When it comes to Venice, more than likely the canals and the Carnivale are the first things that come to people’s minds when they think of the city. Believed to have begun in the Renaissance, the Carnival of Venice begins in February every year and continues for around 20 days. (This year it started on the 15th of February and continued till the first week of March.) During Carnivale people with masks and/or costumes flock to the streets of Venice. Costumes and balls are designed according to the theme of that year.
I have had the privilege of visiting this beautiful city before, but this time it was particularly to join Carnivale and to photograph the bustle. With each visit to Venice, you absolutely find something new that you’ll fall for.
Arriving in Venice by train, we were met by my brother, the sales supervisor of the station. We traveled 10-15 km to their house in Mestre to leave our luggage and without wasting any time we took to the streets.
Having had the opportunity to enjoy Carnivale last year, during the bus ride to Venice, my brother told us about the experience and how vibrant the carnival was as we got increasingly anxious. Like every passenger going to the city center, we got off the bus on Piazzale Rome and passed over the last bridge on the Grand Canal, the Constitution Bridge. From this modern styled bridge, you can get one of the best shots of the Grand Canal. Especially if you can catch the sunset, your photos can equal any oil painting.
Our destination was St. Mark’s Square. Even if you have been living in Venice for some time, because of the labyrinth-like structure of the streets, you might easily get lost. That’s why the attentive locals put a sign on almost every street showing how to get to the St. Mark’s Square. These signs are in such abundance that they have become a running joke reflected even in the souvenirs.
As we started walking, our attention was grabbed by a crowd at the square in front of Santa Lucia Train Station. We came to realize that people who wanted their faces to be painted queued up in front of young talented artists who were offering their services for a small fee. Of course I didn’t miss the chance to be a part of Carnivale and immediately joined the queue. You could either choose your makeup from the catalogue or leave it to the artist’s discretion. When it was my turn, the artist worked his magic and within a short while, something like 5 minutes, did a very good job. With my new flamboyant style I mingled with the crowd.
We passed through the alleyways and continued on our way. We were surrounded by people wearing costumes of all colors and styles. Some were walking with us, some were standing on the sidewalks like a living statue. With the camera in my hand, I was just walking, confused, didn’t know what to shoot. As far as I could tell, it was a huge, merry crowd, but since my brother had the advantage of comparing the scene with the last years, he said that it was a poor one. I was a little out of spirits but I didn’t care. A little girl was walking in front of me throwing confetti as if she was making a special colored road. Watching the flying confetti, I heard some music and it sounded very familiar. Just a little ahead of us, there was this puppeteer performing with a cello bodied puppet to the music of Erik Satie’s Gnossienne. Watching this was really absorbing.
As we got closer to St. Mark’s Square, the crowd with masks and costumes seemed to get larger and larger. Although the weather was nice, unfortunately there was no trace of the huge crowd that my brother had been talking about. Initially I thought maybe it was due to it being only the second day of Carnivale, but later my brother told me that he had come to the city on the first days of the carnival and although it had been rainy, it had been bursting at the seams.
As a matter of fact I was really sick and I could hardly walk but the joy of the carnival was motivating and filling me with energy. After a short coffee break, we continued on our way. The most interesting group with the costumes that we had ever seen were disguised in the Pirates of Caribbean costumes. Practically we walked together with them to the square.
Finally we were at St. Mark’s Square. And unfortunately there was still a poor crowd. The stage where a costume competition would be held at the last day of Carnivale was just being set up. And yet there were still couples walking around in their costumes. After taking a few photos, we gave in to the hunger and decided to grab a bite.
We chose one of the restaurants behind the square and sat down. To be honest the prices were kind of high so you’d better check them out before sitting down. After relaxing a little and eating our fill we took to the streets to shoot some photos. Although it wasn’t that crowded we were able to take photos of very interesting costumed groups. We watched this carousal until we run out of steam and then we went back to Piazza Roma with a vaporetto which are used for transportation on the canals.
The next morning bright and early we went back to St. Mark’s but the weather was overcast and the crowd seemed even worse, so we decided to use the opportunity to get into St. Mark’s Basilica where normally you would have to wait in the line for hours to get in. I am sure readers of Dan Brown’s Inferno will examine the inside with a different perspective. After enjoying this spectacular building, we took our luggage from my brother’s house and left this magical city.