20 Great Things to do in Venice 7/20 – Music

Experience (well-played) Vivaldi in Venice

For many, experiencing Vivaldi in Venice is an absolute must. But more discerning music-lovers might feel somewhat Baroqued out by the predictable programmes performed by local groups, whose technical ability rarely goes beyond the so-so to fairly good range. Exceptions are the Venice Baroque Orchestra, a global success, and the orchestra of La Fenice, one of the best in the country. As well as its opera and ballet seasons, Teatro La Fenice (Venice) La Fenice has at least two concert seasons a year. The Teatro Malibran shares the Fenice’s programmes and also has its own chamber music season, with performances by the Società Veneziana dei Concerti.

Mestre’s Teatro Toniolo also has a symphony and chamber music season. Most other musical events take place in Venice’s churches or scuole. St Mark’s basilica holds a smattering of ceremonial concerts throughout the year, with the patriarch deciding who is to attend. But lovers of sacred music should catch one of two regular Sunday appointments: the sung Mass at St Mark’s (10.30am) and the Gregorian chant on the island of San Giorgio (11am).

Saint Theodore or Todaro

  "Right Theo, it's been great, but can you pack your bags now? We've got a new patron saint and, well, he just happens to be one of the blokes who wrote the Bible. Heard of it? It's a cracking read! Plus his symbol is a winged lion, which is lots cooler than some dead crocodile, don't you think? No hard feelings, mate!"

I am not sure if this is how it went....but for sure  Theo wasn't very pleased... Having said that the original statue is not the one on the Column but the one if the Square of Palazzo Ducale!  Anyway I love the crocodile ...so cute!

 (Marco Secchi)

Saint Theodore of Amasea treading upon the sacred crocodile of Egypt. Perhaps he killed it with the holy hand grenade of Antioch...

Saint Theodore was a Byzantine saint who was the former patron saint of Venice. When Venice and Byzantium fell out, he was replaced by Saint Mark. He still tops one of the two columns at the southern end of the piazza San Marco

20 Great Things to do in Venice 2/20 - St Mark's

See three major sights in one square

VENICE, ITALY - DECEMBER 17:  A general view of St Mark Square covered with snow on December 17, 2010 in Venice, Italy. Snow has fallen across much of Europe today and is expected to continue over the weekend, causing traffic chaos and disrupting Christmas deliveries. (Marco Secchi)

Standing in the middle of the magnificent piazza San Marco is an experience in itself: Napoleon referred to it as the ‘drawing room of Europe’, apt today as, at times, it appears that much of Europe’s population is crammed into this great square. But it's St Mark’s basilica (Basilica di San Marco), often seen as the living testimony of Venice’s links with Byzantium; Doge’s Palace, once Venice's political and judicial hub; and Torre dell’Orologio, a clock tower built between 1496 and 1506, that are, not just the square's, but some of the city's main attractions.

Santo Stefano Celebration in Venice

VENICE, ITALY - DECEMBER 26:  Rowers dressed in XVI century costumes escort a live nativity scene, whilst ferrying them in a gondola from St Mark's to the Island of S Giorgio on December 26, 2011 in Venice, Italy.  The event is in its first year wants and to replicate an ancient tradition when the Doge of Venice used to go to the Island of S Giorgio to celebrate the relics of Santo Stefano on Boxing Day. (Marco Secchi/Getty Images) Gondoliers dressed in 16th century costumes ferry people performing a Nativity scene from St Mark's to the Island of San Giorgio.

The event, in its first year, replicates the ancient tradition when the Doge of Venice used to travel to the Island of San Giorgio on Boxing Day to celebrate the relics of Santo Stefano.

Venice Carnival 2012

I know we are not even at Christmas but I just realised yesterday, that Carnival is getting closer and closer. For 2012 will be between the 4th of February and 21st February 2012. The main events will start from the 11th of February. Few tips on what to do are here Even Federico mentioned Carnival yesterday during a very nice book presentation so here we are to talk about Carnival. I know there are many versions about the origins of Carnival, the one that I like best is the following.

VENICE, ITALY - MARCH 02:  Carnival costumes and masks pose near St Mark's Square  in Venice, Italy. The Venice Carnival, one of the largest and most important in Italy, attracts thousands of people from around the world each year. The theme for this year's carnival is 'Ottocento', a nineteenth century evocation, and will run from February 19 till March 8...HOW TO BUY THIS PICTURE: please contact us via e-mail at sales@xianpix.com or call our offices in Milan at (+39) 02 400 47313 or London   +44 (0)207 1939846 for prices and terms of copyright.. (Marco Secchi)

The oldest document pertaining to the use of masks in Venice dates back to 2nd May 1268. In the document it is written that it was forbidden for masqueraders to practice the game of the "eggs". From the early 14th century onwards, new laws started to be promulgated, with the aim of stopping the relentless moral decline of the Venetian people of the day. This restrictive carnival legislation started with a decree on 22nd February 1339 prohibiting masqueraders from going around the city at night. A decree that helps us understand just how libertine the Venetians of the day were, is that of the 24th January 1458 which forbade men from entering convents dressed as women to commit "multas inhonestates"! In a similar vein, the decree of 3rd February 1603 is interesting in that it attempted to restore morality in the convents.

Masqueraders were banned from entering the nuns’ parlous – it had been the convention to sit in the parlous and talk to the nuns. Frequently, decrees were promulgated prohibiting masqueraders from carrying arms or any instrument which could cause harm, or other decrees which forbade masqueraders from entering churches. This obligation was extended to the townsfolk who were not allowed to enter churches wearing "indecent attire". 1608 was an important year, the 13th August to be precise, when a decree from the council of 10 was issued declaring that the wearing of the mask throughout the year posed a serious threat to the Republic. To avoid the terrible consequences of this immoral behavior, every citizen, nobleman and foreigner alike, was obliged to only wear a mask during the days of carnival and at official banquets.

The penalties inflicted for breaking this law were heavy – for a man this meant two years in jail, 18 months’ service to the Republic galley-rowing (with ankles fettered) and not only that, a 500 lire fine to the Council of 10. As for women, they were whipped from St Mark’s all the way to Rialto, then held to public ridicule between the two columns in St Mark’s. They were banned from entering the territory of the Venetian Republic for 4 years and had to pay the 500 lire fine to the Council of 10. 50 years after the decree of 1608, the Council of 10 published a proclamation on the 15th January reaffirming the ban on wearing masks and bearing arms.

It was further prohibited to enter holy places wearing a mask and it was expressly forbidden to wear religious clothes with a mask. In the same decree the use of drums was banned before midday, and even dancing of any description was prohibited outside of the carnival period. Seeing that many Venetian nobles used to go gambling wearing a mask to avoid their creditors, in 1703, masks were banned all year round from casinos.

Two different decrees (1699 and 1718) saw the prohibition of wearing a mask during Lent and other religious festivals which took place during carnival. In 1776, an act introduced to protect the by now forgotten "family honor", forbade all women from going to the theatre without a mask and cloak. After the fall of the Republic, the Austrian government forbade the use of masks for both private parties and elite parties (e.g., la Cavalchina della Fenice) . The Italo-Austrian government was more open but now it was the Venetians who were being diffident. Venice was no longer the city of carnival, but just a little imperial province without personal liberty. During the second Austrian government it was once again permitted to wear masks.

Nowadays is one of the main events in Venice and thousands of people come to Venice.