Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mardi Gras in Venice

I couldn't miss the chance to write about my adventure yesterday, at the Venice Mardi Gras... Carnevale a Venezia! Everyone I had spoken with swore it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not to be missed: I had to go! To prepare just a bit, I watched a brief, Rick Steves video about Venice the night before; his advice was helpful as always.   

Venice was a marvel as soon as I stepped out of the train station. Right there was the Canal Grande, with the vaporetti (water busses) busily carrying passengers around town (there are no cars in Venice!). Even before 10:00 am, many, colorful tables were set up to paint faces, and carnival masks were on display for sale everywhere. Since I had followed the costumed people in Padua to be sure I was getting on the right train, I decided to continue to follow them. They would lead me to the Piazza San Marco, the heart of the city, and the place where all the best carnival events were taking place, right?  

Carnival masks for sale on the streets of Venice
Not so easy! I started walking, following masked and caped revelers and watching for signs that said, "Via San Marco". Of course, I had to make a few detours: to take pictures, check out the various types of masks, peer into bakery windows, and buy a few postcards. I knew that, before arriving in San Marco, I wanted to be wearing a  mask, too! I finally found a fairly affordable one that was still made -or at least, painted- in Venice, and tied it on immediately. At that point, Venice became truly mysterious as I wandered its labyrinth, feeling invincible in my cat mask.

Somewhere on the Ponte di Rialto, I asked a shopkeeper for directions to San Marco. A language point: he attempted to respond to me in Spanish. Ha! This has actually happened a few times already, not on this trip, but when David and I came to Italy for vacation in 2011. At that time, of course, my Italian was less developed, and I suppose it was more obvious that I was basing a lot of the language on what I already knew in Spanish. At any rate, yesterday, we made due with ItaliaƱol, and I learned that the Piazza San Marco was under water! Yes, flooded. Should I even try to go there? What would happen to all the carnival events?

Determined to at least get a glimpse of the piazza, I pressed on to San Marco, and finally arrived. Wow… while there was a lot of flooding, it was full of people who literally were not going to let their parade get rained on. I saw spectacular costumes everywhere, some, I later learned, have been passed down in families for centuries. There was also music, theater, and tons of confetti, floating in the water.

Elaborate costumes in the Piazza San Marco  
See the water below the steps? 
There is so much more to tell, but I will summarize! I was not able to enter the famous Basilica di San Marco due to the flooding, so I decided to hit a couple other churches recommended by Rick Steves. I hopped on a vaporetto and visited Santa Maria della Salute and the Chiesa Dei Frari, both of which house several works of art by Titian and other Renaissance painters. Both stops were glorious. 

Finally, I entered a cafe to have lunch and get the hot chocolate I had been craving. Thankfully, it was not raining, but Venice was cold! Overall, it was a wonderful day and I am so grateful I could be there for Carnevale. Truly a unique and magical place, Venice is breathtaking and I can't wait to go back!  

Ciao, Venezia! Ci vediamo presto!

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