How do I even begin to describe Carnivale di Venezia? In retrospect, the long weekend seems like a blur of masks, champagne, confetti, and strobe lights. In other words, it was incredibly awesome.
Casey and I boarded a high-speed train at 5:30pm to head to Venezia and meet up with Tom and Avery. We packed the necessary essentials including sandwiches, crisps, ipads, and wine. Three hours and two liters of vino later, we arrived in Mestre (the mainland across from Venice), only to realize my phone died and we didn’t remember our address. At this point, Casey and I don’t even panic when these situations arise. We quickly charmed a train station employee into letting us charge my iphone in his office and then grabbed a taxi to the apartment we rented for the weekend!
Thursday night in Venice should have been a sleepy one. It was not. We managed to discover the only nightclub in Venezia, a small place called Piccolo Mondo. It was located in a tiny alleyway- the only clue to its existence being the large wooden doors and intercom. Inside was a wonderland of lights, music, and bizarre characters. I befriended the French bouncer Jacques, Casey danced with Italians to David Guetta, and Avery actually approved of the DJ. We danced, we spoke French, and we made it back home by 5am. Piccolo Mondo blew us away.
I woke up Friday morning and decided to have some tea in our meditation room before rousing the other hounds. The apartment was super cute and right next to a delicious bakery. I’ve never had so many delicious treats! Eventually, Tom and I were able to wake up Avery and Casey, and we headed towards the island to buy masks and explore a bit. On the actual island we spent a few hours looking at the amazing selection of handmade masks offered to carnivale participants. Masks ranged from inexpensive touristy ones to 100-euro handmade pieces of wearable artwork. Stands littered the streets, and shops dedicated solely to mask making could be found around every turn. We easily spent the rest of the day exploring the hidden passageways and tiny bakeries!
Venice is incredibly beautiful and picturesque; I can’t wait to bring my family back to see it in person. I fell in love with their signature winged lion and gorgeous buildings, there was something beautiful to see around every corner! We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant called Trattoria la Rosa dei Venti and I gave up vegetarianism for their Tagliatelle mari e monte (pasta with shrimp). It was the best decision I’ve made in awhile; the dish was phenomenal. YUM!
Then the sun went down, the masks came on, and Venice got rowdy. The night started off normally, we went in search of some new friends and spent a bit of time at a bar near the main square. As if on cue, Casey and I decided to leave the group and venture towards Piccolo Mondo to do some more dancing. After making more wrong turns than I thought possible, it was two am and my alarm reminding us to go home (so we wouldn’t be dead for the events tomorrow) was blaring. Frustrated at being lost, we were about to head back to Mestre when the distant thud of reggae music began to reach us. Unable to ignore this strange new addition to night, we kept walking until we came face to face with a giant factory holding a free reggae-trance concert! We looked at each other, then the clock, and headed inside.
Once we were in, I pulled Casey through the hundreds of masked people up to the front row. Ever the ambitious one, I decided that we needed to get on stage. I turned to Casey and said, “hold my jacket” before making eye contact with one of the guys on stage. Ten minutes later we were being escorted along the barricades towards backstage. While the DJ was taking a break and had his track on auto-play, our moment came. We walked on stage and looked out at the hundreds of people dancing to the music under strobe lights. I started dancing, held up my arms, and then screamed, “I’M FEARLESS ”! It was a minute of pure, reckless fun. Completely relishing in this ridiculous moment, I turned to smile at Casey only to find her literally inches away from the DJ’s equipment. Before I could scream NO, she was messing around and producing her own beats. Within seconds security came up and lead us off the stage, into the crowd, and then out of the factory. In about 90 minutes, we managed to make it into a reggae concert, got invited on stage, and then consequently were kicked out of the venue. Unreal Moment Number 87 of studying abroad, check.
We traded sleep for redbulls and made it onto Venezia for the biggest day of Carnivale late Saturday morning. The island was packed with thousands of people dressed up in various costumes and masks. Little kids, students, and tourists filled the tiny streets. We bought champagne and confetti and had a blast starting battles with all the little kids we passed. The weather was freezing; we actually saw some snow (and thunder and lightning!) Saturday night, but otherwise the sky was clear and the city looked beautiful. We met up with Brian and Joe for dinner before heading to Club Orange to celebrate into the night. We decided we wanted to dance and heard about a rave happening on the mainland from a girl I met waiting in line for the bathroom. My new Italian skills are continuing to be paramount in this entire experience.
Naturally, the six of us ended up getting lost after hopping off the bus. Skipping ahead, we managed to convince an Italian girl and her boyfriend to drive us in their two cars to the most underground club I have ever seen. This place was unreal; inside there was a dancing penguin, crazy lights, and a huge sign that just read, “POPCORN” covering the wall. We danced until exhaustion kicked in and we were forced to head back to our apartment. Fast forward through two hours of blissful sleep and we were on a train back to Roma. When we finally made it home, we crawled into bed and slept for the rest of the day in a fruitless attempt to feel like real people again. It’s Monday night and I’m still completely knackered from the experience.
Venezia was a complete thrill and I can’t stop smiling when I think about it. This entire semester is starting to spin around me like a dream; it seems too fun or special to even be real. I can physically feel the contentment and life that I’m breathing in over here. I’ve found it in little moments since I arrived in Italy: when I’m leaning against a train window or have my elbows on the beaten up wood of our favorite pub, when I can’t stop laughing in our aged and broken kitchenette, or I’m lying awake at four am. It’s a moment of recognition that things worked out and I’m where I’m supposed to be. It feels right, like home. I can only wish the same for you. Now stop being sappy and check out some of pictures of how it all went down: