Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Viva La Venezia!
I am a jeans and flats kind of girl. I don't wear a lot of make-up. For me, comfort and simplicity is key. So imagine my apprehension when I was told I would be wearing an 18th century-inspired dress for a ball that Art of Life was invited to during the Venice Carnival. I was given a few to choose from and they were everything I usually shy away from: bright colours, intricate embroidery, and -- horror of all horrors -- something akin to a corset! But after a lot of soul searching and deciding to live for the moment I embraced the costume and the experience wholeheartedly.

I met Antonia Sutter a costume designer based in Venice whose clothes take you back to another time; a time when attention to detail, grandeur, femininity and masculinity were characteristics to be embraced and sources of inspiration. In her tiny atelier hidden in one of Venice's maze-like streets and alleys, people lined up waiting to choose a costume among the hundreds hanging on the racks. There were intricate hand-made masks everywhere all part of creating a dream, one that transports you to an era of magic and magnificence. This is Antonia's busiest time of the year and most of the year is geared up for this moment.

The costume Antonia had picked out for me was a beautiful dusty-rose and gold dress that once slipped on made me feel like a member of Venetian royalty. With layers and layers of fabric and detailed embroidery it was nothing like anything I had ever worn before. And like everyone that was at the atelier trying on outfits, the room was filled with an excitement at the anticipation of being taken on a trip to the 18th century. Most of those renting costumes from Antonia were attending her event, the most sought-after ball of the carnival.

Il Ballo del Doge or the Ball of Dukes who ruled Venice in the 17th century takes place at the historic Palazzo Pisani Moretta, a stunning palace dating back to the 15th century. Built in Gothic style and overlooking Venice's Grand Canal it was the perfect setting for a party of an ethereal kind. No one was allowed in without a costume and that included the press. Over 400 guests all in period costume were welcomed into the illuminated warmth of a hundreds of wax candles lit in every room of this grand palace. We were treated to the Venetian specialty: seafood and a wonderful spectacle of Venetian culture from yesteryear with performances that include comedians, dancers, and musicians. I felt like I was in the movie Dangerous Liaisons and it seemed like we were all playing the part we were assigned.

I had never been to Venice before and being introduced to it this way has certainly left an indelible impression. While there is the fear of being a tourist trap with over 14 million people visiting every year, this city on the water has a personality of its own. It is perhaps the theatrical nature that Venice exudes that attracts visitors globally. And it is that theatricality that allures thousands during the Venice Carnival as they watch participants in colorful costumes and masks make their way through the crowds in the squares and the canal-lined streets.

Riding in the water taxi from the airport and into the city felt like I was being enveloped into a bright toy town on the water. It is everything I had ever imagined and seen in photographs, movies, music videos and paintings. The Grand Canal is flanked by over 500 years of architectural history making the first site breathtaking. The gondolas are there (even though they aren't what the locals use and are purely there for the tourists). Everything is expensive but the food and wine are worth it.

So, in Venice I learned to just be in the moment, to share the party-infused air with people from around the world as we walked slowly along the packed streets, to enjoy the drama that unfolded before me, and to inhale the excitement that was carnivale.
Posted By Monita: Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Hi Monita, I love your show and you are my favorite anchor on CNN. I love waking up and seeing you and Max on TV. Looking farward to this weekend and seeing you in that dress -- I'm sure you look stunning. You have such an exciting job, working for CNN Today and traveling around the world for Art Of Life.
I wish you all the best,
Rados, Sebia
Posted By Anonymous Rados, Serbia : 8:25 PM, February 21, 2007
Hi Monita,

Really great story you have. I'm very excited about this month's show. It's geat we can now watch the show online anytime. I love all of your shows and I hope that you will feature my country soon. Keep it up! You are great, girl power! I bet you'll look like a princess in that gown in Venice, or a queen perhaps!
Posted By Anonymous sarah akmad,manila philippines : 12:59 PM, February 22, 2007
Dear Monita, you looked as a queen with your 18th century costume. My best wishes to you!
Posted By Anonymous Gustav Lage - El Paso, Texas USA : 1:23 PM, February 22, 2007
Hello Monita,
I am happy you had a good time in Venice. The carnival there is certainly a reason to visit this city -- it's an occasion you don't want to miss though I prefer to see Venice in its natural aspect during other times of the year. The fact that this city is sinking is very sad. Still, I hope you enjoy this time, for you are probably the only sincere mask among the diguised crowd roaming around you.
Waiting to see you soon back to the news desk.
Posted By Anonymous giorgio ,siena italy : 1:25 PM, February 22, 2007
I try to catch you every weekend and I must say that you are one lucky woman to have the job you have -- from riding elephants, to riding a luxurious barge in the south of France. I would love to accompany you on your trips. I some how doubt that wheelchair access is part of your trips. It must be a part of my trips as I am a wheelchair user. It would be very helpful to me as a person who travels a fair amount to tell us, the viewer, whether the trip you are on at any given time has wheelchair access.
I understand that you have a limited time to take us on the trip and that there is a great deal of information that you must convey. Let me say you do that with elegance and grace, and a smile that makes me wish I was there.(:>)
Posted By Anonymous John McAlinden New york : 11:57 PM, February 22, 2007
Very nice, having been to Venice many many times in the last 20yrs. Loved your blog -- I love the Italians and they love life, Thank you for sharing the experience.
Posted By Anonymous Heidi breuer,Wehr,Germany : 4:52 AM, February 23, 2007
Hey Monita,
You look like a princess in that costume! I love your show. Keep up the good work.
Posted By Anonymous Nilufer Bhateja,Lucknow,India : 10:40 AM, February 24, 2007
Very good show, and if I may say so, you looked fantastic in that costume. Jeans and flats kind of girl you may be, but you looked very much at home at the Doge's Ball.
Posted By Anonymous Kristian, Denmark : 1:02 PM, February 24, 2007
What a privelege! I wish there was more insight on Italian music composed by Rossini or L'arte del violino.
Nevertheless, a well-written travelog!
Posted By Anonymous Suraj Anand, Pune : 6:40 AM, February 25, 2007
The Venice carnaval was interesting indeed.
I have a suggestion -- how about covering Argentine tango sometime on Art of Life? It has become so popular throughout the world as Argentine masters regularly hold traveling workshops. It brings the world together. As a Turkish social dancer, I've have danced with women from 20 different countries at international festivals and tango nights (milongas) in Istanbul.
Posted By Anonymous Ahmet Ozkan, Istanbul, TURKEY : 3:40 PM, February 25, 2007
Wonderful! I wish I could attend one of these events.
Posted By Anonymous JydaGirl,lagos,nigeria : 12:03 PM, February 26, 2007
I watched your show just a week after my visit to the carnival of Venice. It was really very interesting to learn something more about the carnival and the people and events around it. A job well done on your part!
Posted By Anonymous Marian, Trnava, Slovakia : 10:21 AM, February 27, 2007
Congratulations, Monita! You looked like a character out of a Goldoni play. Now you have enjoyed the Venice Carnival and the beauty of this unique city, please highlight the terrible danger of seeing Venice under water if we don't find a proper solution.
Come to Italy again!
Posted By Anonymous Valter Cagliari Italy : 10:54 AM, February 27, 2007
Hi Monita,
It was wonderful to see you on the Venice show. People in their beautiful costumes with their masks on just took me back to 16th century England that I did in my literature class. Keep up the good work.
Posted By Anonymous Vidya. Toronto, Ontario : 10:25 PM, February 28, 2007
Hi Monita,
Its great watching the art of life show as u present it with such elegance and style. Your outfits are so trendy which makes the show more delightful to watch...You have a way of delivering your words and attract a thousands of people worlwide i'm sure...KUDDOS to you and CNN!!!!
Posted By Anonymous Peggy, Kuwait City, Kuwait : 10:12 AM, March 26, 2007
CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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