Carnevale di Venezia 2011

Last weekend I had one of the most bizarre Friday-Sunday periods in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some ker-razy weekends in my life, that’s how I roll, but nothing could’ve prepped me for attending Carnival in Venice.

Wikipedia’s brief ‘history‘ of the carnival says;

Carnival started as a time for celebration and expression throughout the classes, as wearing masks hid any form of identity between social classes. During the 1970s, the Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of their efforts. Today, approximately 30,000 visitors come to Venice each day for Carnivals.

That’s a fairly decent, if not really short, description of the event but there’s no mention there of pizza, street raves, cheap alcohol, Dr Zoidberg or the incredible powers of paracetamol. Those’ll be the things I remember.

Fans of my life might recall that I went to Venice last summer and had quite a bit of fun. So much in fact, that about a month or so after coming back, we’d sorted out this trip back to Venice for the carnival, dragging along a few friends to spread the mirth (and the cost of the water taxi from the airport).

Being there in June/July, all I really remember vividly was the searing heat and the feeling of actual melting every time I ventured out of the tiny backstreets overshadowed by the imposing (and impressive) crumbling buildings. Being in St Marks Square, surrounded by throngs of tourists, all sweating everywhere and not really knowing where to look or what to photograph next was a little bit hideous. I mean, I enjoyed the trip and the city, but fuck me, it was hot. Knowing that the carnival would attract its fair share of tourists too, I was slightly apprehensive about venturing into a similar situation but thankfully had no such issues.

Venice in July is easily a full 40°C hotter than England. Venice in March is about 1°C warmer. Despite the glorious sunshine (it really was glorious), I was layered up with jumpers and coats and still a little nippy occasionally. Gloves wouldn’t have gone amiss on the Friday night; it was that cold. Well, I say ‘cold’ but during the days, it was ideal for walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. Not too hot, not too cold, just crisp and sunny and lush.

I’ve never seen so many masks in my life. All the shops sell them throughout the year – I bough a couple back in the summer – but I didn’t seen anyone wearing them last time. Carnival though = masks aplenty. To the point where you stood out if you weren’t masked up. Sufferers of maskaphobia be warned, Venice is not for you. Obviously I joined in, with a neat little all black number that complemented my outfit nicely. Bang on trend.

But anyway, we arrived on Friday afternoon and left on Sunday afternoon. 2 full days and nights of exploring Venice and the delights of carnival. Details wont be shared, partly because they’re trivial, partly because they’re embarrassing, but mostly because the whole weekend went by in a blur and I don’t remember too much. Few tidbits though: I was rather ill on Sunday; drinking ‘found’ drinks is not clever; the markets on the west side of the Rialto bridge are a perfect party venue; and the Molino Stucky Hilton hotel normally has a great cocktail bar with awesome views, but during carnival, has wanky rude staff and is closed to the general public. Twats.

All in all, I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s not too expensive. We got flights and an apartment (+ a couple of hotel rooms) fairly cheaply by booking early last Autumn and the food and drink definitely isn’t as expensive as everyone says. In fact, it wasn’t even as expensive as I remembered it from last year. You can get a decent meal and drinks for the same sort of price as in England which was fine with me.

I’ve got plenty of photos that are making their way onto my Flickr page but for now, here are a few to tide you over.

According to my Flickr comments, this is Massimo Eleonori and his friends. The effort that some people put into their costumes was amazing. Next time, I’ll be taking more than a mask and a suit.

You had to wait til around midnight for the traffic of people across the Rialto bridge got quiet enough to make the crossing bearable. The Grand Canal is so peaceful once all the boats have stopped.

The DJ on Friday night. I couldn’t work out if he was supposed to be Pan or just a generic horned beast type of thing.

It’s a photographers heaven, though I wonder how many thousands of people ended up with the exact same photo. Not that I was any different mind. It’s impossible to resist taking photos of people in such extreme costumes. They deserve a little bit of attention.

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