The Carnival of Venice is one of the most famous
in the world and has very ancient origins, by the end of 11th century.
At the age of the "Serenissima" the carnival began on December 26 and
ended the mardi gras but in some special years carnival lasted
for 180 days. During the period of greatest glory of Venice (in the
sixteenth century) there were more sumptuous celebrations, even though
the century in which is identified the Carnival of Venice is the eighteenth.
In that period was allowed to wear the mask, which made
it impossible to make the difference between plebeian and patrician,
young and old and rich from poor, then, at least in those days, the
social tension was canceled.
The place of celebration of Venice Carnival has always been St. Mark's
Square. It hosted performances of all kinds often arranged by the "Compagnie
della Calza" (Companies of Socks), which have been authentic private
committees that organized special events (they were controlled
by the "Council of Ten", yet). The "Compagnia della calza" called "I Antichi"
(The Ancients), founded by Paolo Emanuele Zancopè in 1979, is very active in
preparing shows and festivities. Address: Venice, Campo S. Maurizio
2674, telephone +39 041 5234567 (the seat is actually closed). The puppet theaters were much appreciated
in eighteenth century as the "Mondo Novo", true
ancestor of modern cinema (the images rotated through a crank and were enlarged
with lens). Still exists the "Calle (alley) del Mondo Novo" near Santa Maria
Formosa Square and a fresco by Tiepolo at Ca'Rezzonico shows its use. In 1751
in St. Mark's area was able to see a rhinoceros, this event immortalized by
the painter Pietro Longhi with a famous canvas, visible today at the Museum of
the eighteenth century.
In the days of Venice Carnival was not rare to see the "Hunting of
the Bulls", an ironic imitation of Spanish bullfighting. They were held
in various areas of Venice as San Polo Square or S. Geremia. In the period of carnival
the "Forces of Hercules" between Nicolotti (with black cockades)
and Castellani (with red cockades) were particularly followed by the people. It was
a game of balance, (each team supports each other on the shoulders of comrades),
which dealt two or several teams with the intention to form the highest human pyramid.
In the period of carnival all theatres in the city gave comic performances as the comedies
of Carlo Goldoni. The most used Venetian masks of the carnival have been: Pantalone
(Venice mask for excellence), the Bauta (used with tricorn), the
Bernardone and the Pitocco (fake deformeds and
beggars), and Gnaga (a man dressed up as woman).
The Piazzetta S. Marco was the scene of performances in the ancient times of
Venice Carnival. On "Fat Thursday" there were killed 12 small pigs and beheaded a
bull in memory of the victory achieved by the Doge of Venice Vitale Michiel II
against the patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrich, in 1162 (some argue that this
commemoration has even given rise to the Carnival of Venice). But the most
famous event of the carnival was the "Flight of the Angel"
or "Flight of the Turkish" or even "Flight of Columbine". An acrobat from a
boat went along the ropes until the belfry of the St. Mark's Bell Tower,
then descended on the Loggia Foscari of Doge's Palace where he offered a floral
tribute to the Doge of Venice in person. Actually this event takes place in
total safety and with a reduced route. It runs at noon the first Sunday of
Carnival and marks the official opening of the event. During the
two weekends of Venice Carnival arrive more than 100,000 visitors. If you
intend to stay in the city during carnival, you should book far in advance
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The Carnival in Venice was celebrated throughout the magnificent eighteenth
century although the Venetian Republic was in an obvious state of decline. At
the fall of the Republic of Venice the carnival was suppressed by the French
rulers before, then by Austrians, also fearing that the frenzy of celebrations
could begin the popular conspiracy. Fell into oblivion for almost two centuries,
the first modern carnival was held in 1979, celebrated only by
Venetians. The first "free radios" of those years offered the soundtracks of
those memorable first editions of the reborn Carnival of Venice, setting up
stages in St. Mark's Square and in some areas of Venice. Unfortunately the spirit
of the new Venetian carnival lasted for a short time. Already in the late eighties
the event was sponsored by car manufacturers and it could be considered
without the participation of Venice citizens. Currently it can be estimated that
about 90% of beautiful masks that you admire during the carnival come from outside
Venice, mostly from France and Germany. However, the magnificent masks are still
a major spectacle in the magical scenario of Venice and hundreds of photographers
are still seeking the best shots of Carnival in St. Mark's Square.
The first Saturday of Venice Carnival is celebrated the ancient
"Festa delle Marie". This anniversary will recall a legendary episode. On the 31st
of January 942 while there was a collective wedding in San Pietro di Castello, there was an
incursion of pirates Narentani catching 12 wives. The pirates have been defeated and
killed by the Doge Pietro Candiano III close to Caorle and the 12 girls saved. Since
then the Doge in any anniversary gave the dowry to 12 poor wives. Currently, the
Feast of Marie is the parade with costumes of the 12 most beautiful girls in Venice,
which are carried in triumph in the Square and then rewarded. At midnight on Fat
Tuesday to conclude the carnival are exploded fireworks in St. Mark's Basin.
If during the Carnival of Venice you want to rent a costume or
dress historians clothes, perhaps to go to a party, you can go to Atelier Pietro Longhi.
The workshop has following opening hours: Mon-Fri 9,30am-1pm and 2pm-7pm, on Saturday
9,30am-1pm by appointment only. Atelier Pietro Longhi is located in S. Polo 2580, at
one-minute walk from Campo dei Frari. The staff receives by appointment calling
phone +39 041 714478.
The typical cakes of Venice Carnival are the "Galani", the
"Frittelle" (donuts with cream, or with raisins and pine nuts),
and the "Castagnole".
The next edition of Venice Carnival, will be held from Saturday 30th January 2016
to Tuesday 9th February 2016.
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