Man, was I lucky this year (2017) to have a front row seat for the official kick-off of Carnevale in Venice. Life keeps offering up these incredible opportunities. This time it came in the form of a pass into the “inner circle” at the heart of the official Carnevale launch, Sunday, February 19. But, let’s first back up to the adventure of arriving in Venice and making our way to Piazza San Marco.
If you’re brave (or crazy) enough to put yourself in the midst of the spectacle of Carnevale’s first official day, be prepared to go early and patiently navigate the crowds.
This is no small matter. If you don’t like crowds or cramped spaces, I’d advise you to stay home and watch the events on TV. I’m not a fan of crowds, but being six-two, at least my head is above most of the crowd. As long as I can breathe I can vanquish my anxieties of tight spaces.
The big event, Il lancio della colombina (also called The Flight of the Angel), was scheduled for noon. We arrived at the Santa Lucia train station at nine-thirty, and promptly made our way to the vaporetto stop, where we queued for at least half an hour. Four vaporetti later, and we were on board. The journey to the San Marco stop took at least forty-five minutes. Our progress was impeded when the boat was halted to make way for a regatta with a police escort.
I was ready to hop off and make a beeline to the center of the piazza. But, oh no, we came to a virtual standstill at a small bridge heading over to our destination. Why? A security check by the police (being “wanded” and having bags checked). Instead of being upset, I was impressed by the magnitude of this endeavor, and the patience of the police.
Just past eleven we were weaving our way through the throngs of eager spectators to the guarded
entrance of the special area for press and sponsors. I was handed my guest pass, and soon we were “court-side” to one of the most fantastic events I’ve ever had the good fortune to witness.
I’d come equipped with my faithful 70-200mm f2.8 Canon lens. I quickly staked out a spot next to the barricade lining the path for the upcoming procession, and just thirty feet from the stage.
Then I went bananas, snapping away…
I scanned the crowd and began trying to capture the enormity of the event. I started with the four hosts on the stage, who were camping it up, and working the crowd into a frenzy of anticipation.
Time vanished as my right brain took over and attempted to absorb and capture as much as possible.
I did pause, for a few minutes, to stare at the thick cable over my head that had been strung from the Campanile di San Marco to the stage. I thought to myself “There’s no way in hell I would make that journey, no matter how strapped in and secured I would be.” My entire body tensed at the thought of it. This was going to be one brave young woman – or at least one who’d gobbled up a couple of Valium.
And the procession began…
Imagine, with San Marco as a backdrop, a parade of the most exquisite and colorful costumes. Now I know what it’s like to be in a crowd of paparazzi competing for the best vantage point. Thank goodness my height gives me a competitive advantage, but I had to work around people using their iPads held WAY over their heads to take videos of the event. That was a challenge, but I’m happy with the results (over six hundred images after my edit).
The main event – il lancio della columbina (also called The Flight of the Angel)
The launch of the dove from the bell tower is considered to be the official kick-off of Carnevale. By noon the crowd was ripe for the appearance of this year’s dove. My long lens served as a telescope to get a more intimate view of la colombina being lifted up and above the railing. Soon Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” was being played and the dove began her descent.
Her composure was something to behold
There was no fear in the dove’s body language. In fact, as she slowly made her journey to the stage, she rotated gracefully with arms out-stretched. Even how she released her confetti was executed with great elegance. Surely she’d been preparing in earnest for her debut. I was impressed.
When the dove of Carnevale 2017 made her touch-down, the confetti exploded, and the crowd went wild. I challenge anyone to attend this event and NOT become emotional.
Before this big event, several beautiful young “doves in waiting” were interviewed on stage. One will be next year’s dove. How exactly the dove for Carnevale 2018 is chosen is beyond me. Several expressed their nervousness for making the dramatic descent, so maybe such timidity will take them out of the running.
Next week’s post features many of the costumes on display! Stay tuned!
I would be overwhelming you if I attempted to include images of the stunning costumes on display during the day. So, I hope you’ll check out next week’s post. If you’re not already a subscriber, be sure to sign up. That way future posts will land directly in your inbox!