In the famous Piazza San Marco, in Venice, amid a thick fog, several couples stroll dressed as nobles and children, also in elegant costumes, throw confetti. The carnival begins but, this year, in a covid version, without tourists and largely telematic.
“It’s totally surreal. What surprises me the most is the silence. During the carnival you can always hear music, people having fun. But Venice in the mist is still a magical place,” says Chiara Ragazzon, 47.
This office worker came with her husband from Jesolo, about 50 kilometers away. Although Venice is in the yellow zone, with a moderate risk of contagion, the inhabitants cannot leave their region, according to the restrictions imposed to stop the covid-19.
A few steps from Saint Mark’s Square, 63-year-old Hamid Seddighi, wearing a white coat stained with paint, works hard to finish a carnival mask: he shapes them, sculpts them, polishes them delicately, with quick and precise gestures. .
In the workshop of his shop, Ca ‘del Sol, the masks made of papier-mâché, lace or iron, or decorated with Swarovski crystals, do not find a buyer: since the beginning of the pandemic, his income fell by 70%, due to the lack of tourists, its main clientele.
“I fell in love with the masks. I have been making them for 35 years. But now it is tragic, I have only sold two for the carnival,” laments this craftsman of Iranian origin.
Before the pandemic, the carnival generated about 70 million euros (84 million dollars), which was spent by about 567,000 tourists, according to the Venice commune.
In front of the Basilica of San Marcos, a group of artisans, with masks and long black capes, move in silence, to “remind the world that they still exist and resist.”
To encourage the residents of La Serenísima to perpetuate the tradition, the Venice artisans association launched the campaign: “The carnival of the Venetians, masked … and with the mask” anticovid.
“Venice has run out of tourists, it is the occasion for Venetians to reappropriate and rediscover their city”, explains its director, Gianni De Checchi. “In the last 25 years, mass tourism has altered the socio-economic fabric of the center of Venice. And in some way, it has damaged the carnival.”
– “An empty city” –
“With my wife, we no longer came for the carnival, there were too many people. Now it is historic, an empty city,” explains Peter, a 65-year-old Austrian doctor, one of the few foreign tourists in the city.
The Venice commune, which had to cut back on celebrations when the pandemic broke out in February, is betting this year on videos posted online of Venetians in disguise.
“It is a way of recovering the ties that bind us to millions of people who love Venice,” says the tourism advisor, Simone Venturini.
– “Having fun in the covid” –
Among the recorded videos, a group of people in baroque costumes improvise a minuet on the famous Rialto Bridge.
“We wanted to show that Venice is not a dead city, that it is possible to have fun in the middle of the covid,” says one of them, Armando Bala, 42, wearing a rococo wig and a red velvet frock coat.
With his wife Arnisa, he has run the La Bauta store for 20 years, where sumptuous period costumes share space with handmade masks inspired by characters from the Commedia dell’Arte.
“We are not looking to make money, we just want to survive,” says the business owner, whose income depends 40% on the carnival.