Friday, March 4, 2011

OTTOCENTO - From Senso to Sissi - The City of Women - Venice Carnival 2011

(Venice, Italy) Silvia Bianchini, a 23-year-old Venetian, was the Angel this year for the Flight of the Angel, or Volo dell'Angelo during the 2011 Venice Carnival. Even though I have lived in Venice since 1998, I had never seen the Flight of the Angel, and decided to go this year on Sunday, February 27 at noon. Apparently I was not the only one who ventured into Piazza San Marco that day -- there happened to be 84,999 other people there.

The charming and beautiful Silvia Bianchini won top prize at the Festa delle Marie last year, 2010, so she is the reigning Maria dell'anno, or Mary of the Year, sort of like the Princess of Venice. From a previous blog I wrote:

La Festa delle Marie originated from a pirate raid in 943 a.d., according to Venetian legend. In ancient times, Venetians married on only one day each year. A water procession from the Arsenale on the canal “delle Vergini” started the festivities. All the brides-to-be were rowed across the lagoon in decorated boats brimming with dowries, while their future husbands waited at the Church of San Nicolò at the Lido.

That year, pirates raided the procession, kidnapping the brides and the booty. An enraged Venetian rescue party executed the pirates and brought the brides back to the ceremony.

To commemorate the victory in the past, every year twelve patriarchal families would present twelve virtuous young women from poor Venetian families with a dowry, and the designation “le Marie,” or “The Marys.”

To read the entire article, click HERE.

Now, in addition to being the Maria, Silvia Bianchini is the Angel, too, an incredible feat, because she had to go all the way to the top of the Campanile, and "fly" off. The Campanile is 98.6 meters high, or 323 feet tall, and not for the feint of heart. I thought she was remarkable. The photo at the top of the page seems to have been taken from the Campanile, to give you and idea of the distance she had to travel. It was surprisingly moving to watch her gently float down to the ground, accompanied by a chorus of angels. (Could someone please explain to me why advertisers in Piazza San Marco can't create an ad designed particularly for the space in Piazza San Marco? To me, it should be like a Super Bowl ad, competing to be the coolest, most talked about ad. It should be a work of art and compete for advertising-world prizes. Instead the ads are astonishingly out of place and distracting.)

Here is the official Volo dell' Angelo video from You Tube:

Please click HERE to go to the Venezia Marketing & Eventi site for more Carnival happenings.

The theme of this year's Carnevale is OTTOCENTO - da Senso a Sissi - La Città delle Donne, or NINETEENTH CENTURY - from Senso to Sissi - The City of Women. It could be subtitled "independent female aristocrats who didn't play by the rules." Both the heroine in Senso, and the real-life Empress Elizabeth of Austria, spent time in Venice during the struggle for Italy's Unification; the 150 year anniversary is being celebrated in Italy this year. The Italy we know today is younger than the United States, a Republic a little over 200-years-old. Venice herself was conquered by Napoleon in 1797 after living as an independent Republic for more than 1,000 years. 

From Wikipedia: The Republic of Venice (Italian: Repubblica di Venezia, Venetian: Repùblica Vèneta or Repùblica de Venesia) or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until the year 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice (Italian: Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, Venetian: Serenìsima Repùblica Vèneta or Repùblica de Venesia) and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in reference to its title as one of the "Most Serene Republics". It preferred to trade rather than participate in unnecessary war activities.   

About Senso from Wikipedia:

"Senso is a 1954 film adaptation of Camillo Boito's Italian novella, Senso, by the Italian director Luchino Visconti, ... Senso is set in Italy around 1866, when the Italian-Austrian war of unification was coming to its end. The film opens in the La Fenice opera house in Venice with a performance of Il Trovatore. The opera is interrupted by a major protest of Italian Nationalists against the occupying Austrian troops present in the theatre. Livia, an Italian Countess who is unhappily married to a stuffy old aristocrat, bears witness to this and tries to conceal the fact that her own cousin Marquis Roberto Ussoni organized the protest. During the commotion, she meets a dashing young Austrian Officer named Franz Mahler, and is instantly smitten by him. The two begin a secretive and highly forbidden love affair. Despite the obvious fact that Franz was responsible for sending Roberto into exile because of his radical behavior, Livia vainly pretends not to be aware of it."

About Empress Sissi, from

The German-born Elisabeth, Empress of Austria (1837-1898), was the beloved “Sisi,” one of the most famous royal celebrities of her day. As the consort of the emperor of Austria—a land that dominated the map of Europe at the time—Elisabeth was a well known figure whose exploits were avidly chronicled in the nineteenth-century press much in the same way that Britain's Diana (1961-1997), Princess of Wales, would be a hundred years later.

On one occasion, she shocked an aristocrat seated near her at a formal dinner by removing her gloves. When the older woman asked why she did so, Elisabeth replied, “Why not?” to which the woman answered, “Because it is a deviation from the rules.” At that, cognizant of her power as empress, Elisabeth retorted, “Then let the deviation henceforth be the rule,” according to A. De Burgh's biography, Elizabeth, Empress of Austria: A Memoir.

There is a fountain spilling over with wine in the center of Piazza San Marco, and men strolling around in top hats and capes in additional to the usual costumes, which range from the creative to the elegant to the downright silly. There is even an ice-skating rink in Campo San Polo. This year they are charging admission to enter the center of Piazza San Marco when there is a show going on, which everyone agrees is a very good idea, except, perhaps the tourists. It used to be free, but if you consider the huge expense Carnevale costs in keeping things neat and tidy, it is only fair that the burden be shared. If there were 85,000 people in Piazza San Marco alone last Sunday, that is much more than the population of Venice itself, which is a bit over 59,000. Imagine -- there are so few residents left that you can fit the entire population of Venice into Piazza San Marco.

Photo: La Biennale
For the second year, La Biennale presents Carnevale dei ragazzi, or the Kid's Carnival down at Giardini. Unfortunately, I went with a dog, not a kid, who was not allowed inside, so I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked. I loved it! The kids were creating things the old-fashioned way -- with their own hands -- just like real children, and they seemed perfectly content not to have a computer in front of them. Different rooms inside the Italian pavilion with names like "The enchanted forest" "The prarie of sounds" "The painted desert" "The city of visions" "The fluorescent depths" were bursting with creative activities and plenty of kids intent on the act of creation.  The principle: "having fun by creating." Remember that? Remember how you could spend hours simply with some crayons, or some mud? As well as visitors to Venice, schools from all over the Veneto arrived. Paolo Baretta, the President of La Biennale, wrote: "I would like to thank the teachers of all the schools at every grade and level, from Venice and the Veneto region, our intelligent ambassadors and precious partners. I would like to thank the parents who will accompany their children, and those will allow themselves to be accompanied by their children." This year's edition was the first time there was international participation, with Austria, Great Britain, Holland and Poland contributing to the fun.

On Tuesday night, March 1, the Venetian band, Ska-J played over at Remer's as part of the official Carnival schedule. I am a huge fan of Furio, who plays the sax and sings, and is one of the original members of Pitura Freska, the beloved Venetian band. They have their own sound, unique to Venice, a mix of ska, reggae, jazz, whatever. First, here's Furio, by himself, singing So Figo, with nice shots of Venice with... brace yourself... real, live Venetians! Click HERE to go to the official Ska-J site.

 Also, here's another clip of a reunited Pitura Freska singing in Piazza San Marco during Carnevale, 2008.

And if you would like a peek inside one of the fabulous masquerade balls, here is a clip from Antonia Sautter's world famous Il Ballo del Doge (The Doge's Ball) in 2010, held every year at one of Venice's most stupendous palaces, Palazzo Pisani Moretta. Enjoy!

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

UPDATE March 8, 2011 from Ansa:

Venice packed for carnival finale

Mardi Gras celebration coincides with International Womens's Day

08 March, 15:44

Mimosa for Woman's Day
(ANSA) - Venice, March 8 - All hotels in this picturesque lagoon city have hung out their no vacancy signs as hordes of costumed merrymakers gather for the finale of Italy's most famous carnival celebration Tuesday night.

Over 280,000 visitors arrived last weekend filling all available beds not only in Venice but also on the Lido island facing it and the neighboring city of Mestre on the mainland.

"This is the highest occupancy we've ever seen in the three areas, a far cry from last year," said Vittorio Bonacini, head of the Venice Hoteliers Association.

Click HERE to read the entire ANSA article.

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