Carnevale di Venezia

Carnival 2011 is over (and none too soon!)

Liquor bottle in Venice canal

ABOVE AND BELOW: An empty liquor bottle and a discarded Afro wig float in a Venice canal.

After 11 days, two accidental drownings, thousands of broken bottles, and an estimated 160,000 visitors to Venice last Sunday alone, the excesses of this year's Carnevale di Venezia are behind us. Venetians can once again enjoy unclogged streets, and visitors can explore the city without worrying that a drunk yob or yobette will vomit on their shoes.

Nostalgic Venetians reminisce about a quieter time when Carnival was mainly a low-key event for children, or when the reborn Carnevale di Venezia of the early 1980s was more about elegant costumes than rampant boozing. (The fancy costumes are still around, but they csn be easy to miss unless you're near the Piazza San Marco during the day.)

Yesterday, the final event of Carnival 2011 was a midnight parade of candlelit rowboats and gondolas on the Grand Canal. As far as we could tell, not many of the people who had come to Venice for "Fat Tuesday" bothered to watch it: Most  of the Carnival celebrants were too busy drinking, shouting, staggering, and breaking the occasional shop window to have time for a boat regatta.

Our advice: If you can't resist coming to Venice during Carnival, try to spend at least some of your time here before or after the 11-day event, when Venice isn't jam-packed with daytrippers and the party crowd are mostly at home on the mainland.

Addendum: The Carnevale di Venezia is now claiming that a million visitors came to Venice for Carnival. That's nearly 17 times the city's population, and it helps to explain why some streets were nearly impassable on the two weeekends of Carnival. (What's surprising is how good-natured most of the locals and tourists were under the circumstances.)

Carnival wig in Venice canal

Dead body in a Venice canal

Venice canal

ABOVE: The Jordanian drowning victim was discovered floating upright, with his head half-submerged, in this quiet canal near Venice's Canpo San Polo.

by Durant Imboden

This morning, I saw the dead body of a young man in Carnival costume in a canal between the Campiello Albrizzi (where we're currently living) and the Campo San Polo.

A group of Carabinieri (state police) were standing at the edge of the canal, waiting for a fireboat to come and retrieve the body from the water.

While I was observing the scene, a lady walked by, crossed herself, and looked teary-eyed as she murmured "Che terribile!" before averting her eyes and crossing a bridge.

Later, a report in la Nuova said the victim was a 27-year-old Jordanian restaurant waiter named Albarakat Mohamed who had slipped, fallen into a canal, and drowned. (No signs of violence were reported.)

This was the second canal drowning in Venice during Carnival: The first, which was reported in both la Nuova and Il Gazzettino,  involved a Chinese man who was found in the Grand Canal near the San Marco Vallaresso vaporetto stop. An autopsy hadn't yet been performed on that victim, but the press were speculating that the man may have become intoxicated during Carnival, fallen into the canal, and drowned.

Here's a video that I shot a few hours after this morning's incident to show where the unfortunate Mr. Mohamed's body was found. (I didn't have my camera with me this morning, and I wouldn't have taken photos of the body in in any event, out of respect for the deceased and his family.)



Schoolchildren in the Campo San Polo

Campo San Polo fountain with schoolchildren

ABOVE: Two schoolchildren wash their hands at the fountain in Campo San Polo.

Cheryl was walking through the Campo San Polo today when she saw an elementary-school event taking place. Groups of children in Carnival costumes (presumably made in class) performed for parents, grandparents, and passersby.

Cheryl grabbed enough video footage to capture the moment: