The Flight of the Angel marks the beginning of Venice Carnival. It was such a thrill for me to attend the event from the press area! Two years ago I thought that 1 hour in advance could be enough. I was wrong. I had to watch the Flight on my tiptoe cause a column was partially blocking my sight. And people pushed me from every side.
The Flight of the Angel takes place on the first Sunday of Carnival, between 11 and 12 am, depending on the decision of the organization. This year the Flight was set for 11 am. So I arrived at 9.30 am. I was right to do so, cause I found a place to sit on the train from Padua (2 years ago we were like sardines). And no crowds along the way from the train station to Piazza San Marco. Before the flight, there was a costumes parade so that I couldn’t get bored in the waiting.
As you can see in the photo below, the piazza was completely full after the event. That’s why I strongly advise you to come early like I did if you plan to attend in the future. Moreover, the police now allow you to enter only up to the 20,000 people threshold.
Story of the Flight of the Angel Venice
The first Flight took place in 1500, when a young Turkish acrobat walked on a rope, stretched between a docked boat and St. Mark’s campanile. He then reached the Doge’s Palace to salute the Doge. It was a huge success. So much so that the show (the Turkish flight, at the time) was repeated every year since then, with some variations. At some point, the acrobat was equipped with wings. And therefore the name changed: Il Volo dell’Angelo, the Flight of the Angel.
After a deathly incident in 1759, a wooden dove (The Flight of the Dove) replaced the acrobat. The Colombina, a little dove, released confetti on the crowds.
In 2001 the municipality decided to replace the Dove with a person again. At first, the chosen protagonist was a celebrity or a sports champion.
Le 12 Marie
Since 2011, the Angel is the winner of the previous Carnival’s contest of the “12 Marie”. The contestants are 12 beautiful Venetian girls, between age 18 and 28, chosen by a jury.
The Marie contest recalls the tribute that the Doge used to grant to 12 beautiful but poor Venetian maidens, endowing them with gowns and jewels for their wedding. The 12 poorest and most beautiful girls in town could then enjoy a magnificent wedding at the presence of the Doge, plus a banquet and a parade on board of the Doge’s galley.
2 Angels for the Flight of the Angel 2019
But this year it was pretty special. In fact we had not just 1 but 2 Angels. One was Erika Chia, the winner of last year contest. And the other one was another Maria of last edition, Micol Rossi. The latter suffers from Crohn disease and, in spite of her young age, had to get surgery many times. She wrote to the mayor of Venice, asking him to join the flight and dedicate it to people fighting against illness. So she will be the Warrior Angel. She said:
“My flight is dedicated to all the people who currently suffer or have fought. I would like to give them strength and courage. To be able to testify that life is beautiful in spite of all the difficulties, that there may be some dark periods, but one can always come out of it”.
I was so touched by her strength that I asked her to take a selfie together.
Micol’s flight was the first one. Her dress, by Atelier Pietro Longhi, was that of a medieval knight, representing her fight against the disease. While Erika had a butterfly dress by Atelier Nicolao. Both amazing.
If you want to learn more about Italian Carnival traditions, go to my post: Italian Carnival.
Flight of the Angel Venice
Piazza San Marco
First Sunday of the Venice Carinval celebrations, 11 – 12 am