Where anything goes!

Carnevale in Venice has been on my ‘must do’ list for quite some time (remember this?) So when I got my position au-pairing in Veneto I knew that making in for the festival would be one of my priorities.
The 31st of January marked the start of the festivities and on Sunday I was up bright and early to catch the train in. The highlight of the day was going to be the ‘flight of the angel’ when at midday, a young girl, the winner of last years 12 Maria’s (more on that later), ‘flies’ on a zip line from the top of the bell tower in St Mark’s square down to the Doge who is waiting in the square to greet her. This is a very old tradition beginning in the 12th century when it was called ‘the flight of the Turk’ after the Turkish man who wowed the crowds by walking a tightrope from his moored boat, up to the bell tower and then across to the Doge’s balcony. Nowadays there are a lot more harnesses.
The stage in the square
There was a stage set up in St Mark’s square opposite the basilica for this event and many others throughout the day. The 12 Marias of this year were first presented to their adoring public just before the angel flew. The tradition of the Marias is even older than the angel, it is supposed to have started in the 900’s when the church was looking to gain a bit more popularity with the common people. They would pick out 12 young, poor, beautiful and engaged girls from various towns. They would then shower them with gifts, jewelry and items for a dowry and them parade them through the streets as a show of the kindness of the church before taking them and marrying them to their respective partners. On one occasion the girls were kidnapped from the church by pirates (mostly for their expensive jewelry) and a frantic chase began across the Venice lagoon. All the girls were recovered safely along with the jewels. After this the tradition became even more elaborate, involving re-creations of the chase. The tradition died out (although it lasted about 300 years!) as it became to expensive to continue. The girls were replaced by wooden girls but this didn’t go down well with the public who were used to having beautiful young things to oogle at. It went down so badly that eventually the whole thing got called off. I’m not sure when it began again but now the 12 Marias do not have to be poor, or engaged. Just beautiful. They are guests of honor during various balls and via some judging process one is proclaimed the winner and her prize is that the next year she will get to be the angel coming down from the bell tower.
The Marias parading through the square
Most of my day was just spent doing laps of St Mark’s square and out to the edge where it meets the sea, taking pictures of all the beautiful costumes. About 50% of the people there had some sort of dress up going on. From the extravagant head to toe get up which is what I was there to see, to people like me just wearing a mask, some even just had some face paint on, it all added to the feeling of festivities. Some people seemed to be treating it a little like Halloween and were just in fancy dress, I saw  sponge bob and Indians and clowns. Confetti was everywhere and the sun was shining.  In true Venice form the square flooded but they didn’t put the usual walkways up, I think maybe it was too crowded. No one seemed to mind.
Of course I got dressed up!
From one side….
… and from the other
The crowds
Still got to do your business if you are in costume!
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