The time leading up to Easter is a time of celebration and tradition in Italy known as Carnevale. Masks play an important role in the Venetian Carnevale and historically, different types of masks were worn by people with different occupations. For example, half masks, known as the Columbina, were worn by actresses or particularly beautiful women who didn’t want to cover their faces completely. During my first weekend here in Florence, my roommates and I traveled to Venice to experience this much talked about tradition. One of my roommates found a tour through Smart Trip, which provided transportation to and from Venice via a luxury bus. There are many different travel agencies that specialize in planning weekend trips for study abroad students here in Florence, which makes traveling much easier!
On the bus ride there, we watched the movie “Casanova” which is set in Florence. It was neat to later on see some of the scenes we had seen in the movie in real life. The streets of Venice were filled to capacity with tourists, locals, and vendors. Many people wore masks, and some even wore masks and full costumes. My roommates and I had purchased our masks ahead of time in Florence at an outside market, not knowing what the prices of masks in Venice during Carnevale would be. Walking along the streets, we saw some strange sights. One man was dressed up as a baby and had his body hidden by a carriage. The only thing visible was his painted face. He made baby noises and interacted with the people passing by. He looked a lot like a baby clown and was actually rather frightening.
We continued walking along and came across St. Mark’s Basilica. The detail of the building is truly magnificent, and the colors beautiful as well. Next to the Basilica is the world’s first digital clock. Every 5 minutes the number changes. Below that, a dial with each of the zodiac symbols on it. I was especially interested in this as I love the zodiacs. Also in the square was a show of some sort, with elaborate costumes and a huge crowd. We didn’t have much time as we were on a guided tour, so we didn’t stay in this area for too long. Beyond St. Mark’s Square is a maze of narrow streets with shops and restaurants. We found a restaurant that looked welcoming and had a wonderful meal. After, we continued to explore the streets and shops.
Later on in the day, one of my roommates and I went on a gondola ride. While we were waiting in line for them, the gondoliers were singing a song so joyfully that you couldn’t help but smile. The ride itself was such a memorable experience and though it was rather costly, I’m so glad I did it! It was so cool to have an uninhibited view of so many of the beautiful buildings in Venice. The water and wind was cold, but we didn’t mind! After the gondola ride, we got a cup of hot chocolate to warm up. The hot chocolate here is so different than in the States. It is so thick and rich, but not too sweet.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Florence. I would have liked to stay longer than the day but I know I will never forget Venice and its waterways, architecture, and people.