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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Laureate festa last nite

Around 5:30 pm yesterday, I was feeling like I needed a little air. It didn't take much to convince Mike to join me for a walk to Campo Santa Margherita - the enticement of a beer at Imagina Cafe was all he needed! The campo was already crowded with all sorts of people and live bands getting ready for the last night of carnevale celebrations when we arrived.

From the outside, Imagina Cafe looked pretty quiet, which was just what I was hoping for. Once in the door, however, we discovered a fairly large party going on in the front room. There was no doubt what this was-- a graduation party. Here in Venice, they are called Laureate festa's, organized by friends and family in a local bar or cafe for the graduate. There are certain level degrees called Dottore, and these are the ones celebrated with a Laureate party. The graduate is made to walk around the city with a laurel wreath (what else?) on their head or around their neck, they are typically dressed up in some outlandish getup almost like a Halloween costume, and their friends make them do pretty awful tasks. My favorite part is when the whole assemblage starts singing at the top of their lungs a special song "Dottore, Dottore" as they march along the city streets. It reminds me of sorority and fraternity hazing. My Italian tutor Marzia tells me that this does not happen in other cities. I like that it's unique to Venice.

We see alot of these Laureate parties. Last night was the first time we were ever invited to join one. When we got inside the cafe and saw this party, we also noticed that our doctor was in attendance too! Our doctor has his office in Campo Santa Margherita also. We see him regularly, both in his office or walking in the neighborhood. He never looks up when he is walking, and even in the office he is fairly brief in all conversations. So last night Mike and I were incredibily surprised when the doctor approached us, with a huge smile on his face, said hello and invited us to have a drink of prosecco with them. He was the father of the Laureate!! We were going to decline his invitation, but he wasn't having any part of it. He spoke to us in Italian and English, handed us drinks, then brought his son over to meet us. Our dottore was very proud of his son! He also offered us desserts, lovely little pastries from - where else- Tonolo. He could see that I was going to decline the dessert, so he laughed and told me not to worry about my cholesterol tonight! Wow---he not only knew who we were, but he remembered my ailments!!

It was pretty much the end of their Laureat festivities, but we enjoyed being included for a few minutes at least. This was way more than just a polite glass of prosecco, this was another sign that we're being accepted into the community, and by the last person I would have ever expected it from!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Carnevale 2010 !!!!!

Carnevale is Venice's version of Mardi Gras- it's 10 days of merriment and debauchery, elaborate costumes, parades, masquerade balls, confetti and delicious dolci (sweets). And I have been waiting for this! This year it runs from Feb 6-Feb 16. There are big events scheduled every day, and then some smaller "themed"events in many of the larger campos spread thoughout the city. Last year, and again this year the theme has been 6 Sestiere's -6 Senses. In each Sestiere, a different sense- touch, taste, feel, sight, etc. is represented.

Even though we've been here two years, I've managed to miss Carnevale both times. The first year, my arrival flight from the USA was on the very first day of Carnevale. You'd think I would have dropped everything and run out to see costumes. Unfortunately it was pouring rain, and I'd just had an overnight flight, with dog in tow. It rained for 9 more days, and I was in government offices knee deep in my first go-round with the Italian beaurcratic system. No Carnevale for me.

Last year, I just happened to be in the United States wrapping up the sale of our home there, so again, I missed Carnevale. You can imagine how anxious I have been for this one to arrive!

This winter has been cold, and pretty wet, with an unusual amount of Aqua Alta too. Saturday February 6th, the first day of Carnevale, was wet as well. I somehow thought that Saturday was also the day of the big opening celebrations in St. Mark's square, so I made my way there in the rain in the hopes of getting some good photos.

My first costume sighting was this older French couple on the streets just outside of St. Mark's Square. Despite the rain and cold, they were out smiling, stopping for all of us to snap a shot.

I entered St. Mark's square expecting a huge crowd, and found none. They were still putting the finishing touches on the stage area, which had this enormous topiary of a winged lion, complete with fresh fruit- those are carrots on the wings and apples on the feet! But what happened to the opening ceremonies??? I phoned Mike, who informed me that I had the wrong day- they are on Sunday, not Saturday. Just as well, it was cold and wet. I went home, dead set on being back in St. Mark's square on Sunday, even if it was still raining.

You see all sort of costumes during Carnevale week, even ones that look just like Halloween costumes we're used to in the U.S. The kids particularly are dressed like action heros, princesses, Tiggers. Here are two little girls out in the rain too, throwing confetti.

Opening cermemonies on Sunday were to start at noon with the Flight of the Angel. This is a slide down a cable that is extended from the top of the Campanile (bell tower), to the main stage on the other side of the square. Every year a celebrity makes the Flight, this year it is a young Italian actress named Bianca Brandolini D'Adda. See her sliding down the cable in this photo? Not sure I would ever do that, she was a brave one!

After the angel descent, the only way to move anywhere in St. Mark's Square was to just allow yourself to be pushed along with the mass of people moving along. The crowd was moving -inching really. It was actually frightful for a few minutes, but eventually I made it to the other side of the square. I didn't get to see the parade from the main stage to the Doge's Palace, but I did manage to catch some great shots of all the parade participants at the end of the parade when they sort of dumped out along the Molo in front of the Doge's Palace. I was quite disappointed not to have spotted the Doge, though.

I loved this guys costume. It just seems so perfect for his face.

Kids are in costume everwhere also. There were so many people, most of the smaller children were up on shoulders. Here's a tiny Dumbledore!

The two big categories of costumes you see at Carnevale are Period Costumes and Fantasy Costumes. I love them both, but obviously I am fascinated by the fantasy type. The imagination that goes into their creation is beyond words.

Of all the costumes I observed today, I think this guy below is my favorite.

And this woman has my favorite hat---- I want it!

And this group in red was fabulous.

At 2pm, there is the Marie's parade, from San Pietro di Castello, the old Cathedral, all the way down Riva degli Schiavoni to St. Mark's Square. Twelve lovely young women are selected in a sort of beauty pagent event earlier in the week to portray the 12 Marie's. During the parade, they are carried along the parade route. Many other groups make up the parade, including groups from other areas of Italy, all in period costumes. Puglia and L'Aquila sent groups of marching drummers and flag throwers this year.

The first two of the 12 Marie's are carried by gondoliers. The others are carried by regular guys wearing costumes of white shirts, black pants and a red sash at the waist. Here's the first Marie..

This is another very elaborate costume we saw on the streets just after the Marie's Parade ended.

The only thing that might have made this day even better was if I were inside one of those costumes myself!!!