Venice Carnival -
Carnevale di Venezia
Continued from page 1
Today's Venice Carnival
Carnevale was a mere
historical curiosity by the time William Dean Howells, U.S. consul to Venice in Abraham
Lincoln's administration, wrote Venetian
Life in 1865. He describes a Shrovetide ceremony dating back to 1162 that
"was very popular and continued a long time, though I believe not till the fall of
the Republic." More recent books, such as Time-Life's The Great Cities: Venice
(1976) and Blue Guide: Northern Italy (1978) don't even mention Carnival.
In 1979, a group of foreign and other non-Venetian organizers attempted to revive Carnevale
in the same spirit that provokes American historical societies to organize mock battles on
Independence Day or to stage charity balls with Victorian costumes and themes. The
modern-day merchants of Venice quickly recognized the economic potential of this
Phoenix-like Carnevale, and a new tourist season was born. Lisa St. Aubin de
Terán describes this phenomenon in her book,
The Four Seasons:
"This recent revival of the ancient Carnival has not struck a chord in the
hearts of the citizens, but it has touched a new button on the cash register. The whole
festival has become an organized debacle that most Venetians suffer with ill
"...The finale of fireworks over the lagoon packs the Piazza San Marco and
the Riva degli Schiavoni so tightly that the oohs and aahs of admiration for the
bombardment of noise and color is muted by the sheer crush. This last homage to the water
is, perhaps, the one moment of real excitement of the whole affair. The mixture of
splendid exploding rain and the crowd of over a hundred thousand people crammed into a
small contained space make for a communal burst of adrenalin."
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