Have you ever been to Venice? Before February 2020, I had not. If you’ve been there, you know the magic spell she casts over you. I was not prepared for the enchantment. Even now, over eight months later, I am still enraptured. So much so that the “quick” blog post I intended to write about my visit turned into something much greater. It’s going to take several posts to share the best parts.
unexpected good fortune
As I mentioned earlier, this grand tour of Italy was planned around one dinner reservation. The rest was just good fortune. February is not the most popular time of year to traipse around Italy. Unless you’re headed to Carnevale di Venezia. That wasn’t part of the plan, it was simply our amazing luck!
Carnevale di Venezia
In Venice, Carnevale is an epic celebration of excess that runs for approximately two weeks, culminating on Shrove Tuesday, the same day as Mardi Gras. This is last day before the Catholic Church begins the season of Lent.
During this time, acrobats, jugglers, and street performers entertain the masked and sometimes elaborately costumed masses in the Piazza San Marco. And grand dinner parties and balls are hosted throughout the city. Carnevale is also popularly linked with Casanova who took full advantage of the Venetian penchant for mask wearing in his legendary exploits.
The origins of this festival date back to the 13th century and hit a peak of popularity in the late 18th century. So much so, that they were outlawed. Even the wearing of masks was illegal. In 1979 the Carnevale di Venezia resumed. Today, serious Carnevale attendees plan their extraordinary costumes sometimes years in advance. And at great cost (several thousands).
Our visit coincided with the early days of the festival and the weekend of the grand ball. Because of the looming world health pandemic, there were far fewer people crowding the Piazza San Marco in 2020. Still, the costumed and masked revelers were out in all their glory.
I heard the final ceremonies of the year were cancelled. I will always be grateful for the rare twist of fate that allowed me to experience this historic event.