Monday, January 2, 2012

Spending New Year's Eve in Venice

Three initials say a lot - O.M.G. What an experience spending New Year's Eve in Piazza San Marco.  We didn't spend the whole evening there but did the countdown to the new year and watched the fireworks.  Here's some things you need to know.  
  1. BOOK A RESTAURANT.  Just about every restaurant will be fully booked (with some doing multiple sittings).  We chose one of our favourites - Taverna San Lio between San Marco and Rialto and watched dozens of people come in for dinner only to be told they were fully booked.  Restaurants generally put up their NYE menu a week in advance - most are set menus for 90-100 euros so you need to be prepared for the price hike!  
  2. ALLOW TIME TO GET TO PIAZZA SAN MARCO.  The crowds start increasing around 11pm as everyone makes their way from their restaurant to the Piazza.  The crowds at this point are reasonably well behaved but it's packed, it takes time, and you have to be patient.  We left our restaurant around 11.15pm - normally it would take 5 minutes to be in the square.  We got there 11.45pm.  
  3. BE AWARE FOR THE NYE DRUNKS!  Yes people are already sloshed before the new year commences.  We saw an awful lot of young people (funny saying that considering I'm still in my early 40s) already behaving badly, tantrums, crying, sobbing even!  You don't have room to move in the square comfortably so find the mood of the crowd that suits you. 
  4. BE AWARE OF BROKEN GLASS and CIGARETTES.  There's an awful lot of bottles littered about during the evening, many of them smashed.  Keep your balance and be aware of your surroundings.  You could really hurt yourself.
  5. THE FIREWORKS AREN'T AT MIDNIGHT.  This year they advised on posters they were at 12.15.  The crowd will surge from the Piazza to in front of the Basilica, the Palazzo Ducale, and out on the water.  Be prepared because that's where the fireworks will go off - in San Marco basin there at the front. 
  6. THE FIREWORKS ARE GOOD BUT NOT MIND-BLOWING.  If you're from Sydney (like we are) we are spoilt with our fireworks.  Incredibly.  Off buildings, off barges in the harbour, off the Bridge of course, but not in Venice.  Don't be disappointed.  Just enjoy.  It's pretty special being in the Piazza and experiencing NY there.  
  7. BE PREPARED FOR SOME SCARY CROWD MOMENTS.  When it's over, it gets frightening.  The crowd surges, like a football crowd.  Let's just say you can see how people are trampled to death.  We would encourage NOT to take small children, prams, animals etc into the vicinity, or if you do, sit it out somewhere away from the movement and let the crowd disperse.  We saw some horrendous things last night with families trying to protect young children and people practically falling into prams.  The paramedics cannot get to you quickly.  You can't move.  It's hard to breathe.  And you are pushed about in ways you never thought imaginable.  If we'd known how scary it would be, we would have planned better - but once you are caught in the crowd, you have to go with it. 
  8. IF YOU ARE STAYING IN THE SAN MARCO AREA, BE PREPARED NOT TO SLEEP WELL!  Our apartment was less than a minute from the square.  We had drunks singing under our windows throughout the early hours. (We'll never again hear Meatloaf's I will do anything for love (but I won't do that) ever again without thinking of the drunk who sang it at the top of his voice while on the bridge below our apartment!!!)  We endured loads of cheering, loud conversations, whistles, smashing of bottles etc. for many hours.  The music in the piazza eventually died down, it was really just the crowds coming home that create the noise.
At the end of the day, enjoy the evening but be prepared for the behaviour of the crowd, particularly if travelling with small children, elderly, and animals.  In fact, I would seriously reconsider bringing babies and prams to the event unless you can sit tight for quite a while after the fireworks display has ended.  Play it safe, and have some fun, but be aware of the pitfalls and plan your evening accordingly....