One of the 'Italian souvenirs' for Wind Rose Hotel alluded to the Carnival of Venice. 'A dream come true', and it was in this state of euphoria, wonder and admiration that I eagerly absorbed it all, in 2003. Could it have been because of this state of mind, that from the beginning until the end of this first visit, it all then seemed like a fabulous, refined, nostalgic and tender poem?
This last week-end, I was privileged to be there with friends for the start of the 2011 Carnival of which some of the themes include 'the Secrets of Venice', 'Angels and Demons' and Love and Seduction'.
A second experience for me, and quite different from the first.
Perhaps it was even more spectacular. The costumes were as wonderful, if not even more imaginative than they were eight years ago. There was an even more feverish atmosphere, no doubt also because of the countless tourists. Or was it another reflection of the folly of our era? At times in la Piazza San Marco it was literally impossible to move.
Digital cameras have remarkably improved since 2003, and everyone so armed was manoeuvring desperately to get to the right place at the right time to try to get the right image. This was an essential part of the fever, the ruthless image hunting. Additionally the carnival was thus lit by thousands of flashes, and it was amusing to see participants in elegant, 18th century costumes also apparently stricken with the same fever, fervently photographing others.
Again one admires the patience, generosity and charm of the many participants who had invested so much time and effort in their costumes, disguises and make-up. Some were standing and posing endlessly, accepting to be photographed with tourists and their children, without ever showing any signs of fatigue or annoyance for the countless, camera-happy crowds.
If there seemed to be a little less poetry and nostalgia than I like to remember from my first visit in 2003, there was sunshine and plenty of gaiety to compensate, certainly on Saturday. This merriment didn't appear to be too dampened by the showers of rain on Sunday, even though the change of weather did have the effect of thinning down the crowds.
However one wishes to interpret or compare such occasions, the Carnival of Venice is always sumptuously full of endearing magic that the many connoisseurs help to create and generously share. And this magic is naturally enhanced by the magnificent, timeless beauty of Venice itself.
This second visit for the Carnevale di Venezia was in fact improvised. On Viewfinder, accompanying 'Venetian Reflections' or 'The Venetian Lesson' there was some publicity that I was curious enough to want to learn more about. 'Venice House Boats'. If one reserves a boat well in advance, the cost is very reasonable, and if one shares the cost with four or five friends, it's a very economical and practical solution indeed. The boats are comfortable, heated and fully equipped with cooking facilities and essentials. One can of course cruise here and there, although it's advisable to leave the boat at the marina and take a vapporetto for the Carnival. The marina is also peaceful, calm and well equipped with everything one needs during one's stay.
It goes without saying that compared with hotel costs in Venice for a Carnival weekend, it's a solution of unbeatable value, as well as a unique experience to share with good friends. An experience made even more pleasant, thanks to the kindness of Pietro Stella and Patrizia Marchiori, the owners of Venice House Boats. Grazie mille per la vostra gentilezza , Pietro e Patrizia, e buona continuazione!
Text and images © Mirino (PW). March, 2011
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