The thing I was looking forward to the most when I found out I was accepted to study abroad in Rome this semester wasn’t the food, the ruins, or the wine tastings. It was Carnival. Feel free to criticize me for being a serious dork but something about partying in Venice wearing masks all day and checking out the insane costumes all around you is irresistible. Carnival is basically a combination of America’s halloween and Mardi Gras. It takes place the week before lent begins and contains concerts, parades, balls, and costume contests. Needless to say, it is AWESOME. My adventures during Carnival include some sightseeing, shopping, partaking in wine, and having an overall amazing time!
We went through a company, Bus2Alps, to get to Venice which although wasn’t the fastest mode of transportation (7 1/2 hours each way by coach bus) was convenient and cheap. Once we arrived in Venice the bus dropped us off and we bought masks at a little market outside the water taxi station. They were pretty cheap and I’d definitely recommend getting them there instead of in the city. Make sure you ask them for the ones that are actually made in Italy though because it’d be a shame to get stuck with an imitation one made in China. Once we acquired our masks we all hopped on the water taxi and rode it for about 20 minutes through the Grand Canal to St. Marks. Riding the water taxi was the closest I got to being in a gondola (which wasn’t very close) but we learned that gondola’s are very expensive, about 80 euro for a boat of four people, so it was nice to be on the water for much cheaper.
Once in St. Marks’ Square the insanity began. There were people dressed up in crazy costumes ranging from an authentic colonial era couple to Egyptian inspired goddesses. The way Venice does Carnival costumes puts America’s halloween to shame. I’m an avid halloween enthusiast and a theater major and I have NEVER seen anything like these costumes. The details and quality of everyone’s attire was astounding. I literally felt like I was walking around a Hollywood backlot and they were filming multiple genres of movies somewhere in the background.
We walked around the winding streets of Venice and basically just got lost walking over the canals and exploring the niches of the town. There was entertainment everywhere between the walking fashion show of costumes to little kids assaulting you with confetti. We even walked into a shoe store that was hosting a string quartet clad in Renaissance costumes.
Once it got a little later the concerts in St. Mark’s started. By this point the little kids with confetti had gone home and the real party started. The Italians partied like none other in their ridiculous costumes while enjoying a dance show that seemed to document different dancing styles throughout the 20th century. It was a pretty classy event that simultaneously mixed with the debauchery of a fraternity party back in the states. Only in Italy is all I can say about that.
After this we proceeded to hop back on the water taxi and make our way drowsily back to the bus. We met up with some of our other friends that we had gotten separated from earlier in the day and exchanged stories. By the time the bus set in motion however, we were all passed out. Next thing we knew we were back in Rome (at around 3am might I add) and dragging ourselves onto buses back to our neighborhoods. We may have slept in till 3 or 4pm the next day but Carnival was 100% worth it. I’d recommend going to Venice for Carnival to anyone who is studying abroad in Italy for a spring semester. It’s a truly once in a lifetime experience that I am so thankful I got to experience.
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