Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Carnevale di Venezia – Carnival in Venice Part II

Carnivale di Venezia - Part I

The electronic key lock to open the heavy wooden doors of the hotel room always strikes me as a bit out of place. I push the door open for Raffaella and hear a gasp. In the middle of the parlor hanging on a bellhops cart is this stunning gown. The cobalt blue bell gown tapers into the bee’s waist bustier, trimmed with gold and grey rope trim to be tightened with a white silk latch up the back. This outfit is completed by a pearl laced hair net. For the outdoor travel, a black wool and silk, belled cape is supplied. The costume is in perfect harmony with the heavy wood trim, Victorian furniture, and thin striped silk wallpaper.

Hanging insignificantly next to the gown are silver knickers, an open black satin jacket, and a fluffed white silk shirt with a pair of heavy black shoes that could have been worn by Benjamin Franklin. Two porcelain full face masks and white wigs are on the center table.

Raffaella runs to the bellhop’s stand, but stops short of pulling the dress off the hangers. Slowly she runs her hands over the velvet and turns the dress 360 degrees taking in every inch of the workmanship. As she lifts up to remove the dress I can tell she is having some difficulty. The entire thing surely weighs at least half her total weight. I put the dress on the couch and start laying out the other pieces in succession. This outfit is extremely complex, it must have taken 3 people to put it on properly but we are happy to begin our endeavor.

I am amazed at the end result, although I know it is Raffaella, if I were to meet her on the street without having seen the preparation process I would not have recognized her. This gives a new meaning to dressing up. The evening has all of the premises of a magical experience.

The motor-taxi has arrived to take us to the ball. In Venice a motor-taxi is a motor-boat with a taximeter. The boat itself is a work of art. These are entirely hand made wooden boats finished out as well as a luxury yacht. We choose to stay inside the covered area to avoid loosing the wigs, perhaps another gondola ride would have been more appropriate but it was quite the emotion whipping through the canals of Venice.

Palazzo Dandolo has been a place of encounters since the early 1600s when it was the first hall to offer gaming rooms (that is gambling). It was the hunting grounds for many a noble including the infamous Giacomo Casanova who considered the Palazzo Dandolo as his favorite backdrop for amorous endeavors. This building is a work of art in every angle. The main hall is a 3 story atrium with a balcony, walkway around the upper floor, and numerous sitting rooms. The center area covered by an elliptical domed ceiling with plaster decorations. Around the center open area, supporting the walkway and balconies, numerous white marble columns, separating the center area from the surrounding spacious, but more private, sitting areas on the ground floors. The walls are covered with unique murals and each area has arched statue areas protecting various sculptures.

A string orchestra is positioned in one of the sitting areas and is playing Strauss as we arrive. At the opposite side of the central area a stage is set where actors are preparing for the theatrical presentation scheduled immediately after dinner.

A smorgasbord of dried meats, fish pate’ and spumante start the evening. The tables are colorful. Each table seats 12 nobles in costume. An opportunity to chat preludes the feast that has been carefully prepared. A traditional soup made with various vegetables begins the gluttonous event. Behind their masks, the unrecognized flirt, chat, and generally engage in provocative discourse.

The main course is beef and pork. This derives from the Serenissima Republic when Ulrico, an ally of Pope Adriano IV, took advantage of the war between Venice and Padova to assist the rebellion of 12 feudal lords attacking Grado. Grado fell and forced the Patriarch, Enrico Dandolo, to flee. The response of Venice was swift. Venice sent her powerful float to Grado and humiliated the Ulrico’s forces and brought the 12 feudal leaders and Ulrico to Venice to be judged. Their lives were saved through intervention of the Pope however Venice demanded, and received, homage from the Pope of 1 bull and 12 fattened pigs every year on Fat Thursday. The pigs, representing the 12 feudal leaders, and the bull, representing Ulrico, were then decapitated by a single swoop of the blade and the meat distributed to the people of Venice. This gave origin to a popular saying in Italy, “Tagliare la testa al Toro”, which means to eliminate a problem with one dominating action.

Sausage, cotechino, braciole, roasts, stews fill the tables. Red wines from Collio and Veneto abound, including my favorite Refosco. Mixing and mingling, switching tables, joining old friends and making new ones continues. Mischievous phrases and sensual attitudes are encouraged by the guise of anonymity and the party moves on. As the cheeses and fruit arrive the orchestra is playing the Waltzes.

Comfortable chairs have been situated in the center hall facing the stage where the story of “Casanova in Istanbul” will be played. An interpretation of due respect with historical references and the occasional Venetian dialect is enacted before us. This is a story of cunning, intelligence, beautiful women, romance and an offended party. This has all the basics of a box office hit, “Sex, Violence, and Romance”. An outrageous applause completes this segment. We move to taste the desserts, something very difficult by this time as both of us are wearing a 1500 girdle, and refill the wine.

Raffaella is arduously engaged in conversation with duke of something or other. He is attempting to get her to remove her porcelain mask. This would be a great conquest as it would show that she is comfortable with him. The Waltz plays again. I excuse myself with the insistent admirer and Waltz my Dama to the central floor. The chairs have been cleared, the music is playing and nobles, duchesse and princes are gleefully prancing across the room. Colors streak and blur and the Waltz continues, flowing gowns seem to be streams gurgling, mighty dukes hold their heads high and arch their backs while they support their companions who glide sinuously around the room.

Time has passed, numerous interruptions due to a gentlemen’s or ladies insistence to dance have kept us to early in the morning. Soon the sun will rise on another marvelous day in Venice but for us it is time to begin Lent. Sleeping for the next twelve hours should be a good start.


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Blogger Peace said...

Hi David, I love Italy - got nice landscape and beautiful architectural buildings. Thanks for the great information. I have added you to my blog.

6:23 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Peace, Thanks for the comment. I started writing this blog because I felt that, often, in the US we close ourselves behind the economic power that we are discounting the things of value in the rest of the world.

I hope exposing the Italian culture will help people think about things in a different or more expanded way.

7:54 AM

Blogger Peace said...

You're welcome. So I have lots to learn from your site : )

4:22 PM

Blogger moderator said...

Wow! This is a totally different world, in another time and dimension. How our lives would be enriched if we embraced these traditions in our lives here, instead of just complaining about having to eat fish on Fridays.

6:58 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Divas - It is all about balance! Lent compensated by Carnival.

I do believe most people would benefit should they step back from the things that Television and Politicians tell us are important and started considering what they as individuals really desired.

6:58 AM


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