10 February 2016

Carnival in Venice

It's Pancake Day (or Shrove Tuesday in the Christian calendar) and the last day of Carnival, that pre-Lent knees-up. Seeing as Venice will have been completely mobbed today, my autistic, sixteen year old son, Umberto and I decided to visit yesterday. His sister Camilla was away visiting Filippo (at university in the UK) for the weekend; so Umbi and I were home alone. We booked the train tickets on Friday and then, as I'd really wanted to get to the Carnevale in traditional Venetian garb myself this year - but with Easter falling so early, and other things going on in my life, I'd had somehow missed the opportunity, I decided that at least Umberto should go in costume - I envisaged a clown (how original!!!) and I came out of the fabric shop with this....

... (that button's the size of a small saucer). By evening my resolve was wobbling. WHAT had I been thinking? Umberto is a full blown adolescent for god's sake! It wouldn't have crossed my mind to try and dress Filippo up at sixteen. So I changed tack, and instead of running-up an outsize clown suit, I spent my weekend eating biscuits and drinking wine (so much for the WWW diet). I blame the weather! I also got on with our Bookclub read for this month. "Capital" by John Lancester. It proved un-put-downable.

Umberto wasn't thrilled to be going on "a normal train".

He was suspicious of my motives. I think he suspected me of trying to rescind on the trip to the steam-train in England, and palming him off with the "inferior" high-speed, FrecciaRossa. But once we got to Venice, and I'd offered him a fortifying slap-up meal at the conveniently situated Burger King on the opposite side of the Grand Canal ...

... his faith began to return. Then we both donned our masks, and headed into the fray. 

Here follows a visual journey. The pictures are what they are I'm afraid (I blame my relic of a camera). I'll try to keep comments to a minimum, not least because I'm shamefully behind on translating my already published posts into Italian and the more I write here the more I'll have to translate, but I can't promise not to launch off if the mood grabs me!

This band of drummers made a magnificent sound

But for Umbi it was a sensorial overload!

So, we ducked down a quiet, deserted alley ... 

Only to have our way blocked by some very determined, fearless and blase' pidgeons who seemed bent on discomfitting poor Umbi.
Finally, we emerged onto Piazza San Marco

where there was A LOT of posing going on

Umberto loved Merlin. His fascination with beards has already got him into trouble more than once

This fabulous chappie was having problems with his lantern, and as he was surrounded by photographers, both professional and amateur ...

I snuck round behind him, and captured some details 

Most of those in full costume remain pretty static. You get the sense that they'll fall apart if they move brusquely, and I think quite a few costumes are held together with hot glue and safety-pins. They also tend to remain completely silent, in this way perpetuating the historical tradition of anonymity - even when they're caught snacking

But this fabulous Cockerel stood out from the crowd as he leapt, and flapped and strutted  
... he had Umberto mesmirized

We left Saint Marks and the Doge's Palace behind, and wandered along the Riva degli Schiavoni

We watched gondolas heading for the Bridge of Sighs

and exchanged photographic favours with some Russians 

Then the Mysterious Masked Man decided it was time for a refreshing sit down with a packet of Fonzies and a juice

Later we ambled back towards the station, staying off the beaten track as much as possible, and taking in the sights which by now were old hat to seasoned visitors like us.

We passed this shop, which not only sells everything one might need to get supremely kitted out for Carnevale

(though I'd make my own costume just for fun)

but for a princely sum, it'll rent you every item you may need. This is handy for those travelling to Venice by Ryanair and whose costume brought from home would cause them to exceed the 10kg luggage allowance! To be honest, I've got my beady eye on that wig for  Carnival 2017 - wonder if I can find it on ebay
Whenever I'm in Venice, as long as time isn't an issue, I always try to "lose" myself, because it's only when you get off the well-trodden "tourist thoroughfares" that you see what a real, living city Venice still is. Anywhere else in the western World, this builder would have brought his scaffolding on site by truck ...

... but as the property he was refurbishing wasn't even on the waterfront, he had a team of men relaying building materials hundreds of metres by wheelbarrow.

Now, if we've already "met" on this blog, you'll have noticed I have a habit of unsubtly slipping one of my (usually unrelated) sewing projects into a post. Yes? Ha! Well, I'm about to astonish you. Allow me to reveal .... Piazza San Marco and The Doge's Palace, emblazoned across my person. Now, try and tell me that's not related! 

True, the piazza looks a little flooded. But then a friend who grew up in Venice told me of the joy uniformly experienced by Venetian schoolchildren when the High Water siren sounded, giving them all leave to remain at home. 

I made this from a short length of silk satin, and it took me a ridiculous amount of time to decide how to proceed for the best. In the end I only darted the left front, and then slightly gathered the right, as I was unwilling to lose the detail in the print on that side. I had a piece of pale grey, semi-sheer/semi-stretch not-sure-wot fabric in my stash, and I made cuffed, 3/4 sleeves and a collar. And I didn't make them very well as it turns out, because in my zeal to do a good job, I sewed french seams. Well done Sal, you may say, and you'd be right because they worked fine on the inside, but the weight of the collar caused the neck seam to turn outwards, revealing the seam ... Rats!!! If I was less lazy I'd stitch it down to the inside - but I seem to get more lazy rather than less, so that's a shame :D

Anyway I sort of like it, but only for its novelty value. It's my "Venice Top" - so it's weird that I forgot to wear it yesterday. Instead I snaffled the Issey Miyake coat I made for Camilla. I must take this opportunity to say "Thank you", to my very loved schoolfriend ... 

... who bothered to visit me in Italy in October and who good humouredly took these photographs? Dear Mandy, I've missed you. Please come and stay again.
Umberto's Papa' was waiting to pick him up when we got off the train at Peschiera, so I continued home, footloose and fancy free for 24 hours. En route home, and buoyed by the day's success, I permitted myself a mosey around a fatal shoe shop, the upshot of which is ... 

 ... THIS PAIR OF BOOTS!!! (bought in the sale mind) Aren't they Blooming Marvellous?
I minced and strotted around in them all evening, inventing "Looks" specifically created to justify their presence in my life. 
(and here for the Nth time in this post, I'm apportioning blame, this time to my favorite bloggers for not-so-passively inciting me to this extravagance!!!)

 My friend in the above photograph is also modelling the hat, that I'd deemed an essential part of my future wardrobe when passing through the Rialto in Venice earlier that day.
All things considered it was a very successful day, and although we ran into some gorgeous examples of Venetian manhood... 

I think I'll stick with one of my two tried and tested Perfect Men

This Blog is pro-autism.


  1. Sal, you have done it again! What an entertaining piece. Umberto really enjoyed himself, love his idea of a slap up meal !
    How I miss Venice, agree how always best divert down some alley away from the crowds. One spot remaining on the list to see is that lovely spiral tower, en route from San Marco to the Riallto. Love your 'Venice creation'

  2. Hiya Steve, yes it's true, Umbi had a good time on the whole. He did come out with a few "But I need to go home"s, but I managed to eek out the multipack of Fonzies we'd brought and keep him happy that way. Oh, if only everyone's compliance could be so easily bought!
    I've never actually been up any of the towers - and Monday certainly wasn't the day to begin as the queues were prohibitively long. But I've no doubt that it's the best way to fully understand the wonder of Venice.
    Baci Sxx

  3. What a lovely interlude and the boots are perfect for gripping slippery pavements so they are totally necessary for the time of year, well done for spotting such glamorously practical must haves.

    I'm dying to see you in full carnival costume next year, you would look amazing I know, but I do think it needs to be one you can walk, skip and dance in so we can see all that's Sal!

    1. Thanks Kass, I knew my REAL friends would recognise the value of these boots!
      You know, it's typical. Here I am - living an hour away from Venice and I've never done the full-on carnival thing. But I'm SURE that when I move to Sicily, attending the Carnevale in full costume will become an annual fixture for me.
      baci Sx

  4. A great story and pictures to go with it Sally! I have always wanted to go to the Carnival in Venice but could not convince my other half to wear those white knee high stockings as part of a costume and so it never happened...maybe one day...The print on your top is beautiful and you had the perfect setting for it. I would love to see you in a complete costume next year!

  5. Hi Ivona, I think if you're going for the full costume it's probably best enjoyed with a partner, or a group (see whether BLACK stockings would be more acceptable for your other half!).
    Each year I kick myself for not having organised a costume in time. If I really mean to go in "maschera" next year, I should begin to think about creating the costume this summer ... After all, time does FLY
    Baci Sxx

  6. Dearest Sally, how wonderful to find this post. I must have been away when you published this one. I love, love, love Venice but haven't been there for the Carnival as it's too expensive to stay at that time. Thank you for sharing all the visual delights from your day. Your Venice top is adorable. You're so clever to run these things up with such ease. What a fab post, and one I will come back to again and again when I need a little top up of the most romantic of cities x
    Anna's Island Style

    1. Thank you so much Anna. Yes, you were probably cruising into another beautiful part of Italy when this was published :)
      Baci Sxx


I'm so glad you visited today - please stop and say a quick "Hello". Sx