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Carnevale Beats

Everyday life in Venice during Carnevale

Fat Tuesday’s now over; and finally, I can take the time to breathe and just think about the craziness of the past few Carnevale days. I’ve been in Venice since the end of January, and when I thought that I was just getting to know her, Venice just went crazy. Yeah, that’s it. This lil aussie was in Venice the past few weeks, doing her usual nighttime wanderings, cultural observations and wholly immersing herself into spritz-time traditions. (nb: a spritz is the Venetian drink of choiceL; aperol/campari with sparking white wine and mineral water)

Venice? Shes normally calm, tranquil. But these last two weeks, the serenissima label was thrown into the canal as revellers flooded streets and blocked the narrow calle; confetti coloured the ground and the smell of vin brule filled the air. Renaissance and 18th century wigged, powdered and masked partygoers mixed with grown adults in rat suits, Darth Vader and pirate outfits. (And tens of thousands of others looking on and taking photos).

I was actually trying to work. Have a normal routine and normal life. Crowds filling the streets made it hard navigating Venice’s already narrow passageways. But the crowds, the noise, it was at the end of it all, simply intoxicating. There’s something about walking towards the Rialto from Dorsoduro, and finding yourself staring at a black caped, masked stranger floating by. The elaborately masked revellers posing along the waters at the side of San Marco. The beautifully dressed women with powdered wigs and impossibly detailed ballgowns rushing through San Marco on the way to their masked balls.

It was fairytale Venice come alive. And alive it was: with pounding, throbbing beats. From drums and jazz in San Marco to marching bands filling the streets, impromptu percussion concerts in small campos (small piazzas) and DJ sets arranged on stages in the city’s lively areas. It was about watching street performers in every nook and cranny of Venice, dancing to drum beats under Rialto’s shadow until 5 am in the morning, and grooving to free concerts under Venice’s velvet blue skies.

This wasn’t the only carnevale to shake a town upside down this month. Venice may be the oldest, but it’s not the most famous, or the only, carnevale in the world. Rio’s Carnevale in Brasile is one big giant Samba party, but this year it was shadowed by a wave of violence on the streets. New Orlean’s Carnevale this year was the second carnevale celebrated since Hurricane Katrina – and was a much needed break from the town’s rebuilding programs. Then there’s the carnevale in Germany’s Dusseldorf and Cologne – celebrated in a sharply funny politically incorrect spirit. This year, it was satire on Hitler and Bush. Tongue in cheek indeed.

Back in Venice? Carnvale’s over; the confetti still needs to be raked up and the lights are still up. But work goes back to normal. And take my word for it – trying to work in Venice during carnevale was hard.

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