|The first of two views from Ponte Santa Ana in Castello, taken at 11 pm last night|
However, last night at 11 pm on Via Garibaldi there were almost none to be seen. Just four young men speaking English. A couple of them wore tri-corner hats, and I suspect all of them may have been wondering where everyone was, as Via Garibaldi was deserted and dark.
If they were expecting an enticing array of available women, I'm afraid they were over 200 years too late. If they were expecting festive locals ready to party, they were most certainly in the wrong hemisphere. They should have booked their flight to Rio.
Most Venetian adults are none-too-excited by Carnevale. Some are downright annoyed by it; like the elderly Venetian man Jen reported seeing on a bridge near San Marco who, tired of being jostled by oblivious tourists in cheap masks, launched an extended volley of maledictions upon everyone around him.
|A second view from Ponte Santa Ana, Castello|
It wasn't always like this. Our neighbor, who's lived in the city for all of his 70 years, said that for the first couple of years after Carnevale was reborn in 1980, gangs of youths resembling Malcolm McDowell's anti-social posse in A Clockwork Orange roamed the centro storico and pelted revelers with rotten eggs and flour.
But by the third year the authorities had gotten such anarchic elements under control, and our neighbor and his wife still recall with great fondness certain costumes they saw over 25 years ago. At that time it was the norm for entire families to dress in a common theme. They remembered one family whose members came dressed elaborately as pharaohs, and another as pencils. Some families from the mainland came dressed as campagnoli, or peasants. All of the costumes were made by hand.
Now, with the exception of those Venetians who are paid to dress in 18th-century costume--like a friend of ours who gives lessons in traditional dances at private parties--you'd be hard-pressed to find an adult native here who thinks of Carnevale as anything more than something for kids. And with few exceptions, most of those kids are wearing Spiderman or Fairy Princess costumes purchased at the Disney store.
You can sometimes still find families in costume, but they probably won't be Venetians. Monday, on our way home from his school, Sandro and I stopped in Piazza San Marco to watch the late afternoon costume competition held there daily during this week. There were in fact two families in the running that day onstage: one from America, one from France. Having seen them up close, I was especially impressed by how well-made the French family's Louis XIII-era costumes were; obviously all done by hand.
Alas, though they made it out of the first round of audience voting, they didn't come close to the finals, which were won by a couple in the kind of costume I must admit I find least appealing: the shimmery, glittery, robed and veiled and porcelain-faced full-mask type. The kind that makes me think less of the Venetian Republic than of some horrific 1970s highway collision between the wardrobe tour buses of Kiss, Spiders-from-Mars-era David Bowie, and early Roxy Music. Of course, I know I'm firmly in the minority in this opinion, as this look has become synonymous, on calenders and in newspapers, with Venetian Carnevale.
In any case, Sandro had a great time. We sat at one of the cafe tables in front of the stage and the wait staff gave him a large placard with which to cast his vote while he sat sipping his 5 euro glass of Fanta (twice the usual cost).
When I asked him if he'd be interested in going up there in costume next year, though, the Venetian in him came out and he shook his head emphatically NO.