Last week while doing my usual perusing of Italy instagrammers, I had one of those moments. You know, where you see this amazing photo taken by someone else on Instagram and you think….shucks! I wish I was doing something as cool as that.
While I know some of you must be thinking that I’m clinically insane for even saying that, because I “live in Italy and all”, let me be the first to tell you that most of the time, my life is pretty normal. I, too, have to wake up to an unpleasant alarm, go to work, and do laundry (without a drier might I add …because Italians believe that driers are the devil’s work?). Admist all the pizza and pasta and other delectables I am tempted by everyday, I must also force myself to work out, ensure that I’m getting enough calcium and all that other ‘good’ stuff my mom tells me to do. Did I mention I have to pay the bills too? Paying the bills in Italy is not just a click of the button kind of thing…but that’s another story soon to come on the moving to Italy FAQ.
Anyways, my point is is that last week I had a YOLO moment. I saw these amazing photos of Venice and Carnevale by my friend Heather at Cafè Carlson (she has some stunningly beautiful photos – you should follow her on Instagram!). So naturally the first thing I did was look at train tickets to Venice, just ya know, to consider witnessing one of the world’s most famous events.
Within minutes it was decided (Carpe Diem, yeah!): I called my boyfriend and in my sweetest, most endearing girlfriend voice, said “I don’t care what you’re doing on Sunday, cancel it. We’re going to Venice.”
No only did he oblige (quite willingly to my surprise), but minutes later he called me back to say, “I ordered us some costumes. You don’t mind, do you?”.
Oh how great minds think alike.
So with our puffy costumes stuffed in a suitcase, we hopped on a train Sunday morning headed for Venice. Of course changing into our costumes once we got there was a bit tricky but we managed to transform ourselves into two 18th century signori in the train station bathroom and bribe a nearby hotel receptionist to store our luggage for the day. Cha-ching.
Being in Venice, dressed like that, with everyone staring at you is both embrassing and thrilling at the same time. At first it was really quite strange to be wearing a skirt that was as wide as I was tall. Made of wire and cloth, it rested, quite heavily on my hips the entire day. Moving in and out of Venice’s tiny osterias turned out to be quite the task and going to the bathroom even more so. Nevertheless, like a proper Medieval lady, I managed quite gracefully (okay so there were a few occassions when I accidentally took out a few unaware tourists, but I mean c’mon – people should know better than to get in a Medieval signora’s way when she’s crossing a footbridge!).
Since I couldn’t sit very much (I really don’t know how women survived in dresses like that back then), we had to eat standing up. Starving, our first stop was a slice of pizza on our way into the city center. Which was, of course, hilarious to watch each other, dressed to the medieval nines, stuffing our faces with slices of pizza and downing a can of Coca Cola. Shouldn’t we have been sipping wine out of golden chalices and eating a giant drumstick of meat?
After that, needing to calm our nerves a bit, we popped into a quiet, side street osteria for a little afternoon Spritz. One thing my Veneto boyfriend has taught me is that Spritz are good anytime of the day. Whether be it morning, afternoon or night, a little prosecco, aperol and fresh orange slice always goes down good. One might think this is quite an expensive habit, but in Veneto, the average price of a Spritz is no more than 3.00 euro.
After a few hours, I got quite used to my damigella role. People were stopping us everywhere to take pictures of us or even with us. It was like we were celebrities! Amazing what a bit of change in style can do for your social life.
As we were making our way to Piazza San Marco, I was mesmerized by the scenes: the old winding, narrow streets of venice that occassionally popped us out into an open piazza. Old molding red brick, tiny aqua canals with ornate Gondola’s parked in a row to one side and the red and white “barber shop” striped polls to indicate a Gondola pick-up site. It was truly spectacular to witness other Carnevale characters with the backdrop of Venice.
Before making it to Piazza San Marco we couldn’t resist a little afternoon Carnevale treat: frittelle veneziane.
Oh my sweet fried goodness! Fritelle have got to be the devil’s magic! Fritelle are a typical Carnevale treat in Veneto. They are round balls (about the size of a tennis ball) made up of fried dough, pine nuts, raisins, and perhaps just a touch of lemon, coated in sugar that sort of grits (in a good way) in your teeth as you bite into it. If my dress hadn’t been so tight I would have eaten 5 more of the things.
Feeling refueled by the sugar, we skipped along to our final stop: St. Mark’s Square. This was the heart of the Carnevale celebration. It like a giant photo shoot as there were costumes every which way you looked. I was trying to take photos of everyone until I realized that everyone was trying to take photos of me. There was a costume competition on going in the middle of the piazza, but really the best views were under the porticos and near the shore of Riva degli Schiavoni.
At one point we were attacked by a group of Chinese tourists who took about 80 photos with us, but after escaping their grip, we gleefully skipped right a long onto a quiet side street, to make our way slowly back to the other side of Venice.
One Spritz and complicated bathroom break later, the sun was starting to set. We had only one more place we wanted to go: Bar Al Timon.
Oh what a joy this little bar brings me: perfect spritzies, delicious baccalà crostini, and an ambience that celebrates the true spirit of Venice. Although it was too cold this time around, during the warmer months, you can enjoy your aperitivo on a boat sitting in the water. Located on a quiet side street along a canal, it’s definitely the kind of place where only the locals go.
Our Carnevale dream ended back at the hotel we had bribed to keep our luggage a few hours before. Changing back into our normal clothes was both a relief and disappointment. My hips were killing me from carrying around my wide hipped dress all day long so changing into a nice pair of light jeans felt amazing. Still, I was slightly sad to be back into my modern day character of jeans, t-shirt, clunky boots. “How boring”, I thought. “The 21st century is not nearly as beautiful as the 18th”.
Still, I suppose the beauty of Venice’s Carnevale lies the contrastable difference between the new and the old, between the reality and the masked, between something we are and something we are not.
For more Carnevale photos, follow me on Instagram! :)