Not a great start…

Cannaregio Canal and Ponte Tre Archi, view by F. Guardi

So the great experiment of “numero chiuso” (limited access) was put into practice for the opening of Venice’s Carnival yesterday evening. It’s what people have been demanding for years now – and not just for Carnival. It doesn’t seem to have gone well.

The inaugural spectacle, with light-shows and circus performances, took place along the Cannaregio Canal, in north-western Venice, close to the railway station. It had been decided beforehand that no more than 20,000 would be allowed access to the area, with everyone required to show photo-ID. The show was due to start at 6pm; by 5.20pm that number had already been exceeded. There were far more people outside the privileged zone than there were inside and the narrow street between the station and the Canal was soon jammed solid. The police had to use force to clear the two bridges over the Cannaregio Canal. Numerous residents have complained that they were prevented from returning home, and felt like hostages in their own city. The word “CAOS” is in prime position on all the newspaper hoardings today.

Still, better than the Carnival of February 1520, when a stand collapsed in Campo S. Maria Formosa, killing seven people. Marino Sanudo, in his diary, says succinctly that the “festa” ended there.

The light-show, by the way, for those who could see it, was apparently a great success…

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