La stagion del Carnoval tutto il mondo fa cambiar. Chi sta bene e chi sta male Carneval fa rallegrar. Qua la moglie e là il marito, ognuno corre a qualche invito, chi a giocare e chi a ballar (Carnival season changes everything and cheers you up whether in sickness or in health! Everyone has some type of invitation – wife here, and husband there, someone playing and someone dancing!)
I'm going to begin with Carlo Goldoni's words when I start thinking about what to do during the Carnival... When friends come to see us, I take them on a tour through the various traditions and events animating this ancient Venetian celebration, dating back to 1162.
Traditional celebrations like the Festa delle Marie and the Flight of the Angel, evenings at the various theatres, princely costumes, hot chocolates in bars, masked parades, craftsmanship, historical regattas, splendid parties in Venetian palaces: these are various facets of the carnival and the city's cultural life.
I always tell my friends that if they want to live Carnival-time like a Venetian, they have to participate in the official open-air events, which transmit the emotions of Venice's 'evergreen' history: the kidnapping of the twelve girls that were freed and taken back to the city on the shields of the warriors, the historical regatta, the alzaremi, or oar-raising, inaugurating the journey through traditional cuisine, the Flight of the most beautiful girl into the Doge's arms to the sounds of trumpets and drums.
It's amusing to wear a cloak and a bauta - the most classic of all the Venetian masks; to go and drink hot chocolate in one of the city's historical bars; to go to the theatre and see one of Goldoni's plays; to observe craftsmen at work and watch while a mask or glass-bead jewellery is being made; or try on a period-style costume covered in lace, beads, silk and brocade.
In the evenings, I take my friends to parties in sumptuous palaces along the Grand Canal. This is an unforgettable experience, and they should wear or have, at least “something carnival” like a cocked hat, a little mask, a velvet purse, a feather. And not only during the evenings. For Venetians, this is a way to say that they belong to a lavish tradition, straddling entertainment and history.
Since few years the Carnival lasts almost three weeks and starts with a traditional event: The Venetian water festival.
The evocative atmosphere at Rio di Cannaregio is the backdrop to acrobats and poetry: mime actors, dancers, scenic machinery floating on the water and twirling above the onlookers on the banks. Then, on Sunday, the morning after, the Grand Canal fills up with colourful boats and rowers in costume: the Venetian Rowers' Association water parade goes to Rio di Cannaregio where there is an applauding crowd. Cicheti (finger food), bigoi in salsa (home-made spaghetti dish served with an anchovy sauce), pasta e fasioi (a pasta and beans dish), fritole (sweet fritters), and galani (angel wings- sweets dusted with powdered sugar) are offered to everyone, amid music and animation.
On the second weekend there is the very popular and exciting Parade of the Marie, the Flight of the Angel and the best Mask Competition with groups participating from all over the world. And then: the Flight of the Eagle; the crowning of the Carnival “Maria” and the closing celebrations (Fat Tuesday). All in a jubilation of colours, applause, streamers and confetti together with the grace and beauty of the girls who are the protagonists.
The carnival's glamorous side is the high-society parties: stuccos, golden inlays, velvet and candles; an overwhelming, enveloping experience: food, perfumes, satyrs, fairies, queens and paramours, famous mercenaries, doges, cardinals, comedians and dancers, one after another welcoming guests, forgetting the era they come from.
Are you ready to dream?
Visit the official website CARNEVALE DI VENEZIA: www.carnevale.venezia.it