We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fritelle + Confetti = CARNEVALE!

I know, my title today looks like a bit of really weird math. It is an equation, an equation for fun in Venice.

After taking down the Christmas decorations - and you know in Italy you don't take them down until January 6 which is Epiphany - it was a dreary January here in Venice. It rained. And then it rained some more. And then it kept on raining.  And then there was fog. Thick fog. The one thing we had to look forward to was the first sightings of fritelle to arrive in the bakeries around town. It was somewhere around mid January. The second you see the fritelle arriving, you know Carnevale isn't far behind.

 Fritelle are fried dough, with currents and pine nuts in the dough. They can be plain, rolled in sugar or stuffed with an assortment of goodies such as nutella, crema, zabaione, and ricotta.

The other harbinger of Carnevale that I look for is confetti on the streets. When I see the confetti, I know Carnevale is even closer. You an almost smell it in the air, it's that special. Confetti  has been spotted in several locations in the last couple of days, with lots of it in Campo Santa Margherita. I'm counting down days to Carnevale from here on in.

This year, Carnevale begins on February 15 and runs until March 4. The theme is Wonder and Fantasy Nature.  Join me through the whole month as I introduce you to Venetian masks and some of my favorite authentic mask makers around the city, costumes and some of the wonderfully talented people who make them, and the major activities of Carnevale taking place in and around  St. Mark's square.

To whet your appetite, here's a photo of one of my favorite costumes from Carnevale 2013.  I can't wait to see what's in store this year.

To learn more about this year's Carnevale program, check out the offical website at http://www.carnevale.venezia.it/index.php

Sunday, January 5, 2014

La Befana comes tomorrow

The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long live the Befana!

Tomorrow, January 6, is the day of Epiphany, a Christian religious celebration in honor of the day the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem to visit the baby Jesus.  In Italy, the celebration involves a witch, La Befana, who flies on her broom on the night of January 5 to deliver candies to all good children, or coal to the bad ones!

In olden days, Italian children didn't get gifts on Christmas from Santa, only candies on January 6 from La Befana.  In more recent times, Santa (Babbo Natale) delivers presents to Italian children too. Lucky Italian kids!

January 6 is also marks the end of the Christmas/New Year's holidays. It's a long two weeks of almost non-stop eating, starting with Christmas eve, then Christmas day, then Santo Stefano day on December 26.  There's a little break, but it seems we're still stuffing ourselves on traditional sweets of panettone or pandoro until New Year's eve.  On that night, you eat a  huge meal,  cenone consisting of many, sometimes up to 15, different courses of food.  And, again on New Year's day there is more food,  when families eat a traditional meal of lentils and cotechino, similar to a sausage. Lentils supposedly bring good luck or good fortune in the new year, so of course, you cannot miss eating those.  Christmas trees and decorations stay up until January 6.

In other Italian cities, there is a huge bonfire on the night of January 5 to celebrate the arrival of La Befana. In Venice, things are handled a bit differently.  Tomorrow morning at 10 am there will be a regatta in the Grand Canal starting at San Toma and ending at the Rialto bridge. Rowers will all be dressed as Befanas, with shawls, dresses, hats and wigs.  At the end of the race, there will be mulled wine, hot chocolate and candies for all.

Get your cameras ready tomorrow morning, find a spot along the Grand Canal near Rialto. I'll meet you there!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Beginning 2014 with a plunge!

January 1, 2014 couldn't have started off with any better weather. It was sunny, crystal clear, and warm with temperatures in the upper 50's- the perfect day for the annual Polar Bear Plunge into the Adriatic Sea. Here in Venice,  a group called "gli ibernisti" take a swim at the public beach on the Lido, followed by a lively celebration to bring in the New Year right! 

Although I've known about this event, this was the first year I attended. No, I did not participate- a bit too cold for me to be jumping into the Adriatic. However, I will admit, it was such a warm day and everyone out there in the water was having such a good time, I was truly very tempted to join them.

Music, clowns and lots of bubbles kept the crowd happy while waiting for the swimmers to arrive.
The sea was peaceful and calm. It would have been a wonderful morning for a long walk along the coast.

 At 12 noon, these brave souls donned in bathing suits parted the crowds as they made their way to the beach front.

 The actual swim didn't last long, under 10 minutes. 

 Everyone made their way back to the shore where there was lots of photo taking.
 Unusual footwear! 
 These lovely ladies were adorned with sparkly necklaces just right for the occassion.

 You can tell who the "regulars" are!
 After the plunge, the celebration turned up a notch. The band entertained the crowds with familiar selections of both Italian and American tunes. Many were dancing and singing along.
 Even the dogs were taking advantage of the warm mid-day sun!
 The entire crowd lined up for a bowl of lentils and cotechino, a traditional New Year's day meal in this part of Italy. Eating lentils on New Years is said to bring good luck, similar to eating pinto beans in the USA.  Panettone, pandoro  (traditional holiday sweets) and local wine (sfuso) siphoned from a vat for everyone was an added treat.  The fantastic weather only aided in helping all of us get in the spirit of the celebration. I can imagine in other years taking the swim or being an observer might not be so pleasant depending on how frigid the day is.

Here's to 2014!  I hope this coming year is filled with good health, love, laughter, and dreams fulfilled for all of you.  Buon Anno Nuovo!