Posted by: jeanne | February 8, 2015

scoping out the arsenale

the arsenale is where all the boats were made, back in the day when venice was a world power, and its navy greatly to be feared.  those days are gone, sadly, but the arsenale remains, and until recently it has remained behind locked gates.  but recently part of it was given over to the city of venice, and there’s been a carnival celebration there for the past 6 years (i think).

last night, tonight, and then i think all next week, there is a big party there.  the gates open at 7 pm, which is already after dark and therefore no good for seeing all the hidden details, but the party is in several big warehouse structures, all done up for the party.


unfortunately, jim and i don’t do parties, especially with connor along.  and the first night we weren’t sure what it would be like, so after dinner i left jim and connor to put each other to bed, and went down to the arsenale.

i cheated a little, and took a vaporetto the 2 stops, got off at arsenale, and walked up to the gates.  there were bunches of people there, some in full costume, many in masks and street clothes, and then me and a bunch of photographers.  i took pictures of the gates and the lions in the dark, and waited for 7 pm.


which came and went.  i mused about italians and other europeans being casual with timeliness, but then noticed that loads of people were marching across the bridge and kept on going.  so eventually i followed them.

and they made an epic march all the way around to the north side of the arsenale, and along a metal footbridge that went all the way around to the back gates.  it was well more than a mile, and i get a little nervous at metal footbridges, seeing as how it was either hugely tall walls to the right, or open lagoon to the left.

finally i got to dry land again, and started passing little rows of houses behind locked gates.  evidently people live in the arsenale grounds, how curious.  it’s a military reservation, i think, and there are no boats being built there anymore, so i’m not sure why people would live there, but i guess they have to live somewhere…

and eventually the crowd turned into the back gates and went inside, where there was a helpful map showing which parts are city owned and which are military.  i forgot to get a picture.  but i did get pictures of the entertainment.


a bunch of street performers and dancers in outlandish costumes (a 12′ high hooped skirt, for example).


there were stands selling snacks and drinks.


i got an ombre rossa (plastic glass of red wine) and walked around.


the arsenale dock where we were is the northernmost dock, with warehouses behind the dock.  there’s a large boat basin, and then other rows of warehouses lining the water.  several little boats were anchored in the water, emitting blinking lights that signalled they were online and ready to go.  obviously that’s where the fireworks were.  all done by remote control, of course.


at around 8, there was an announcement, in italian and then english, that there was some trouble with the performance (this being the opening night), and they would go directly to the fireworks.  which they did, set to music and timed, with flames that i could feel on my face from at least 100 yards away.


the fireworks lasted 10 minutes or so, and then there was a mad rush for the special vaporetto that went from san zaccaria to the basin of the arsenale every 30 minutes.  it was only for actual ticketholders, which i am one, but nobody seemed to be validating their tickets, and so it seemed to be one of those form-only things.


and tho there was a mad rush in the beginning, such that the disembarking passengers were squeezed almost to a stop, by the time the vaporetto undocked and left the basin, people were sauntering on, so it looks like there’s plenty of room, and when we take connor back we needn’t get involved in the crush of people.

we’ll go back when marie is here, because it’s kind of cool to be inside the arsenale, and because fireworks are great for anyone not suffering from ptsd.  but we won’t walk in, we’ll take a vaporetto from our house to san zaccaria, and then the special boat into the arsenale, and we’ll do the same thing on the way back, so there won’t be any need to take the stroller.


by the way, we left the mask costume at san marco after a short while.


there wasn’t much for jim to photograph, and once connor dropped his boot into the rising water (which was how come we had a view to begin with – we had to stand and sit his stroller in the rising water where nobody else wanted to stand, near the fence that was located directly over a drain).


i can at least confirm that the water in venice rises up thru the drains, and not just flowing over the canal banks and down the streets.


instead of hanging out in san marco, we wandered in search of a mask for connor, and stopped for hot chocolate and fritelle, which because we took a seat cost almost 20 euros.


never again, i keep telling myself.  after we left that cafe we noticed a much better stocked one with tables we could stand at, and avoid that horrible cover charge.  you live and learn…



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