The last weekend of the Venice Carnival, Italy

How blessed are we….
Who woke up this morning, to the bells of churches,
And the sound of merchants opening their shops.
They rolled up the metal guards covering their stores,
And they brought out tables or signs, with their daily specials…

It is the closing WEEKEND of the Venice Carnival,
Although the carnival goes on for two more days…
And the narrow streets are exceptionally full of people
Most wearing beautiful costumes and masks…

The lines of people snakes slowly down each road…..
The Carabinieri police is guiding foot traffic…
Armed Carabinieri are blocking access to the busy streets…to regulate traffic…
I have not seen this many people on any other day of the Carnival…
It must be the closing weekend crowds…

In a bakery on a very busy street,
The friendly owner got tired of giving people directions…
So she made and wore a hat-sign,
Showing people which direction is Rialto Bridge,
Which direction to San Marco Square…..
Fun and humor warmed the cool winter air…

We abandoned all plans for the day…
Because it took so long to just navigate a single road…
We ducked into a trattoria, and had a lovely lunch,
On a very crowded table for two.

After walking around the unbelievably busy streets,
We gave up…
It also started to rain…
The first rainy day since we arrived here,
Every other day was cold… But sunny.

We went back to our apartment, to lay on the sofa,
To relax and to read and to enjoy our favorite home dessert,
A fresh blood orange cut into cubes,
Served with fresh nugget and nuts.
(sometimes sprinkled with a chocolate fudge…)

In the evening when we went out again to listen to a concert,
The streets were no longer busy.
An endless trail of confetti and rubbish,
Was the only reminder that this weekend,
The streets were thick with people and carnival parties.

At the San Vidal Church,
The musicians were exceptional,
And much of the audience was in costumes.
Sited under the original paintings in the old church,
We listened to Violin Concertos by Vivaldi, Bach and Henry Purcell…
It was an energetic chamber concert.

I enjoyed very much being a paparazzi today…
Stopping people who wore beautiful costumes,
And asking to take their photo…
It made everyone a celebrity for a day…
And creativity was rampant…

The light in Venice is just beautiful,
Even in the winter…
The sunset paints the tree in bright reds,
And the lime paint of the plaster covering the houses,
Makes them shine with intensity of colors.

When I close my eyes at night,
I do not slip into the quiet darkness of my mind….
I still see people wearing beautiful costumes,
With colorful and expressive masks…

My mind conjures up images of masked and costumed people,
Bowing at me…
Or making theatrical gestures with their gloved hands…

The festival continues in my mind,
Long after I laid my body to sleep…
What a trip….

The carnival masks….
They each have a story behind them.
Most masks originated around between 1400- 1600’s
And are taken from the tradition of “The Art Of Comedy.”

In those times, small groups of actors,
Mostly a team of twos,
Went on the road in a wagon,
And performed comedies for the people,
Right from the back of their wagons.

It was a kind of traveling theater…
And they improvised comedies,
Out of life’s regular dramas…

The subject of the comedies were
Marriages, romance, love, love-affairs,
old age, betrayals….
They used a chest full of masks,
To convey their characters,
And they had a repertoire of old jokes
And familiar punchlines…

Some teams were acrobats,
Clowns, or magicians…
Other were just comedic story tellers and actors…
Helping the people to “make light” of life’s burdens,
By bringing them laughter and momentary joy…

Some masks originated from those comedic stories,
Other masks had practical uses…
Like the famous “Dottore Peste” (Plague Doctor)

It is a Venetian Carnival mask,
That portray a VERY long beak -like -nose,
With holes for eyes, and no mouth.

When the plague ravaged the city of Venice,
Which happened several times in history,
It left behind a carnage of death….

The Plague Doctor mask,
Was a real disguise worn by local plague doctors
Who went to visit sick people,
While wearing this strange costume.

It consisted of a hat, to show that the man was a doctor,
A mask to protect his face which included crystal eyes,
Worn like eyeglasses, to protect the doctor’s eyes.
And a long beak, which was stuffed with spices or herbs,
To scent the air that the doctor breathed,
Since the stench of the plague and the decay,
Was so overwhelming.

On top of this,
The doctor carried a wooden stick,
Which he used to push away plague victims
Who would run to him for help, as if he were a savior…
And often got too close to the doctor,
who was afraid to get afflicted,
Should any bodily contact occur with the victims….

The doctor always wore leather gloves
To protect his hands,
And a gown waxed on the exterior,
As well as full length boots….

There are so many kinds of masks…
Each with its own history and story…
And at night my dreams are mixed….
I dream the beauty… and the cruelty of the old times…
And how similar they are to the ways we live today….

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