While it’s a bucket list dream for many to see in the New Year on Sydney Harbour for one of the biggest NYE fireworks displays in the world, Venice was our choice of party city to celebrate the start of 2020.
“Get down to Piazza San Marco early” warned Frederico our apartment owner “or you will be locked out.”
Our definition of “early” was clearly very different to his. We know people who have camped out on Sydney Harbour from about 10am on December 31 to ensure they get their spot on the water. We raced down to St.Mark’s at 7pm. The whole square was completely empty. Apart from Sir Paul McCartney who, according to Cam, was casually strolling through with a man bag and a young woman by his side. “Sir Paul McCartney!?” Milana and I raced through the Piazza for a photo opp. If her bestie Liv and my work mate Tony found out we’d seen Sir Paul and didn’t take a pic, we’d never hear the end of it. We hid, chased, and sneakily stalked the grey haired gent until we realised that no, it was not Sir Paul. Another guy Cam claimed was Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) also was not.
These shenanigans kept us entertained at least. The Piazza remained empty until about 9pm when people trickled in in dribs and drabs. There were a lot of people in the city on their way to private parties and functions in big hair, patterned tights and heels. For the men it was spiffy black woolen capes over tuxes.
We also spent some time looking into Italian NYE traditions so as not to offend others in the square. The girls had already eaten their New Year pig biscuits we bought in Austria. There were marzipan and cookie pigs everywhere after Christmas in Vienna, and apparently a common New Year custom in Germany, Austria and Scandinavia is that piggy treats, “Glucksschwein” or “lucky pig”, are given out to be eaten on NYE to ensure good luck for the coming year. Why pigs? Well back in ye olden days, owning your own pig meant that you were pretty lucky. Pigs were associated with livestock, farming, wealth and prosperity!
So, that was the Austrian tradition covered off. What about traditions in Italy? Apparently Italians wear red underwear for New Year’s Eve. I didn’t test this one out, but did notice a few shops with saucy red underwear in the windows. Red represents fertility, health and long life, and the undies are supposed to be given to you as a gift, and then chucked out the next day. What!? Wasteful much. Italians have also been given as a gift, or have eaten lentils on New Year’s Eve since Roman times, with the lentils representing gold coins in the hope for wealth in the coming year. We ate pizza.
It was icy cold waiting for 3 hours as the crowds shuffled in. Our toes were numb and we breathed in many cigarettes from European smokers who for some reason hold zero regard for the health of themselves or those around them. We watched boomers struggle to take photos with their i-Pads, and were curious as to why there was no actual countdown to the fireworks. At midnight, they just started over the water, and ended just as abruptly with no Auld Lang Syne (or equivalent) singing, kissing or hugging.
We celebrated Cam’s big 40th birthday at a fabulous dark music-filled restaurant in Cannaregio “Paradiso Perduto”. You can’t go wrong when there’s no English menu! Everything comes in fresh from the Venice fish market, and dishes are typical of traditional Venetian cuisine.
After we’d ordered the waiter said he THOUGHT it would be enough for all of us. Look at all of that food! We shared the grilled seafood/vegetable plate, and tasted from all of the other dishes: crab filled tortellini, fish soup, thick Venetian bigoli pasta, and grilled fish. All delicious, and the atmosphere at Paradiso Perduto (“Lost Paradise”) was rowdy, frenetic and fabulous.
There was a lively band playing jaunty tarantella tunes in between necking house wines and passing round a donation plate between sets.
You also can’t have a celebration, or any spare moment of the day, in Venice without a Spritz in hand. The Spritz in one form or another has been drunk in The Veneto since the 1800’s. We went for the Venetian-preferred “Select” instead of Aperol as the base aperitif. They always add an olive to a Select Spritz here and they don’t make it any where near as sweet and fizzy as at home. Don’t worry, we have a bottle of Select stowed away for a Select group to try when we get home!
So two of the biggest events for us celebrated in la bella Venezia. Cam had a glorious night, and it was so special to share his 40th in one of the most magical places in the world.