Venice was a wild time! We went on the second weekend of Carnevale (Feb. 20-22), which is a two week festival culminating in Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras) and based on the idea of getting out every last sin before you have to give hem all up for Lent. Carnevale literally translates to “eat meat” because on the Christian calendar, the period of Lent is comprised of “lean days” or days when no meat or daiy can be consumed (think lots of fish) so they also traditionally ate a lot of meat during this time. That’s why my food teacher calls it “the festival of the flesh.” There’s also a pagan element of dress-up to scare away demons. So as you can imagine, with all the costumes, meat-eating, and sin committing (and Venice being home to the most famour Carnivale celebration in the world), it was an overwhelming mess.
We stayed at a campground outside of Venice because the tourist masses caused all the prices to go up in the city. This was tricky because the last city bus from the island to our campground left at 10:30pm, but more on that later.
When we arrived on Friday night after a 5.5ish hour train ride, Abbie, Stacy, and I went straight to our campground to meet up with Jamie and Jenna who had already checked in and to scope out our little two bedroom tract house. We ended up feeling too short on time to get our booties onto the fish-shaped island that night (with our dang 10:30 curfew), so we (I) ended up making pasta and drinking wine from the camp store. I was pretty excited to have all of my favorite travel buddies in the same place and girl talk ensued.
After a very cold night sharing one big bed with Stacy and Abbie, we headed into Venezia. We took a leisurely walk from Piazzale Roma (the fish’s mouth) to Piazza San Marco (the fish’s belly), following the signs and the surging crowds. We stopped for breakfast at a cafe where I had an amazing spremuta (fresh squeezed blood orange juice). We dawdled, bought souvenirs, and generally enjoyed our passeggiata until we eventually tumbled out of an alley and into St. Mark’s Square. It was packed and remained that way for the rest of our time there, even late into the night.
After sampling some free Venetian fritters, snapping a picture with a bunch of gondoliers (above), and scoping out the scaffolding covered Bridge of Sighs, we met up with two of our other friends, Megan and Ashley for a quick lunch on Sandwich Row, some face painting (for Jamie & Jenna), and a decision on what we would do next. Keep in mind that all of this happened in the midst of large crowds and among many people in amazingly ornate costumes.
We ended up deciding to split up. Stacy, Abbie, Jamie, and I hopped on a water taxi over to Murano while the more celebratory Megan and Ashley enjoyed the festivities in Venice with a few beers and Jenna tagged along. The water taxi ride was fun (from the fish’s belly to his back and then a bit farther out) and the calm quaintness was such a pleasant change so we loved it. We weren;t able to make it into the glass museum but we wandered through a bunch of glass shops and sat on a dock at the water’s edge for a while, just swinging our feet pleasantly.
After that we did a little dancing in St. Mark’s Square. Some people had brought out an enormous speaker on a dolly. The YMCA and macarena ensued along with a few Italian dance songs. We all met up in front of the Doge’s Palace. This time we split up in a different way when my roommates and I went off with our adoptive roommates, Adam and Jim and the girls they had traveled with, while the other ladies in our group and two of their guy friends went to dinner. Clearly everyone in the world was in Venice that weekend.
The night that followed included a fun show in the square with one too many musical clowns and an amazing woman who danced and spun in the air while suspended from an enormous helium filled ball that changed colors (above). I took about 60 pictures of her. When the show was over, I was a bit disappointed, but I think everyone else was ready to party!! The search for a party led everyone in our group to look for a club while Adam and I ( the Sober Sally’s of the group) checked out the Rialto Bridge and chatted. When their club search was unsuccessful, we met back up and found the speaker people again. This time we could see that they were two older Italian me dressed in bunny suits. They were leading a throng of dancers and partiers so we followed them through the streets of Venice, into alleys and piazzas, dancing and disturbing the peace. There was more YMCAing too. That was when I had the good fortune to see two men peeing into the canals. Yuck.
When the bunnies finally refused to macarena any more, Abbie and Raphaella (the birthday girl from the first week, above) befriended some dudes (possibly Swiss) who promised to lead us all to a party. Despite the seeming sketchiness of this proposal, there were still plenty of people on the street and we were in a large group (9 or 10) so it seemed okay. Along the way, a very creepy man tripped me as I was taking a picture and came towards me from the front. Adam and Stacy immediately went into defensive mode, Adam cutting between the two of us saying something like “We’re done here.” as Stacy slung her arm around my shoulders and pulled me away. I immensely appreciated the protective instincts of my sober friends and I even think I could have side-stepped the man without them, but the vague discomfort I had been feeling that night solidified in my gut and at that point I was ready to just go home. Chasing parties isn’t my favorite activity anyway. Luckily, after we reached our disappointing destination, a fairly tame street with a candy seller and one bar on it, everyone else had had about enough too. Unfortunately, getting home wouldn’t be so easy for Stacy, Abbie, and me because it was after 2:00am. While Jamie and Jenna had decided to crash with Megan, Ashley, and Co., Adam and Jim were worried about getting us past the front desk of their hotel on Lido. We watched them ferry away and then trudged back to St. Mark’s to catch a ferry to the busses, hoping we would make it into a bed that night.
We did end up getting a bus to the airport but the connecting bus to the campground claimed it wouldn’t come until 6:30am. We found two other stranded girls there and together we called at least 4 taxi numbers, all of whom said they were closed and the last of whom advised us to walk to our nearby campground. With the airport about to close (waiting on one delayed flight from Casablanca) and no other options, we set out into the night and a fog so think, we honestly couldn’t see 15 feet in front of us. I’m not going to get too into detail about our walk because I’ve written so much already, but eventually one of the other girls flagged down a car, which luckily was a shuttle van and the kind driver informed us that we were going to complete wrong direction and offered to drive the five of us back to camp for €10. 5 or 6 minutes later, we were home. We ended up falling asleep at 4:00am.