ’cause we goin’ out tonight” to me.

Joan Blaue's map of the late 1600's shows the peninsula crowned by the church of Santa Marta, but I don't see a beach.  On the other hand, I do see rows of rafts formed of logs -- "zattere" -- in front of their eponymous stretch of waterfront.  Nice.

Joan Blaue’s map of the late 1600’s shows the peninsula crowned by the church of Santa Marta, but I don’t see a beach. On the other hand, I do see rows of rafts formed of logs — “zattere” — in front of their eponymous stretch of waterfront. Nice.

On Ludovico Ughi's 1729 map, "Pictorial Representation of the Illustrious City of Venice Dedicated to the Reign of the Most Serene Dominion of Venice," we see something like beach surrounding Santa Marta's headland.  To each cartographer his own.

On Ludovico Ughi’s 1729 map, “Pictorial Representation of the Illustrious City of Venice Dedicated to the Reign of the Most Serene Dominion of Venice,” we see something like beach surrounding Santa Marta’s headland. To each cartographer his own.

And how that little lobe of land looks today.  The big docks at Tronchetto were built in two stages in the 20th century, and Santa Marta (lower right corner of land) has become an afterthought.

And this is how how that little lobe of land looks today. The big docks at Tronchetto were built in two stages in the 20th century, and Santa Marta (lower right corner of land) has become an afterthought. (www.panoramio.com)

The basic components were: Everybody in Venice, either on land or on the water, regardless of social station or disposable income; every boat in Venice — so many boats you could hardly see the water, festooned with illuminated balloons and carrying improvised little arbors formed by frondy branches; music, song and dance, and lots and lots of fresh sole.

A "genteel" sole, who was more the star of the evening than Santa Marta herself.

A “genteel” sole, who was more the star of the evening than Santa Marta herself.

July is the season for sfogi zentili, or Solea vulgaris, and while the Venetians could bring their own vittles, plenty of them also bought the fish which had just been saute’d, either on the beach or on the street by enterprising entrepreneurs.  If you were really in luck, there would be moonlight, too.

The best and most famous chronicler of this party was Giustina Renier Michiel, who was born in 1755 and belonged to several  patrician Venetian families.  She spent 20 years researching her six-volume work, Origine delle Feste Veneziane (1830), but the fact that she had personal memories of many of these events makes her books exceptional.

I started to translate what she wrote about the feast of Santa Marta, but she went on so long, and her style sounded so curious in English, that I became tired and discontented.  So I’m going to give some bits and summarize the rest.  Anyway, it’s clear that the event was so phenomenal that even people who saw it finally gave up trying to describe it adequately or coherently.

Here is her version of how the festa was born:

In the old days many groups went out in certain boats to fish for sole, the best fish that one eats in July.  (Lino concurs with date and description.)

And in the evening they would go back to the beach by the church of Santa Marta and feast on the fish, enjoying the cool air that restored their depleted strength after the labor of fishing, as well as the heat of the season.

Later on, as the population became richer, and softness set in, the work of fishing was left to the poor people, who had to do it in order to live, and what used to be a fatiguing labor changed into a singular entertainment.”

My version: It didn’t take long for everybody else in Venice to say “A cookout on the beach?  We’re on our way.”  Everybody started making Santa Marta’s Eve a great reason to head for her neighborhood and eat fish, garnished and enlivened by the classic saor sauce of sweet-sour onions.  It was like a gigantic clambake, a barbecue, a luau, for thousands and thousands of people.

Obviously the beach was too small for everybody, so the boats made themselves at home on the Giudecca Canal, “whose waters could only be seen in flashes, and almost seemed to be strips of fire, agitated by the oars of so many boats that covered the water and which doubled the effect of the lights which were on the boats.”

A peota c. 1730. Every noble family had one and they were just the thing for big events.

The “Bucintoro dei Savoia,”also called the “Bucintoro del Po,” is the only surviving example of a Venetian peota of the 18th century.  It was built in 1730 by a squero on Burano for Carlo Emmanuele III di Savoia and is now the property of the Civic Museums of Torino.  Most noble families had one, and they were just the thing for big events such as the Regata Storica, processions honoring doges and kings, and alfresco picnics featuring a big fish fry.

The patricians came out on their fabulously ornate peote, and often carrying musicians who sang and played wind instruments.  There were scores of the classic fishing boat called a tartana, draped with variously-colored balloons and loaded with laughing families and friends.  There were artisans in their battellos, and hundreds of light little gondolas, and plenty of gondolas da fresco, and there were even the burchielle, the heavy cargo boats that carried sand and lumber.  If it could float, it joined the vast confusion of boats being rowed languidly in every direction, or tied up along the Zattere where there was just as much happy turmoil ashore.

Or, if you were a fisherman, you might come out in an equaly impressive (in its way) boat -- a caorlina da seragia.  Only a few still exist, and this very old craft has retained its original pitch waterproofing.  You could fit several families, aristocratic or otherwise, into this monster.

Or, if you were a fisherman, you might come out in an equally impressive (in its way) boat — a caorlina da seragia. Only a few still exist, and this very old craft has retained its original pitch waterproofing. You could fit several families, aristocratic or otherwise, into this monster.

Or if all you had was a little s'ciopon, you'd have bedecked it too, and come out with the food and family.

Or if all you had was a little s’ciopon, you’d have bedecked it too, and come out with the food and family.

The Gazzetta Urbana of 1787:  “Along this riva, called the Zattere, the cafe’s and bars are crammed to overflowing with people.  There are tables set up outside their doors, and everything is so lit up that it seems to be daytime.

“The passage (of people) in all the streets leading to Santa Marta was dense and continuous, and the splendid gathering at the Caffe of San Basegio, at the head of the Zattere, formed a separate spectacle, in which our Adriatic beauties, wearing modern shimmering caps in the Greek style, ornamented with plumes, inflamed with their glances the hearts of the young men who, like butterflies, always flutter around the flare of a woman’s beauty.”

Also amid the throng were little ambulatory kitchens — a man with a basket of sole would put two stones on the ground, then lay two bunches of sticks crosswise on them, light a little charcoal under them, pour some oil in a pan, and stand there bawling for business.  He kept a container of saor ready to put on the fish.

Renier Michiel:  “The entire length of this district was full of a grand concourse of people, moving toward the piazza of Santa Marta which was the best vantage point to enjoy the spectacle.  On the piazza there were more food vendors, some of them selling roast chicken.  There is a racket of cups, plates, the yells of the vendors, the music from the boats on the water. Every house is transformed into a sort of tavern where people eat and drink, and there was perfect joy and harmony.”

“Perfect joy and harmony”?  How can this be (apart from the fact that she was looking back on it, years later, when the festival was gone forever)?

I think it’s because Santa Marta was secretly taking care of people. She is the patroness of cooks, butlers, laundry-workers, servants,  housewives, and waiters. Though I suppose you could just say “housewives” and leave it at that.

Because as Santa Marta, and 99 percent of women on earth, can attest, while some people at a party are laughing and scarfing the canapes and playing with the dog and singing comic songs and reveling in industrial-size helpings of joy and harmony, there’s at least one person somewhere in the background doing everything to make it seem as if there is absolutely nothing that needs to be done.

And I have no doubt that when the boats went home at dawn on July 29, there was somebody who had to put the boat away and swab the bilge and pick up every single fishbone, as well as deal with the dishes and the wine- and saor-stained clothes.  Behind every great saint is somebody with a bucket and mop, I say.

You can barely make out the once-fabled "Punta Santa Marta" from the roof of the Molino Stucky Hilton.

You can barely make out the “Punta di Santa Marta” from the roof of the Molino Stucky Hilton.

The church of Santa Marta in 1934 was already feeling the encroachments of the railway.  Trains came down onto the waterfront to deliver or collect cargo to the ships in the maritime zone.  No more beach.

The church of Santa Marta in 1934 was only slightly in the way of progress.  Trains came down onto the waterfront to deliver or collect cargo to the ships in the maritime zone.  No more beach.

There's still a church in there somewhere behind the parking lot.

There’s still a church in there somewhere behind the parking lot.  Ex-church, that is, restored and now used as an exhibition space. Nice that it’s not falling to ruin, but any possible trace of character or history has been thoroughly expunged.

I realize that it wasn't ever the most heavily decorated church in Venice, but we seem to have gone to a real extreme here.

I realize that it wasn’t ever the most heavily decorated building in Venice, but they seem to have gone to the opposite extreme here.  Seen from this angle, it could be a Potemkin church.

To review in closing: This entire area of water was completely covered with illuminated boats full of people singing and eating and laughing and being happy. Especially if July 28 was a Saturday and they didn't have to work the next day.

To review in closing: This entire area of water was completely covered with illuminated boats full of people singing and eating and laughing and being happy. And I think it’s safe to say that most of them were not tourists. That’s something else to recall occasionally — that Venice had an amazing life that had nothing to do with tourism.  Seem strange?  They’d think we’re even stranger.

 

 

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The church of the Redentore on the Giudecca, on Sunday evening, when its mission has been completed and its vow to the past and future has been fulfilled.

The church of the Redentore on the Giudecca, on Sunday evening, when its annual mission has been completed, its vow to the past and future fulfilled.

Anyone who has lived longer than 25 minutes has discovered the Law of Unintended Consequences.  It’s not that you are deprived of  the consequence you wanted — though you might well be — but discover that you’re stuck with five that you didn’t want and can’t escape.

Last Sunday (July 21) was the day of the Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer (Santissimo Redentore), about which I have written many times.  And for an event which has been held every year since 1577, hence qualifying as a genuine tradition, this tradition’s components have gone through many, many revisions.  In fact, I never knew that a tradition could be so pliable.

For example: Fireworks over the Bacino of San Marco.  When Lino was a lad, nobody bothered about the Bacino. Everybody (99 percent Venetians) came in their boats (and there were many — no, a hundred times more than many — all propelled by oars) and tied them up in the Giudecca Canal in the area between the votive bridge and the Molino Stucky.  Far from the Bacino. Uptown.  Washington Heights, practically.

And the races on Sunday afternoon.  We’ve always had them, hence, we always will have them.

Or maybe not.

The week preceding the festa saw a fearsome struggle between the racers and the Comune, and after a series of meetings and reports on meetings, which occurred up until race time, the racers enacted a protest and decided not to race. In a word, they went on strike.

Their issues, as reported by the Racers’ Association, are the increasing neglect (“profound abandonment”) of the races by the city over the past few years. I’m not clear on what “neglect” means here, because their press releases were not especially specific, though I know that the prizes have been dwindling and, in some cases, disappearing, which indeed is disturbing.

The votive bridge opened at 7:00 PM on a sweltering Saturday evening -- the procession led by the usual authorities such as mayor, patriarch, various people in uniforms, marching across the Giudecca Canal to the church.

The votive bridge opened at 7:00 PM on a sweltering Saturday evening — at least this tradition held firm. The procession is led by the usual authorities such as the mayor, the patriarch, various people in uniforms, and a batch of photographers, all marching across the Giudecca Canal to the church.

Followed by a mighty host of the faithful and the curious,

Followed by a mighty host of the faithful and the curious.

At the foot of the steps to the church, the crush has reached several atmospheres, which is also part of the tradition, I guess.

At the foot of the steps to the church, the crush has reached several atmospheres, which is also part of the tradition, I guess.

A digression: Unlike the racers in the old days — up to about 50 years ago — I don’t believe that any racers today need the money. While it’s true that they have, as they put it, “spent months of training, sacrificing work and family” (they sacrificed WORK?), none of them races because otherwise the gas company is going to interrupt service for lack of payment. The men have jobs ranging from acceptable to spectacularly lucrative (a fancy way of saying “gondolier”), and most of the women racers are married to them.

But racing for nothing does have a depressing sort of parish-benefit vibe, and last year some of the races began to be put on for free.

Did I mention depressing? I had no idea how dejected one could feel on a so-called feast day when the big event is canceled.  Some hardy souls might maintain that the big solemn mass and the blessing of the city are the most important elements of the weekend, and there are thousands upon thousands who come only for the big fireworks party the night before.  But a Redentore afternoon with no races made me feel as if we were the ones who had been abandoned.

Naturally the racers hope and intend that this dramatic gesture will bear the fruit they desire, which is to wake everybody up, city and citizens, to the imminent demise of one of the last — or last — truly Venetian elements still barely surviving in the most beautiful city in the world.

I hope it all works out for them, but I have some mini-doubts. One is based on the suspicion that if they try this again, somebody in the city government is going to wonder why go through all the tsuris with the big-league racers when there are plenty of bush-league rowers around who could do the same thing, for nothing, without complaining.  Tourists don’t know the difference. I agree that it’s an ugly thought, but I have thought it.

Or what about this idea: If the tsuris continues, the city could start canceling races.  Another possible unintended consequence, almost as unpleasant as racing for free.

Or the city might even make the racers pay to race. Or at least make them pay for the race they didn’t do last Sunday. Because when you sign up to enter the eliminations, you sign a document that says you agree to the terms of the enterprise. I have no idea if the city, which did incur expenses for an event which didn’t take place through no fault of its own, would regard this as breach of contract and consider legal recourse against the racers. If I were a city, I would think so.

Let me conclude with another disagreeable little idea that has come to my mind via other people who have said it out loud.  Why is all this happening now?  Some people think that the Racers’ Association got all het up because two of the biggest rock-star racers (Giampaolo D’Este and Igor Vignotto) were punished for serious offenses committed during the regata at Murano on July 7.  Their punishment was to be forbidden to participate in the next race, i.e. the Redentore.

Apart from the right or wrong of this decision, it is objectionable for two reasons.  One: Their partners, who hadn’t done anything wrong, were also, by extension, also excluded from the race of the Redentore. Two: There is an undercurrent of doubt among some participants that the Racers’ Association would have gotten so all-fired mad if, say, Irving B. Potash and Melvin Bluebonnet or anybody else had been so punished.  Perhaps righteous anger based entirely on principles (deterioration of tradition, say) isn’t quite so righteous after all?  Or does it strike only me as odd that the people who claim to be the last defenders of tradition were the first to break it to bits?

And you thought that parties were supposed to make you forget your troubles?  This one just delivered a whole new batch. Some assembly required.

 

Saturday afternoon sees what I regard as the gathering of the clans: the big fishing boats from Chioggia and Pellestrina loaded with lagoon people who party hard. Their boats are big, but nobody seems to object to their tying up at the fondamenta.

Saturday afternoon sees what I regard as the gathering of the clans: the big fishing boats from Chioggia and Pellestrina loaded with lagoon people who party hard. Their boats are big, but nobody seems to object to their tying up at the fondamenta.

While plenty of people complained about boats of the same, or somewhat larger, size, which come from the land of you-can't-afford-to-even-look-at-me. and which made it impossible to set up the picnic tables on the edge of the lagoon to watch the fireworks because the view is blocked by kilometers of expensive boatage.

Although plenty of people complain about boats of the same, or somewhat larger, size, which come from the land of you-can’t-afford-to-even-look-at-me. These boats make it impossible to set up your picnic tables on the edge of the fondamenta to watch the fireworks because all you see is a wall of high-priced boatage.  This didn’t used to be a problem, but now it too has become a tradition.

One solution: Have your party inland, preferably in front of your house.  Put up the flags, light the citronella candles, and live it up.  You can go watch the fireworks from the bridge -- let the boats work it out for themselves.

One solution: Have your party inland, preferably in front of your house. Put up the flags, light the citronella candles, and live it up. You can go watch the fireworks from the bridge — let the boats work it out for themselves.

Plenty of people are perfectly  happy on land.  As are we -- this is the fourth year we haven't gone out in a boat.

Plenty of people are perfectly happy on land. As are we — this is the fourth year we haven’t gone out in a boat.

The swimmers from the fishing boats have recently become a tradition for me. If I'd watched them jumping in for five more minutes, I'd have done it too. It was suffocatingly hot.

The swimmers from the fishing boats have recently become a tradition for me. If I’d watched them jumping in for five more minutes, I’d have gone in too. It was suffocatingly hot.

The girls, the boys, the girls and boys -- they were tireless.

The girls, the boys, the girls and boys — they were tireless.

IMG_3354 red 2013 use

IMG_3391 red 2013 use

But then the party was over.  On Sunday afternoon, the Giudecca Canal is supposed to look like this.

But then the party was over. On Sunday afternoon, the Giudecca Canal is supposed to look like this.

It looked like this.

It looked like this.  The barge was there, ready to draw the starting-line cord from the piling to make sure all the boats were lined up just right.  But no boats.

The judges' dock was in its prescribed position, too, complete with judges.

The judges’ dock was in its prescribed position, too, complete with judges.

The starting time for each of the three races came and went, duly noted by the president of the judges on duty. Then a deputation of racers came aboard to unburden themselves, once again, of their distress and indignation. This, however, was not noted.  The only thing that mattered was to indicate that "the race was suspended because no racers presented themselves at the starting line."  Somebody else is responsible for figuring out what to do next.

The starting time for each of the three races came and went, duly noted by the president of the judges on duty. Then a deputation of racers came aboard to unburden themselves, once again, of their distress and indignation. This, however, was not noted. The only thing that was necessary was to indicate that “the race was suspended because no racers presented themselves at the starting line.” Somebody else is responsible for figuring out what to do next.

And a good time was had by nobody.

And a good time was had by nobody.

Categories : Venetian Events
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Feb
13

The Carnival of the Weather

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At certain moments even the sky began to dress itself up. This little costume was delivered by a ferocious northeast wind.

The same moment as the picture above, but looking sunset-ward. To give you an idea of how strong the wind was,  you should know that those mountains silhouetted in the center of the scene are the Euganean Hills, 30 miles away.

I haven’t communicated in a bit because I was waiting for Carnival to end (midnight last night, as everyone knows) so I could sort through the rubble and look for something to report.

Judging by the mass of photographs clogging my computer, I evidently found plenty to chronicle, but mainly within the confines of our little lobe of Venice. We didn’t go the Piazza San Marco even once; the revelers aboard the vaporettos were enough for me.

Every year, the organizers of this event form it around a particular theme, something they hope will be irresistible.  This year’s title was “Live in Color,” but I can tell you that it ought to have been called “Drenched in Color,” or “Freezing in Color.” Or “Sloshing in Color.”  The colors mainly being the blue of your bloodless fingers and the gray of your bloodless lips.

This year’s carnival was all about weather. In the space of the festivities (Jan. 26-Feb. 12), we got rain, wind, snow, and acqua alta.  Sometimes together, sometimes separately. Several keystone events had to be reshuffled (one good reason to extend Carnival — this year, it was 18 days) not only because there wouldn’t have been any spectators, but because in some cases it would have been dangerous for the performers.

It didn’t matter to me because I hadn’t spent thousands of dollars making or renting a fabulous costume whose purpose in life was for me to wear it where people could see it and admire it and envy me.  There are many people — primarily French — who spend months planning and preparing their appearance (not to the extent of the samba schools of Rio, but still).  I hope they’ve taken home some beautiful memory.

The open salvo didn’t exactly make you want to dance: A headline at the start of Carnival announced that the President of the Province of Venice (bigger than the municipal area) had declared that she was banning confetti/coriandoli that would naturally be strewn festively by and among partyers in the main piazza of a town called San Dona’ di Piave. Why? Because “It makes a mess.” That’s the point! If there were any time in the year when it would be laudable to focus on civic hygiene, I’d say that Carnival isn’t it. But maybe this is her way of saying “We only have ten garbage collectors this month, please don’t give them more work to do.”  Or, based on my experience in this neighborhood, don’t give them any work to do.

Here is a look at Carnival in ErlaWorld: 

Our first clue that something out of the ordinary was on the way was the work that went on one morning to fill in the depressions in the long gravelly walkway toward the lagoon known as the “Viale Garibaldi.” Being as heavily traveled as Grand Central Terminal by people going to and from the Giardini vaporetto stop means that it has long since been worn down into assorted shallows. These weren’t so apparent in dry weather, but when it rained, we called this stretch of Venice “Bacan’,” after our favorite lagoon mudbank. You could see the same rises and depressions in the ground, interspersed with pools of water. This particular patch became a lake. Great work! Whatever came over them? Did somebody suddenly find thousands of euros that had fallen between the cushions of the sofa?

Then the kids, the dogs, and the confetti began to come out into the sunshine. (Yes, the sun did shine occasionally. Just enough to make you miss it when the next wave of weather passed over us.)

A little executioner out for a stroll with his grandfather, looking for someone to dispatch.

Kids get started early in the dressing-up game — not that they need any help or encouragement.

We had noticed a stage and small soccer area being set up over the course of two days, and a crowd gathered to see the first match of a new Carnival diversion called the “Palio dei Sestieri,” roughly the Trophy of the Sestieri, which are the six districts of Venice. The teams were made up of boys organized in teams of increasing age over a few days, and they played “calcetto.” It’s regular soccer, but with only five players, not eleven, per team. For the record, at the end of the series our very own sestiere, Castello, took home the victors’ cup. Coincidence? I really hope so.

Excellent block by the goalkeeper of the Dorsoduro team. I can tell you that hurling himself to the ground to intercept the ball wasn’t any fun on the granite paving stones. But all the goalkeepers did it. Bruises. Contusions. Fun.

And of course there was a half-time show, to music.

At the next break, another show, this time with smaller dancers and big pompoms. Go Big Red!

One morning around 9:30 I got on the #1 vaporetto heading uptown. At the Arsenale stop, several exceptional Beings boarded, going (I thought) to San Marco to display themselves. All normal so far, except that one Being was wearing wings with plumes, which stretched out as far as her/his arm on each side. (There is a person in there, between the wings.) Needless to say, this occupied an amazing amount of space which nobody else could use. I’m accustomed to luggage taking up square yards of space, but it’s not often a costume is so big that it probably ought to pay for an extra ticket. Every time he/she turned around, people stood back.

This very impressive quartet got off at the train station. Maybe they had to catch a train back to Brigadoon. They are a good example of the people who give Carnival everything they’ve got, though I didn’t hear what language they were speaking. Maybe when you’re dressed like this, speaking is superfluous.

Last Sunday morning saw the traditional (by now) regata in costume organized by the Settemari club. These were the two front-runners, as they sped past us approaching the Rialto Bridge.

My friend, Antonella Mainardi, rowing like mad as Her Britannic Majesty, led by her faithful corgi, steered by her faithful prince. The backwash from a passing vaporetto created a brief challenge to her nearest competitors, a pair from the Giudecca rowing club decked out as a pair from the Giudecca rowing club. No points for creativity there.

And on they sped, providing a highly wrought spectacle for the gondola hordes. And the gondoliers, too.

Monday, the next-to-last day of Carnival, we got mega-weather. But it wasn’t yet up to speed in the mid-afternoon, when these  intrepid revelers headed out to find some frivolity somewhere. Snow means nothing when you’ve only got 48 hours left to party.

It snowed all day, gradually intensifying, with a northeast wind that blew up to 30 mph (50 km/h). That’s why all the snow is sticking to the east parapet of this bridge; the other side was completely clear.

The slick packed slush on our bridge was inviting anyone who crossed to slip and fall and break something.

Via Garibaldi looked like the Great White Way. Amazing how hard it is to walk on deepening wet snow, even if you do have the wind at your back. The return was even more amusing.

Garibaldi on his pedestal, unimpressed, unimpressible.  Perhaps nobody had yet advised him that the Tide Center was predicting an exceptional acqua alta tonight: 160 cm.  Of course, why would he care?  He lives on the third floor.

We, sad to say, do not. We live on the ground floor, and while we are high enough to stay dry with a tide that reaches 150 cm, after that, it’s all hands to man the pumps. Or to be more precise, put all our belonging up on something. Here, the contents of a few bookshelves and God knows what else are up on the sofa, and sofa is up on two plastic storage boxes, and if the storage boxes get wet, they’re on their own.

And everything at high-tide-level in the bedroom was up on the bed, including whatever was on the closet floor, and the lowest drawers of the three bureaus. High water: Romantic? Dangerous? I’m going with “damned nuisance.”

But we had no worries about the appliances, having learned several years ago that when the water comes in, it makes itself comfortable everywhere. So we had exerted ourselves a year ago to take  measures to protect them from dampage.

But we were reprieved! The next morning the world was smiling again. The wind had changed direction when the tide turned (signaled by a single thunderclap), and the water only came up to 143 cm. However, we had to stay up till 12:15 to know this. These high-water vigils only seem to take place in the dead of night. Waiting for the water to turn around and go out is like sitting by somebody’s bedside listening to them breathe.

I’m glad somebody had a good time last night. I discovered these relics not long before the slowly warming morning returned them to their primal element.

And toward the shank of the afternoon on Fat Tuesday, we headed out — like a few hundred other savvy neighborhood people — to feast on the free fritole and galani offered by the Calafati.

Here they are, in all their glory: The feeders of the five thousand. Full disclosure — I am a member of this august society, but I do not presume to man the deep-fat fryers. It seems to make them happy enough for me to come and make a fool of myself eating.

Lino Penzo, who is also president of the Remiera Casteo, has no scruples about feeding my addiction. “Here — knock yourself out,” he didn’t bother saying. I took them, and I did. They were great.

The man in the red jacket, front and center, is Dino Righetto, the creator of all these fritole. He made 700 of these little suckers, and they’re so light and fragrant you couldn’t believe that what they sell in the shops would have the courage to call themselves fritole.

I wasn’t the only one scarfing up the fat and sugar.

There was plenty to do between snacks — like pour confetti over your friends.

Or play hide-and-seek with your friends, who seem at the moment to have hidden themselves so completely she’ll never find them.

Carnival doesn’t always have to be about masks and garb. Why not just grab a soft plastic hammer that squeaks on impact, and go around bopping people with it?

This little sprite has one of the best costumes ever, showing (yet again) that you don’t need square miles of tulle and sequins and paint to show that you are a fantasy creature. She’s like a sketch by Picasso: A couple of quick lines and there you are: Carnival!

Then again, why waste precious time getting dressed up when the fritole are still warm?

While we were all scarfing and laughing, the hardy trinket-sellers were packing up the Carnival masks for another year. I never saw anything that said “The party’s over” quite the way the sight of the boxes of masks did.

And stealthily the afternoon departed — the light drifted upward, the dew began to fall, everybody was pretty much played out. That was Mardi Gras on via Garibaldi. It’s totally good enough for me.

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