Carnival in Venice: 3 highlights

venice carnevaleMarch, 1578

My first season of Carnevale in Venice has been even more amazing than my friend Valeria’s stories. My old hometown, Verona, never broke free from all its rules for weeks like this city does, with its elegant costumes, parties, masked balls, parades, plays, and sports. I don’t know many people in Venice yet, but if I did, I wouldn’t recognize them during Carnevale.  I thought Venetians must be very rich to afford such finery, but Valeria tells me many people rent their costumes.

Here are 3 highlights:

La Guerra dei pugni (war of the fists)—As I rode in the gondola a few days ago, I saw crowds on both sides of a bridge. The bridge was thick with helmeted men fighting each other with shields and sticks. Zuanne, our gondolier, told me this is a favorite sport in Venice during festivals, that the men try to win control of the bridge by throwing the other team’s men into the canal. When I returned home in the evening, a great bonfire was blazing in the nearby square, and I heard music—a grand celebration for the winning team!

Volo dell’ Angelo (flight of the angel)—This was my favorite event, even though it scared me so much, I could hardly breathe. I was so glad Papa took me to Piazza San Marco on Giovedi Grasso (fat Thursday) so I could watch an acrobat (dressed as an angel) climb a rope stretched from the cathedral to the top of the campanile (so high I’d get dizzy and fall!). Somehow, the acrobat sailed down another rope stretched from the campanile to the Doge’s Palace, and scattered flowers all the way down—I’m amazed he didn’t fall off and die!

Another unforgettable event, that same day and place: some official (I’m not sure who; I couldn’t see because of the crowd) condemned a bull and 12 pigs to death. Then a group of young men chased the animals around in front of the Doge’s Palace.  Finally the men chopped off the poor animals’ heads with swords, butchered them, and passed out the meat to whoever was in charge (maybe the doge and council members; I still couldn’t see). What a bloody mess it left on the piazza!  I hope the rains wash away the blood and gore before I return.

Now, goodbye to meat (Carne vale)! Quadragesima (Lent) will be a long, dull 40 days after all this excitement!



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