The Venice Carnival

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The Venice Carnival is famous for its strong identity and its ability to preserve traditional masks that are always magnificent through the centuries thanks to the imagination and creativity of craftsmen and enthusiasts.

For a whole week Venice is transformed into a masked dance.  No matter where you go – at this time the town of the lagoon has the presence of masked people with sumptuous dresses.  A unique experience for all those attending the Carnival of Venice.

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The origins of the Carnival of Venice can be traced back to 1039, when the word “carnival” for the first time was written on document.  After the abolition of Carnival celebrations, following the occupation by Napoleon, the Carnival had to wait until 1979 to resurrect from its ashes!

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It should be remembered that the use of the mask and disguise in men’s and women’s clothing was widespread in Venice even during periods outside the Carnival to allow activities where anonymity was important, not least gambling, and to give the protagonists of the libertine businesses the assurance that they can successfully fulfill their loving missions.

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In the 18th century the Carnival flourishes and reaches the maximum splendor multiplying masks and costumes, juggling and acrobatics attractions, theaters and the Art Commedia, whose costumes remain crystallized in the tradition of Venetian masks.  It is also the era of libertines, like the most famous and outrageous story in the story, Giacomo Casanova!

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The most famous masks of Carnival in Venice the most popular in the seventeenth century and still among the favorite ones today is the “ Baute” a mask  with male features and pronounced nose covering only part of the mouth  to leave  plenty of room for drinking  and eating. They were worn by both men and women, for their practicality and for the perfect covering of their facial features, and was traditionally brought together with the  “tricorno”, one of the most popular headdresses, and the “tabarro”, the typical black mantle. Among the masks Colombina and the Pantalone are the two most famous ones.

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The Carnival traditions of Venice

Il volo dell’Angelo (Angelo’s Flight): This secular tradition has been performed in various ways over the centuries.  It seems to have been performed for the first time during the sixteenth century by a Turkish acrobat  who reached the top of the bell tower to “fly” down to the square.  The angel-acrobat was replaced by a wood barrel until 2001, when tradition was restored with true “angels” in flesh and bones, chosen among prominent personalities such as athletes and singers, usually women.

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La festa delle Marie: This millennial tradition, born in the 10th century, has been repeated with endless variants.  The canvas of the event consists of the choice of poor, graceful Venetian girls, who celebrate the wedding during the Carnival.  In ancient times, the nobles of the city donated gorgeous dresses and jewels to the “Marie”,  who parade for canals and calli and attended rituals, ceremonies and parties.  When tradition, at the end of the thirteenth century, seemed too frivolous to the governors, the “Marie” were replaced with shaped and painted figurines: the Venetians welcomed the new parade, with protests and vegetable launches, and still today call “Maria de toea”(Mary figurine)  a boring and bare woman.  Tradition has returned to be celebrated with the true “Marie” only in 1999!

Frittelle and Galani: The typical sweets of the Venice Carnival are the “Frittelle”, sweet fried pasta balls, often stuffed with cream or “zabaione” and  raisins.

The “galani” are a kind of sweet fried lasagna  dusted with icing sugar.

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Tommaso Galli  – Photographer and Blogger – http://www.tommasogalli.it

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Sicilian Baroque Catania and the other cities of “Val di Noto”

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Catania is a distinguished example of the Sicilian baroque and XVI century post-earthquake reconstruction. The old city still retains the urban layout designed by the Vaccarini architect, with her wide straight boulevards – lanes linking the main Etnea street; with open squares and gardens. Among these scenic streets is the Duomo the true center of the historic city.

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Catania is a fascinating city full of life. Every morning, except on Sundays, there is a spectacular fish market in the shade of the most beautiful monuments in the Cathedral square: the Fountain of the Elephant, the unusual artwork of lava stone from the Roman times; the Duomo, which contains the relics of Sant’Agata; the Palazzo del Municipio and the Badia of Sant’Agata.

To reach the market, which is as old as the ancient city itself you will have to search for the stairs in a corner of the square and suddenly you will find yourself immersed in a picturesque and overflowing landscape of vibrant sounds and colors! You will see reds, greens, orange hues of the vegetables and fruits and the brilliant glitter of the fresh fish. Skilled fishermen’s, rugged hands clean and offer the fish on display: octopuses, eel and rows of buckets with snails and clams and many other forms of sea life. I watched them at work and I took my pictures feeling to be part of their work because they were happy to take me in.

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Those who visit these places in February can immerse themselves in the unique atmosphere of the Celebrations for Sant’Agata, the holy protector of the city. Catania was rebuilt many times by devastating earthquakes and eruptions of Etna. In paying tribute to Patron Saint’Agata many churches celebrate the Saint from the dawn of February 4th to the 6th with a huge procession – like a human river –that flows through Catania. You will witness devotees all dressed in white, carry heavy-handed waxy candles, holding the fern of the saint or following the candles is a mesmerizing sight to behold!

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The celebration of Saint Agatha is the most important religious holiday in the city of Catania, and is the third most celebrated religious holiday in the world after the Holy Week in Seville and Corpus Christi in Cusco, Peru. February 3rd to the 6th more than one million of worshiper and tourists come to Catania every year. My good friends in Catania arranged for me a seat in a balcony from where I could watch and shoot as many photos I liked before joining the crowd.

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When in Catania do not forget to visit the Odeon which rises in the historic center, next to the Roman theater, built in the Greek period but restored between the 1st and 2nd century. The Amphitheater and some thermal buildings made of lava stones, belong to this period.

Do not miss to visit the Ursino Castle, founded by Frederick II of Swabia in the 13th century and now a civic museum.

Tommaso Galli  – Photographer and Blogger – http://www.tommasogalli.it

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