This past weekend, I found myself at the annual Carnival celebration in Venice.
Brief history lesson: It’s said that the festival began centuries ago in 1162 after the victory of Serenissima Repubblica. However, the celebration did not become official until the Renaissance. The festival served as a way to preserve the prestigious image of Venice, but was outlawed in 1797 under the rule of the King of Austria. It returned in 1979.
Many of you may associate beautiful masks and outlandish costumes with Carnival. It’s unknown why wearing masks is part of the Venetian culture, but Venetian college students rediscovered wearing masks as a way to bring tourists to the celebration, and every year, they have a contest for the most beautiful mask (“la maschera più bella”).
With just one day in Venice, there was a lot to take in. The city was much bigger than I expected, and the streets were packed with locals and tourists in fun costumes. We briefly saw the parade on the river, but it was hard to get a good look with hundreds of people crammed along the river (and police blocking you from a good view on the bridge). But it was a parade like no other I’ve seen. It was beautiful with colorful boats filled with Venetians dressed in unique costumes, singing traditional songs.
Confetti lined the cobblestone streets; joy and laughter filled the air. It was an incredible experience to be part of such an old tradition. After lunch and the parade, we took a boat to another island where we saw Murano glass blowing. Venice is famous for their Murano glass, and for good reason – we saw gorgeous ($$$$!!!!!) pieces that perhaps I can afford in another lifetime.
Afterwards, we walked through Piazza San Marco. St. Mark’s Basilica was gorgeous with its vibrant gold accents and 6 domes. It’s a unique Roman Catholic church as it’s structure has influence from Eastern Europe.
Finally, we made our way to what Venice is perhaps most famous for – gondolas. My only moment of disappoint: our gondola driver did NOT sing to us (ugh). Instead he smoked a cig and pretended to tip the boat when we switched places for the most aesthetic spot on the gondola (pics or it didn’t happen). We liked him anyway. When in Venice…
Venice took a piece of my heart – I wish I had more than the day there (although, I don’t think my wallet would’ve thanked me – this place is expensive!). Each canal was more beautiful than the last. The tiny, winding alleys with quaint buildings overlooking the water was one of the most unique features I ever saw in such a charming town. I only hope to return one day.
Ciao for now!