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).

20 Things to do in Venice 11/20 – Take a tour of the Grand Canal

Take a tour of the Grand Canal

A wonderful way to take in the Grand Canal is on board a vaporetto (a rounded 230-passenger boat). I have talked before about them here and here .The canal may no longer be teeming with merchandise-laden cargo boats, but it is still the main thoroughfare of Venice, and only a little imagination is needed to understand its historical importance. The three and a half kilometre (two-mile) trip from the railway station to San Marco provides a superb introduction to the city, telling you more about the way Venice works – and has always worked – than any historical tome.

VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 11:  A Gondola sails the Grand Canal in front of a busy Rialto bridge on August 11, 2011 in Venice, Italy. Italian heritage group Italia Nostra warned  that Venice is facing an irreversible environmental catastrophe unless visitor numbers are capped. The acceptable maximum number of tourists for Venice is 33,000. In 2011 the average number of visitors to the city daily is 60,000 that is too high for such a fragile city and is causing the gradual destruction of the lagoon ecosystem. (Marco Secchi)

Every family of note had to have a palazzo here, and this was not just for reasons of social snobbery. The palazzi are undeniably splendid but they were first and foremost solid commercial enterprises, and their designs are as practical as they are eye-catching.

Vaporetto tickets can be purchased at most stops, at tabacchi (tobacconists, identified by a white T on a black or blue background) and at Hellovenezia offices On board, you can only buy single tickets. The fare for a shuttle journey (ie one stop across the Grand Canal, the hop across to the Giudecca, or from Sant’Elena to the Lido) is €2.

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.