Tag Archives: Renaissance Italy

Carnevale di Venezia 2015 – Checking One More Off the Bucket List

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Yes, we finally made it!  We’ve been wanting to go to the Carnevale di Venezia for a few years now, but something always got in the way.  This year, though, we DID IT!  And it was everything, plus so much more than we thought it would be!  I can only say that if you get the opportunity to visit Venice during this very special time, you have to do it.  You will not be disappointed!

This year’s Carnevale season began on Jan. 31st and ended on “martedi grasso”, or Fat Tuesday, on Feb. 17th.  We arrived in Venice on Feb. 13th, stayed until Feb. 18th, and were able to experience the last, and most eventful, weekend of the Carnevale season.  Venice was very crowded during the day, with lots of people gawking at the sights and at the “professional” carnival costume wearers!

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I call them “professional” because I think they must be actors or models – whenever you ask them to take a picture, they strike a beautiful pose!  Some are even escorted by photographers!

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The costumes were sensational, with my favorites being the ones whose faces were covered entirely by the masks.

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To my surprise, though, the nights were fairly empty.  This made for an other-worldly feeling.  I felt like I was walking back into time experiencing Venice just like it was hundreds of years ago!

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Venice takes on a completely different atmosphere at night, when it’s quiet.  The lighting of the piazzzas and churches is magical and very romantic, and walking the streets of the original city that has so many reproductions (like the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas) is truly an amazing feeling!

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While there, we decided to take in a masquerade ball!  Yes, everything about this event was expensive – from the rental of the costumes (which you must have if you attend a ball) to the actual cost of the ball, but it was definitely worth it.  As my husband pointed out, we’ll probably never go to another one of these again, so we should experience it to the fullest!  The best part of the masquerade ball was being able to go inside one of the private palazzos of Venice to see it’s splendor.  The ball we attended was the Mascheranda Ball and it was held in the Palazzo Pisani Moretta.

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This palace was originally built in the 15th century, renovated during the 18th century, and decorated by famed Venetian artists such as Tiepolo, Guarana, Diziani and Angeli.   We arrived by water taxi and were greeted by some elegant majordomos before being escorted into the lower level of the palazzo for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and some entertainment by acrobats and dancers.

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Dinner was served on the second level in two beautifully decorated salons with paintings and frescoes on the ceilings and on the walls.

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Dancing came at the end with classical dancing in the dining salons and a “disco” on the lower level.  Seeing all of us dancing to modern music all dressed up in our Renaissance garb was quite a site to see!

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The event was well worth the money, only that the food was mediocre at best.  Too bad, but I guess that was a small price to pay for the experience!  After the ball, we decided to walk back to our hotel near the Piazza San Marco (about a half hour walk).  We were the only people walking around the small alley ways (or calles) of Venice and we were dressed up in our antique outfits – we felt like we had walked right out of a picture from Renaissance Venice!  So surreal!

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Lucrezia and Family

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Borgia, that is…wow!  We have been watching the Showtime mini series The Borgia’s and have gotten through Season 1 and Season 2.  Season 3 is coming up beginning this April.  It’s been an interesting tale, full of intrigue, deceipt, lust, and power.  As I’m sure you know, I love stories of Renaissance Italy.  I’m always drawn to that era, but I don’t think I would have liked to have lived through it.  Human life didn’t seem to have much value back then.  If someone got in the way of someone else, whether it was for wealth or love or jealousy, they were conveniently taken care of.  Even siblings and family members were not exempt to revenge!

imagesCALGKWN2The story of the Borgia’s follows the life of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia).  He was a Spaniard of common descent who rose to power within the Vatican.  He had many mistresses and, prior to becoming the Pope, fathered four children.  The male children were given roles of power within the Vatican, while his daughter Lucrezia was marriedimages[6] off to wealthy and prominent families in order to gain more power for his papacy.  The success of the papacy depended on how much power he could wield to get what he wanted, and his daughter was a tool he could use to build alliances with various ruling families. The head of the Borgia clan was an interesting dichotomy of a man. Both ruthlessly ambitious and utterly devoted to his family, he used his position in the Catholic church to acquire power, influence, and wealth. He was incredibly shrewd and managed to outmaneuver his rivals at every turn. He took care of anyone that got in his way.  He enjoyed the carnal pleasures of life, particularly the company of beautiful women, and this left him open to his enemies.   It didn’t seem like the main focus of being a Pope in those days was to do God’s will…and the Popes were not what I would consider holy!  They seemed to break every commandment…and merely confessed their way out of it!

According to this mini-series, which I’m sure has been embellished for the sake of creating some excitement, portrayed each member of the Borgia family as being ruthless if someone got in his or her way, or if the family’s honor was at stake.  They were all tortured souls with hidden demons.  I’m sure some of the facts are true and therefore give us a glimpse into life in Italy during this period.

The show is gruesome at times, with stabbings and tortures at every turn.  It’s love-making scenes are, at the least “R” rated, if not “X” at times!  The depictions of the grand Italian cities and architectural elements within the Vatican and the palazzos are beautiful, and hopefully fairly realistic.  Jeremy Irons, with his “regal sneer” is the perfect actor for the role.  He portrays a man of extreme power, and his voice has that perfect snobbish air to bring home the point!

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I am anxious for the new season to begin to see what treacheries are in store for Lucrezia and family…

Sacred Hearts

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Sacred Hearts, a novel by Sarah Dunant, takes place in the convent of Santa Caterina during 15th century Ferrara, Italy.  In the 15th century, many families placed their daughters in convents because they couldn’t afford the dowries needed in order to marry them into prestigious families.  Usually, the prettiest daughter would be chosen to marry while the other daughters would be placed into convents.  The girls did not have much choice in these matters, and they were placed into these convents against their wills.  They usually did not have a particular calling to the religious life, but instead grew into this religious life out of necessity because they had no chance of escape.  Oddly enough, the women in convents found that they had many rights and their voices were heard in convent politics.  They were the rulers of their own destinies, and had probably many more privileges than  married women who always had to defer to their husbands.  Within the walls of the convent, they created their own rules and held important positions.  They routinely had meetings where they voted on matters having to do with convent life.  The convents were democratic, with the abbess acting as the president.   Men were not allowed to make contact with the Sisters, except family members and then always with chaperones.  The only man allowed was the priest who would come to hear their confessions on a regular basis, and to say their Masses. 

Sacred Hearts centers around two main characters – a woman who has been in the convent for most of her life, and one who was just recently put there because her parents did not approve of a suitor she had taken up with.  Suora Zuana takes this young novice, Serafina, under her belt and nurses her back to health after Serafina decides that she doesn’t want to live “in jail” for the rest of her life and tries to fight her way out.  The two develop a warm relationship, and they both learn to respect and understand the other.  But Serafina is determined that she will get out of the convent one way or another.  The story, unfortunately, is not very riveting…it took me a long time to finish this book.  It does not grip your attention, and it was, in my opinion, very predictable.  I was surprised that this book ended up being the way it was since the author’s other books were actually very good and excellent portrayals of life during Renaissance Italy.  This, too, was a good portrayal of life within the convent during the Renaissance….but it was a tad boring 😦   Too bad!

The Botticelli Secret

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Once again, I found an historical fiction novel of Italy which transported me back to the Renaissance and all it’s intriguing twists and turns.  The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato is a page-turning story that scrutinizes The Primavera by Sandro Botticelli because it holds clues for members of  a secret group led by the powerful elite of Italy.  The heroine, Luciana, is on the run after having stolen a cartone (or practice sketch) of the painting.  Someone is out to get her because they are afraid she will discover the secret  hidden within the painting itself.  She doesn’t know who to turn to for help and protection, and finds the least-likely person whom she feels she can trust – a young monk about ready to take his final vows!  Together they embark on an adventure that takes them to many corners of Italy – from Naples in the South, to Bolzano in the North.  The language in the book is a bit brash, but given the source of the first person narrative, it is acceptable!  As with all historical fiction books, I always try to find the truth within these stories and perhaps discover new things.  The descriptions of places in Rome, Bolzano, Milan, Venice and Florence were all familiar to me.  Unfortunately, I have yet to visit Naples or Genoa, but this book has given me one more reason to go (as if I needed any more enticement!)   But most of all, I want to once again see Botticelli’s The Primavera and view it through the eyes of the author!

I wonder if the plot has some truth to it since it did finally happen (only a couple of hundred years later)!!!  Perhaps this was the impetus…Chissa….