Wide view of Venice: Piazza San Marco - Riva degli Schiavoni

SVOLO del TURCO - Flight of the Turk

One of the most intense attractions of the Fat Thursday has been this balance and skill feature, that was performed by a young Turkish acrobat in 1548.

Starting from a boat anchored in front of the St Mark's Square, and walking on a rope with just the use of a balance pole, he was able to reach the balcony of the St Mark's Campanile, and during the descent paid homage to the Doge in the Palazzo Ducale's balcony.

The feature was such a success that from then on it begun a classic, a sort of starting feat to the Carnival celebrations.

Needless to say, everything that could have happened, it happened.

During the 1680 Carnival a certain Sante de Ca' Lezze reached the Campanile di San Marco with a horse, and after climbing to the Angel statue on the top, drank a bottle of wine to celebrate the feat.

Also in 1760, four people exhibited their skills:

  • one got there riding a wooden sculpture depicting a satyr
  • the second was in a small boat
  • the third one had two small cannons tied up to his body
  • and the fourth one - an excellent acrobat - performed a series of breath-taking evolutions.

Accidents also happened, like in 1759, when a certain Nane Bailo - from a well known family from the Arsenale - lost his balance and miserably crashed to the ground.

This event could have been one of the reasons that from then on, the "Svolo" acrobats were substituted by a large wooden dove, and in 2001 with the flight of a charming lady, but with all the modern safety measures available, of course.

Anonymous Artist: "Il Volo del Turco" (The Flight of the Turk)
woodcut (1548) - printing (1816) - Museo Civico Correr, Venezia

Giovanni Grevembroch: "World theatre, tournament in Venice by the Brotherhood
of the Knights of the Garter, 1564" - Watercolor (18th century)
Biblioteca del Museo Correr, Venezia

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