Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 13: Vivi i colore

(song of the day reminds me of my dad. Hope you can play this at work!)

Vivi I Colori!!! Today was the day we went to Carnivale di Venenzia. Originally, we were going to pave our own way, day trip in florence, connect back and head to verona for the day then trek back to Florence. Really awesome on paper, but in the end we decided to use Bus2Alps which provides pretty much everything except for food. We woke up later than we hoped, threw together ourselves and our outfits. Coffee in one hand, mask in the other we paved our way to the Santa Maria Novella train station, about a ten minute walk from the apartment. 

We were quickly escorted onto a huge bus, and Colleen and I were lucky enough to have the seat in the middle of the bus that was right near the bathroom. When we left I was amazed at really how hilly and beautiful tuscany was. I almost didn't even want to fall asleep because of how nice the scenery was, but of course I did...when the Italian Job was over. 
In what seemed like an instant, we arrived at Venice for Carnival. Here's a little info on Carnivale:

"The Carnival of Venice is an annual festival, held in Venice. The Carnival starts around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Martedì Grasso), the day before Ash Wednesday. The Venice Carnival is now world famous - it always takes place during the ten days leading up to Shrove Tuesday. Carnival, being a pre-Lent festival, means 'farewell to meat' and is celebrated throughout Italy. It was first held in Venice in the 11th century and consisted of over two months of revelry, until it fell into decline during the 18th century. It was revived in 1979 with great success and nowadays it is a great excuse to don a mask and costume, parade around the city, enjoy the live music in the main squares of the city, the events organised by the tourist board and is a wonderful open-air festival where everyone can join in. Fantastic costumes are displayed in St Mark's Square and Venice is the perfect back-drop for amazing photographsCarnival in the 18th century began with a series of balls in St Mark's Square, as can be seen on the fresco on the walls of the famous cafĂ© Quadri's. Fortunes were squandered every night of Carnival in the Ridotto Gambling casino, whatever the social status all the people wore costumes and masks, many connected to the Commedie del'Arte, Harlequin, Columbine, the Plague Doctor and of course the courtesans."

Here's the official website, which tells a little about this years theme, which is "Vivi I Colori" or "alive color. I'm obsessed with the graphics on the site, because I really think they capture the essence of the theme they're going for. 

Don't you love this!! 

I really don't even know where exactly to begin because it was so much going on. Sooo perhaps I'll start by saying we had to pay a Euro to go to the bathroom. That, my friends, I call nickle and diming.  Anyway, Colleen and I decided to take a water taxi to on of the venetian islands, called Burano, which is famous for its colorfully painted houses The other main island called Murano, and is famous for making glass. Both sounded incredibly interesting, but with the limited amount of time we had we opted to see Burano. 


A pirate's life for me........He really did look like Johnny Depp huh!

Colleen and I stepped off our "water taxi", and unfortunately none of our Bus2Alps guides who we were following were around...whoops. So we decided to explore "Murano" on our own. I'd heard mixed reviews about Venice, but if you ask me, it was breathtaking. It felt like a movie set, or a picture stuck in time. 

 We walked around the tiny winding streets for a while, and started asking ourselves "where are the colored house?" We'd convince ourselves, "oh yeah maybe that yellow and orange house is what they're talking about. When we walked into a mask shop to ask for help, the clerk confirmed our suspicions... we were simply in Venice. We had a good laugh, tried on some masks and then stopped for a bite to eat before heading to San Marco square, where all the Carnivale Celebrations take place. 
While we got our masks for a few Euro, some of the masks found in this shop were hundreds of dollars. You can see in the picture of Colleen below how intricate some of them are.

In addition, while I've been trying to eat like the locals...Colleen and I indulged in a specialty of a...unique kind. 
 Incase the image isn't clear enough. This is FRENCH FRY pizza! Though I doubt this made me any more of a cultured Italian, it was definitely a unique eat and we had so much fun trying it. The trying turned into scoffing once the pigeons caught sight of it, but it really was a hilarious moment. When we walked a little ways down the street, we saw a woman who didn't come out unscathed as we did. (She was wiping...something...from her hair with the help of her friends. EW!!).

We we made our way toward San Marco Square through the labrynth that is Venice, Italy, we stopped to get our faces painted (naturally). The people working there were high school students who were volunteering, but acted far beyond their years. We practiced our Italian, and they practiced their english. We actually talked so long that we ended up exchanging emails. They also told us we had to try a "spritz" which I guess is some type of wine cooler / drink. 

As we neared the square, we started to see more and more people in full blown costume. I expected street clothed people in masks. In reality, people went totally full out, which you'll understand once you see the pictures. From halloween-ish costumes, to medeval dresses they really ran the gamit. Another interesting fact about venice: all of the houses have different size balconies, because the ladies would walk out to show off their outfits, and as the times changed so did the size of the skirts. Cool right! Speaking of cool, I have to add some pictures of this totally creepy, funky store we briefly popped into. Not particularly relevant to carnivale, but definitely a memory I'll keep from Venice: 

Terrifying huh?

Anyway, like I said, the costumes were so unreal, words don't really do it. So, here are some of the best of the day/ night. In no particular order, chronological or otherwise. Hang on to your hats:
some mother and daughter bonding
How do you like meow?

Believe it or not under that rainbow puff there was a baby
A cruella Deville / Mary Poppins mash up
Healthy snacking is important

They really did overbook Johnny Depp for today....
Another super fun thing about Carnivale is all the confetti they toss around. People (and by people I mean mostly children)  carry around bags of it to toss. You can see it on the ground in most of the pictures. I wasn't sure of the confetti throwing etiquette, but from what I gathered, adults don't like it and kids do. So I mostly ended up throwing it by myself, and to children/ babies. One little boy even ran after me down the street and absolutely nailed me. Dedication.

Childish? Maybe. Then again I also got my face painted and ate french fry pizza so theres that. 
When we finally made it to the epicenter: Mob scene. 

But St. Mark's Basilica was absolutely beautiful. No pictures were allowed but we actually briefly went inside, and it was just as lovely on the inside. 

 After soaking in the scenes for a bit, we met back up with the roomies, and went further away from the square. We ended up near the Rialto bridge for an absolutely amazing sunset.
Artsy Fartsy on the Rialto
Not a post card....
The Rialto Bridge

We then ventured out to find something to eat. We asked the man we purchased postcard from ( a REAL venetian) where we should go eat. He pointed us to a small place right around the corner. It also had the "trip advisor" sticker in the window, so we were totally in. I told the waiter that I wanted fish, but something mild like haddock. In a broken exchange he conveyed to me that the "Cuttlefish" was my best option. Plus it came with polenta so I was sold. Well, Colleen, Kelli and Michelle's meals all came over, and I assured them they should go ahead and eat. When they were half way done, we flagged down our waiter and he said my food was coming right out. When everyones meals were completely done he hurriedly brought me over a smelly plate of something that clearly was not a fish, and without polenta. With eyes on me and trying to be polite, I took a bite. Tasted like it looked. I think my roomates were relieved and we all laughed about the experience. Fortunately our waiter took it off the menu, and offered us limoncello at the end of our meal. We headed back to San Marco square to indulge in the craziness again. 

The stage had been set for an awesome italian DJ and we made our way all the way up to the stage 
When our night was over, we had to take the water taxis back in a huge lighting storm. We met up with some great girls we met in the beginning of the night, and hung out with them. My face paint had begun to fade, and one of the girls actually thought I had black eyebrows that I had painted on! I actually spit out my apple I was laughing so hard, that she though I drew on these thick painted brows with blue eyeshadow and she was still taking me seriously. Goes to show you some people really don't judge a book by its cover. Or maybe its because I had on great boots. 

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