When we booked our tickets for carnivale, my group patted ourselves on the back for scheduling our train two hours later than the rest of our BCSP friends. Our Parma trip instilled the lesson that Italians will not wake up before 10AM in the morning on a weekend, so we thought arriving in Venezia at 11:30AM would be perfetto. When we arrived at our 9:30AM train, we found that every other Bolognan had the same idea. We squeezed onto the train and stood in the compartment in between cars. I thought I really understood sardines at that point, but at every stop on our way to Venezia (Padova, Ravenna, etc.) more Italians shoved their way onto the train, pressing me into the wall. Finally, at about 11, I pushed my way into the 1st class car and stood looking over the shoulder of the big-spending passengers who shifted uncomfortably. Our train took three hours (instead of two) to arrive in Venezia.
When we finally set foot in the floating city, we bee-lined for a restaurant—any restaurant. After eating an over-priced pizza, we headed toward Piazza San Marco, the main piazza of the city. We followed arrows painted on the sides of buildings, and arrived at the packed square in about two hours. The streets only a few blocks from the square were crammed with people and we inched along trying to avoid elbows and giant costumes alike. Piazza San Marco seemed to be the meeting place for anyone in Italy wishing to celebrate Carnivale.
Shortly after arriving, we decided to escape the crowds of the Piazza and head into a quieter neighborhood of the city. One of our friends had lived in Venezia during a recent summer and led us to her old haunts. The streets were close to empty and we were able to see the “real” Venezia. It is undeniably beautiful, and is incredibly different from Bologna. While both cities have cobblestone streets lined by shuttered apartments, they each have a distinct feel. Besides the obvious: canals in Venezia and porticos in Bologna, Bologna is alive with youth trying to push through the ancient stone. The city is covered in graffiti and has a lively nightlife. Meanwhile, Venezia seems conscious and proud of its age. The streets are clean (lacking both cars and vandals) and when we asked a café owner to point us toward the clubs, he said there were none.
The best part of Carnivale was undeniably the costumes. We bought masks shortly after arriving, but our costumes paled in comparison to the confections prepared by Carnivale experts.
Although the crowds were overwhelming and the food was overpriced, I was glad to have the opportunity to experience Carnivale. I hope to return to Venezia when there are fewer crowds and it is a bit warmer.
Let me leave you with some observations on Bologna and Italy in general:
There are never any clocks around and if you find one, it doesn’t work.
Perhaps because there are no clocks, Universita di Bologna classes start 15 minutes late and end 15 minutes early.
Window-shopping is a popular pastime and easy to do, especially as shop owners often put a list of prices in the windows.
The yogurt here is amazing and there is coffee flavored yogurt. Which is even more amazing.