Thursday, February 14, 2013

Farewell to Carnevale: Some Favorite Things

Sandro and I happened through Piazza San Marco Tuesday afternoon and, without planning on it, came upon what appeared to be the closing ceremonies of Carnevale. Or, at least, the end of the daily costume competitions that had been going on on the big stage since Carnevale's beginning. The official conclusion to the festivities would be marked by La Vogata del Silenzio (or The Silent Row) later that night--which, choosing sleep over spectacle, we missed this year.

The Piazza was packed, and as I was holding Sandro in my arms so that he could see above the crowd, I managed to take only a single photograph, which I post (much cropped) above. In it is one of my favorite costumes of Carnevale, but I can't tell you a thing about it.

Here are a few of my other favorite things from Carnevale...

The hands-on workshops (above) of this year's 4th Annual Carnevale Internazionale dei Ragazzi, put on by La Biennale di Venezia in their main exhibition space in I Giardini Pubblici, were once again, day in and day out, the single liveliest and most interesting place to be for kids and their parents. And, as you can see below, the live performances--also free--were also worth a look.  

French mime Jo Bulitt performs with the Ensemble L'Arsenale
The ice skating rink that goes up annually in December in Campo San Polo is not, officially, a part of Carnevale, but as it comes down about the same time as the Carnevale does, I'm cheating and including it. It's a marvelous experience to ice skate in the largest campo in Venice (San Marco is, of course, a piazza), and remembering that it was once the site of rather less wholesome entertainments--such as bull baiting--gives it a bit of historical spice. For the most part you'll find yourself surrounded by more actual Venetians than most other places in the city, and as Venetians generally have little experience on ice, it's a fun, low-pressure atmosphere, perfect for beginners (such as myself).

Sandro discovers what hard work gallantry can be while skating in Camp San Polo
Le Giostre, or the little carnival that also goes up in December each year on Riva dei Sette Martiri near Via Garibaldi, is also not officially part of Carnevale, but as it also closes with Carnevale I include it here as well. Older Venetians remember when it used to be on Riva degli Schiavoni, a short distance from Piazza San Marco, and I wonder if tourists used to frequent it back then, because they almost never seem to do so now. Of course, 50 years ago there existed a long off-season in Venice, so the carnival even then, and even in such proximity to the tourist center of the city, may well have been locals only. 

In any case, it's almost exclusively locals now; I've yet to hear anything other than Italian spoken there, and the kids and parents I see there are the same ones I see on Via Garibaldi and in Sant' Elena. 

In sharp contrast to the free educational activities at the Biennale, a single round of head-on collisions for your kid on the bumper cars will set you back 2 euro. But, then, as your child will almost certainly find him- or herself in the thick of locals, the ride will probably be educational anyway. Trash-talking on any of the rides that are vaguely competitive--such as the bumper cars or the "Baby Moto"--is quite common, even among kindergarteners. Last night, for example, Sandro--who has only just stopped taunting others on such rides by calling them "piccolino/a" (little one) or "bebe"--was treated to a steady stream of adult-level curses by a neighborhood boy who was no more then seven.

Considering Venetians have a certain reputation for their foul language, it would be hard to find a more "authentic" Venetian experience for your child than that.


  1. Une belle clôture, la première image est de toute beauté ! Les expressions sur les visages, un beau moment naturel !
    Sandro a un charme fou aussi
    à bientôt

    1. Thank you, Danielle, I wish I had been able to take more photos of the closing events!

  2. What an enjoyable post. It *almost* makes me want to brave the crowds of Carnevale!

    I do love to visit the Luna Park, as well as the ice skating rink. I was disappointed there were no decorative lights up at the rink this year though.

    What a wonderful photo of Sandro! How nice to engage in gallantry at such a young age!

    1. Thank you, Susie, I'm glad you liked the post, but I still wouldn't recommend Carnevale. I understand how it can be fun for some people, but the crowds are truly awful, and while one can find interesting things--eg, I think the tours they offer of the archives are great--much of what is put on in the Piazza has little to do with Venezia.

      I don't know about the skating rink lights, but there were fair fewer Xmas lights this yr because of budget constraints. The skating rink is a private endeavor, though, I believe.

      Ah, Sandro & gallantry... He's particularly sweet on that young friend of his.

  3. Great post and above all, great photos, I really like your real-life pictures. I would like also to say my opinion about the carnival period in Venice, because I think that when you say that there is a really big crowd you are right, but in these days the most beautiful things to see are the myriad of different,elegant and funny dresses that everybody wears while walking around the city. This is really worth a photo!!

    1. Thank you, Step, and you're right that Venice seems to be a heaven for photographers during Carnevale, there are so many of them. But, of course, it's also pleasant to just walk around and look without ever having to worry about whether your subject of interest is in focus!