Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Carnevale, Tuesday, 17 February
The first Tuesday night of Carnevale (it's over next Tuesday, Fat Tuesday) the city is deserted. Makes for pleasant walking, but it's a disaster for the tourist industry and hence for the city.
The newspaper headlines proudly trumpeted "100,000 in Piazza San Marco" for the Volo del Angelo, the descent of an "angel" from the top of the Campanile into Piazza San Marco. (The girl was so scared she cried, she said.)
It's true. I can't attest to the number, which seems inflated, but the square was so packed you couldn't get in, and police routed the traffic through obscure routes. I got as far as the side of the Basilica and decided angel or no, I was leaving.
But that was just an hour or so; by late afternoon the foot traffic was heading toward Piazzale Roma and the station; the vaporettos were packed to the gills, and by dark the city was deserted again, like it is tonight.
There are fewer people in San Marco than there are pigeons (the number of pigeons has been greatly reduced by the banishment of the pigeon feed sellers, but there are still a few). There is no great proscenium stage as in the past. The centerpiece, quite nice really, is a large, topiary lion. He is made from pine boughs, laurel leaves (some green, some dried brown, some gilded), ivy, squares of sod, and gilded artichokes.
On the stage-in-the-round in front of him, dancers are doing the tango to canned tango music. It's not much different from the crowd you can see weekly in various campos throughout the city on warm summer nights. Tango is a big deal here. They get out and dance every change they get. Tonight they danced in front of the sparse crowd in the most famous square in the world. At least they were having fun.
There was a certain enchantment in the air, a combination of the music and the lights and the surprisingly mild night air. It was the party where nobody came.
[ CARNEVALE TUESDAY]