Monday, February 15, 2010

Dio Mio Venezia!

Venezia, a city built on a lagoon. Sounds dreamy, no?.....well, go during the last weekend of Carnivale, and that turquoise water, romantic gondola-filled dream turns into a chaotic, claustrophobic nightmare. But let's start at the beginning.

Our bus was leaving for Venice at 6 AM, which, as I'm sure you can imagine, us 300 college students were absolutely thrilled about. But hey, we were going to Venice during Carnivale, so it's worth it, right? Yep, that's what I thought too. My day started out with this:
I was going to throw out our recycling and a chain got in my way. 3 weeks in and I have already managed 2 injuries. Super.

Being my peppy 6 AM self (HA), I stood up, brushed myself off, and limped my way to the bus (well, ok, several four-letter words may have been grumbled before the standing happened, but I repeat - it was not even 6 am.). Nothing a 3 hour bus ride with a cold water bottle on it couldn't fix. On the way, we stopped at a gas station - why they thought bringing 300 sleepy, hungry teenagers to one gas station was a good idea, I do not understand. Nevertheless, after lots of elbowing, I managed to suck down a cappuccino (which was very worth it - totally delicious) and hop back on the bus.

We went straight to Tronchetto, which is a man-made island/harbor where you park to board the boat to take you to Venice.  It was very chilly, but bright and sunny, and the boat ride over was quite pretty.

Sorry about the picture quality,  it was really bright out and my camera does not like taking pictures on moving vessels.
I know these pictures are random and a bit fuzzy, but I wanted to at least show you how the water comes right up to all the buildings.  It's really pretty cool to see.

You see that house right in the middle - it's yellow, but hard to tell because of the brightness. THAT is Elton John's villa that he visits every year during Carnivale.  So I was only some yards away from the man himself. Emily, I thought of you the whole time! Amusingly, this is about the time that the entire boat started whipping out their cameras in a frenzy. Never mind the centuries-old church next to it, Elton John could be in there. Oy. I found the church slightly more impressive.  Sue me.

After about 20 minutes, we stepped into Venice.  Now, yes, it is an absolutely beautiful city...

But during Carnivale...

...looks can be deceiving.

Never in my life have I been around so many people. And I've been to India. It was awful. Truly, my personal version of hell. The tour guide was pretty awful, and we ditched it about halfway through in search of food and quit. No such luck. Lunch only made it worse - overpriced, crowded, loud and far less than mediocre.

The one nice thing about the day was buying my mask:

I just loved the shape - "mezzaluna".

After about an hour of wading through human rivers to get back to the pier, we left to check in to the hotel. I was, at this point, essentially comatose. My intensely introverted self was absolutely drained. I was exhausted, hungry, and my knee hurt. Ick.

Around 7, we wandered out of the hotel to find dinner. We stayed in Mestre, which the town basically on the other side of the lagoon. I was not going back to Venice after the day we had there, so we asked the hotel concierge for a close-by restaurant. Dinner wasn't bad - warm crusty bread was a very good start. I ordered spaghetti alle nero di seppie:
The regional specialty - sauce that uses squid-ink to turn it black. It was really quite delicious. I LOVE trying the crazy regional dishes!
It was a very touristy restaurant, and the portions were HUGE. I made a major dent in it though. It made up for my highly unsatisfactory lunch. And the nice little Italian guy brought us "dessert" on the house...

Limoncello! VERY heavy on the alcohol. But frankly, after this day, I really needed it.
After dinner Marissa and I went back to the hotel. I was ready for a hot shower and bed. Our roommates were going back to Venice for some night life...or so they thought. If our day hadn't sucked badly enough, the ticket machines wouldn't allow them to buy tickets. So, they came back to the room and we celebrated Valentine's Eve with wine, chocolate, and the Olympics. An appropriate end to a truly cruddy day.

Because this is already a monster post, I'm going to do another one for Day 2. STAY TUNED!


  1. Wow that mask is a perfect complement to how you describe your day. The squid ink colored pasta though doesnt look nearly as good as you say it was- or maybe you were more hungry than you knew?. Glad it tasted better than it looked. Wow 300 american kids at one time. A horror show in and of itself. And then th crowds in San Marcos were impressive- was anyone really having fun? PS hows the knee?

  2. I have to agree with Dad--that pasta looks like a bunch of dirty shoe strings, but I'll take your word for it that it was delicious. I like how you style your food--even your breakfast. I don't do that--maybe I should!

    Loved the Venezia photo album. Can't wait to see it myself! Kiss your knee for me!