Coming from different areas of the Municipality of Venice, they are a mix of not only young students, workers, and extreme sports lovers, but also yoga enthusiasts, nurses, tourist escorts, aspiring actresses, crochet enthusiasts and art and history lovers.
The selection took place on Friday, February 3 in the magnificent Sala Capitolare of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista. Fifty-five girls, residents and born in the 44 municipalities of the Metropolitan City of Venice, aged between 18 and 28, took part in the competition.
As per tradition, 12 of them have been selected by the technical jury and by the “patron” Maria Grazia Bortolato. In the coming days, they will compete for the title of Mary of the Year 2023 by animating palaces, and parties in Venice, Mestre and the islands. They will parade through the Venetian calli, squares and in a gondola dressed in the 16th-century sartorial dresses of the Atelier Pietro Longhi, which has been creating the costumes of the 12 girls, the authentic symbol of the Carnival of Venice, since 2013.
The 12 Marie were chosen by a jury consisting of: Roberto Papetti (director of the local newspaper Il Gazzettino), Massimo Checchetto (artistic director of the 2023 Venice Carnival and president of the jury), Marco Vidal (CEO of “The Merchant of Venice”), Claudio Vernier (president of the Piazza San Marco association), Giovanni Giusto (councillor delegated to the Protection of Traditions), Gloria Rogliani (multiple Venetian rowing champion), Claudia Marchiori (actress and Mary of the Year in 2016), Cristina Scarpa (events director of the Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista), Giulia Seguso (of Seguso Art Glass), Francesco Briggi (owner of the Atelier Pietro Longhi), Francesca Pederoda (marketing sector) and Paolo Polato (member of the Adusbef national board).
After an initial selection that brought the number of aspiring Marias down from 55 to 22, the jury chose these 12 girls:
Giulia Polselli, 18 years old from Oriago, student
Elisa Bermani, 27 years old from Venice, teacher
Sara Barbiero, 27 years old from Spinea, nurse
Agata Scarpa, 24 years old from Chirignago, student
Caterina Minach, 20 years old from Mestre, student
Laura Libbi, 18 years old from Camponogara, student
Lavinia Malerba, 19 years old from Lido di Venezia, tourist guide
Martina Codolo, 19 years old from Sant’Erasmo, student
Beatrice Raffael, 23 years old from Venice, student
Giulia Caramel, 24 years old from Mestre, student
Giorgia Boldrin, 19 years old from Marcon, aspiring actress
Matilde Grandesso, 20 years old from Mestre, student
The 12 Marie will also be joined on some dates by the two bridesmaids Veronica Boscolo and Mariam Gargiulo.
The competition is in collaboration with the local newspaper
“This is the 24th edition of the competition relaunched in 1999 by Bruno Tosi. I have overseen 23 of them, and inherited the organisation of the contest 10 years ago”, says Maria Grazia Bortolato, the ‘mother’ of the Marias. “I work so hard throughout the year to get to this day. I am happy for these girls and the choices the jury made. I am sad for those who did not make it, but it is a competition and we have to choose 12 girls out of all the ones that participate. Bruno Tosi’s brilliant idea to bring this event back to Carnival was an intuition for which we still have to thank him. I think I am doing a good job as he wanted. The theme chosen by artistic director Massimo Checchetto is also very stimulating for us. I will try to feature the girls in the sign of the soul, of their desires for the future, and not just bring out the characteristics of their zodiac sign. It will be a fun experience”.
The first event involving the 12 Marie of the 2023 edition of the Venice Carnival is scheduled for Saturday, February 11. After the dressing-up ritual, they will parade along the Grand Canal in a gondola and arrive at St Mark’s square ready to meet the Carnival public.
This year, the contest has, once again, a godmother: the Venetian actress and Mary of the Year 2016 Claudia Marchiori, who was also present yesterday in San Giovanni Evangelista as a juror.
“I’m excited to be here in this new role”, explained Claudia Marchiori, “I feel at home. I am happy for having selected girls who are not only beautiful on the outside but who also possess strong moral values. It is true that since 2016 my life has changed, but it was not just luck. If luck touches you then you have to work hard every day to go far. From the 2016 competition, I remember a very excited girl who could not believe her eyes and did not expect to experience those strong emotions, to get to know Venice so fully. I hope that this year’s 12 Marie have a great time and respect each other. In the end, you get far if there is a good group”.
Resurrected by the visionary director Bruno Tosi in 1999 and over time becoming one of the pivotal events of the Venice Carnival, the Festa delle Marie recalls a historical fact. It was the year 973 when in the church of San Pietro di Castello, during the annual celebrations dedicated to the purification of the Virgin Mary, twelve Venetian girls were kidnapped by a group of Dalmatian pirates. After a chase organised by Doge Pietro Candiano III, the girls were freed and taken back to Venice. Since then, the Festa delle Marie has been celebrated every year in the lagoon, in ways and rituals that have changed over the centuries.
Numerous, also for this edition of the event, are the prizes that will go to the Marie of the Year, who will be elected on 20 February in the Sale Apollinee of Teatro La Fenice together with the one of Il Gazzettino, chosen according to the preferences expressed by the newspaper’s readers. In addition to an unforgettable trip for two people offered by Costa Crociere, a flight aboard a FlyVenice helicopter to admire the city, the lagoon and its islands from above; a design piece donated by Seguso Vetri d’Arte and the crown created by the sculptor Giorgio Bortoli. The 12 protagonists of the 2023 Carnival will also be given a bracelet by Crescenzo Fiorentino, and the Mary of the Year and the one of Il Gazzettino Callegaro Gioielli of Viale Garibaldi, in Mestre, will dedicate one of their precious articles.