Monday, January 25, 2016

Carnevale Opens with a Venetian Air

Most Venetians I know don't get too excited about Carnevale, unless they're young children, the parents of young children (to a somewhat lesser degree), or business people who profit from the crowds (to a calculating degree). The absence of much Venetian involvement in the festivities is why Piazza San Marco can sometimes feel more like a convention center to me during Carnevale than a festive civic center or the "grandest drawing room in Europe." The Venetian spirit of Carnevale is usually found in these weeks on calli or in campi or patronati (parish halls beside the churches) away from the Piazza.

At least after the opening weekend, that is. For the opening weekend, which just took place yesterday and the day before, can still bring out adult Venetians--to the floating entertainment on the Canareggio Canal that took place Saturday night, and to yesterday's Corteo Acqueo down the Grand Canal organized by the association of rowing clubs in the lagoon.

This is the best--perhaps only--time to see adult Venetians in costume, and one of the very rare times during the year you can hear actual Venetian songs being sung on the Grand Canal (instead of the ubiquitous "Volare" whose originator, Domenico Modugno, was born in Bari). In fact, the trio of musicians in red-and-white striped shirts above were singing a song I'd heard of before, but never actually heard sung in its entirety:

Scarpe e calseti
Piatti e pironi
Porte e balconi
Che sá da freschin.

So nato a Venessia
So fio de pescaor
Par quindese giorni 
Se magna el saor.

Shoes and socks
Dishes and forks
Doors and balconies
They all smell of fish.

I'm a native Venetian
The son of a fisherman
For fifteen days
We eat el saor.

(The story of where I first learned about this song is here: If you find yourself on a gondola ride anytime soon that includes a singer as part of the package you might ask if he--it's always a he--knows the el saor [a sardine dish] song.)

In any case, the corteo began at the Punta della Dogana and made its way down the Grand Canal to the Canareggio Canal, where typical Venetian dishes were promised along its banks. I didn't go there myself, but, according to the local papers, some 70,000 other folks did. Or 15,000 more people than currently reside in Venice. If only that many people still lived here! 

The passengers on the number 1 vaporetto above found themselves held up at the San Tomà stop while the parade passed--but in exchange for the delay they received a great view of the proceedings

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