Today was Mardi Gras in Venice (Fat Tuesday). And what a show! We thought Sunday was fabulous, but today was even better.
This time, we had box seats the whole day so a whole different perspective being part of the stage and looking out onto the audience. They served us a wonderful 4-course lunch with baked fish au gratin, asparagus risotto, duck with artichokes, and tiramisu. It took half the afternoon.
We sat next to an adorable French family who were visiting from Paris. The grandparents own a vineyard and make champagne and invited us to visit them near Reims. (We will add that to our list!) We had a lot of fun with them and invited them to visit and sail with us in Annapolis.
And then the highlights really started.
There was yet another costume contest but his one was more informal. The audience got to choose the winner by holding up a red or green sheet of paper. The costumes looked just as impressive to us – we think the difference was that the official contest we saw before was judged on the actual costume design and sewing, while today was more “off the rack.” One of our favorites was a Pavarotti impersonator who looked just like him.
Festa della Marie
Then, for the Maries. Each year, twelve young ladies are chosen to be part of Carnevale, observing the tradition that the Doge (king) had established when he would select twelve deserving Venetians to honor by paying their bridal dowries. It reminded me of the Cherry Blossom Festival, where I was always trying to find a South Carolina Princess – some poor soul was probably scrambling around seeing what family friend she could talk into being a Marie (and no doubt having to come up with lots of gifts).
The Maries are celebrated throughout Venice and spent all day making their way to St. Marks – being carried through the streets and then taking gondolas down the canals. Finally, they paraded onto the stage as the song “Maria” from West Side Story played on the loudspeakers. The crowd and the press went wild.
Flight of the Lion
Then the Maries lined up to help unfurl a giant flag of Venice, which features a lion. As the crowd sang the “Anthem of Venice,” the flag slowly was lifted and unfurled along a wire that went to the top of the tower, while confetti blew through the air. It was breathtaking.
A Perfect Ending
A group called “The Gondoliers” finished the day with a variety of Italian songs, from opera to Andrea Bocelli to fun sing-along classics. They were as good as The Three Tenors. Pavarotti (from the costume contest) held court in the audience lip-synching along when an opera was sung – with fans taking pictures. No one takes themselves too seriously at Carnevale. Frank and I even danced in the middle of St. Mark’s Square as they sang “Time to Say Goodbye.” It was dark then, and the Square was full – what a magical moment. Then the Gondoliers finished up and said, “See you in 2016!” as everyone cheered.
Venice – I have to say, you put on one classy and elegant party. We hope we will be back.