February 25-26, 2017: Carnevale

Photo album: https://goo.gl/photos/VSenPf5nkVmE2of66

Carnevale in Italy is a very big deal. Of course, the biggest celebration is in Venice. We took a daytrip to Venice on the last Saturday of the monthlong celebration (it’s about a month in Italy, in Cologne they celebrate for months). We caught an 8:20am train. Thank god I got there early because the train was packed. Will and I couldn’t save seats for our other friends. We couldn’t even find them on the train. It was so crowded that you couldn’t walk through. Everyone was standing in the aisles for the whole ride. We were 70 minutes delayed. It took forever to get to Venice. It was a horrendous ride. Everyone was trying to go to Venice that weekend, including several groups of SAISers. We would stop at every station forever and there already was no room left in Bologna. I was able to fall asleep for a bit, but these kids next to us would not shut up. I was tired and hungry and cranky.

Once we finally got to Venice, I put on my mask that Morgan chose for me. It’s festive. I would say that there were a good number of people not dressed up, but I kind of blended in with the mask. I wasn’t in a full get up. There are, of course, those people that go all out for carnival. And they just stand around taking pictures with people. It’s like going to a renaissance fair, or a comic book convention. It was a cool experience.

We walked to San Marco to buy tickets for the Doge’s Palace, but it turned out there was no line and no need to get tickets in advance. It just delayed eating even more than the train delay. I was really cranky. The city is so crowded and the city doesn’t have real streets, just narrow alleyways. It’s very difficult to navigate the alleys. We got caught in one for about a half hour. It was super claustrophobic. We got caught in between tour groups going in opposite directions. There was an L and people got stuck on all sides. We were smushed up against windows. We literally took 30 minutes. You couldn’t even push through. There wasn’t enough room for that. The Rialto bridge was terrible. The Italian lady was not having it. She was just pushing and yelling “Avanti” just trying to get to her apartment.

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It took us forever to find a place to eat because it’s impossible to satisfy everyone. Gianna had too many requirements…on the water, outside, cute place, pizza. We finally settled on a place with a fixed menu. It was alright. In general, Venice is not great for food.

We rushed back to the square to see the costume contest. It was partly in French, but it was really just yelling for 90 minutes straight in French and Italian with bad English translations. The costumes are really over the top. It’s pretty cool. The renaissance theme is kind of flexible. They do scary creepy costumes and flashy costumes. They walk down the runway set up in St. Mark’s and they set up the judges seated at the front stage.

I split up from my friends for a bit and saw Jasmin from my program in Japan! She is studying abroad in Dublin this semester, and she came to Italy for her spring break. We coordinated to meet up in Venice. I have friends all over the world now. I met her friend Caitlin, and together we all went into the Basilica of San Marco. Like the costumes, the church is a little over the top too. The gold mosaics cover the entire ceiling. They are incredible, but it is maybe a little overwhelming. It’s not as tasteful as the mosaics in Ravenna. The outside of the church is very unique though. It looks carnival-esque, no coincidence I’m sure. It is uneven, not cross-shaped and there are the famous horses on the balcony, from which you get an aerial view of the piazza.

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It’s Jasmin!

The Doge’s palace is cool. They have some weird clocks. For example, the 24 hour clock, where the numbers strangely go all the way around to 24. Or the 6 hour clock, or the zodiac clock. There are lots of council rooms of different sizes. You could hold a really cool ball there. And of course there are the secret prisons too. I was wearing my mask, so I didn’t wear my glasses. Except, I had some difficulty reading the placards with my contacts in. So I had Savannah read them to me. It was kind of pathetic, kind of funny.

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Will and I had dinner with Caitlin and Jasmin afterwards when the rest of the SAISers left. This was one of the worst meals I’ve had in Italy. How do you mess up pasta? Venice just does not have good food. I had the worst spaghetti carbonara. It was yellow for some reason.

We got gelato and then split apart. While Jasmin and her friend were staying in Venice, Will and I went to Verona. Walking to the train station with Will was not as scary as last time with Dylan. It was still dark, but not as late and empty. The alleys are still impossible to navigate though. Especially when you hit a dead end and can’t get across the canal without a bridge. It was another crowded train leaving Venice.

We stayed in a 4 star hotel in Verona that Will found for really cheap. We had to walk there from the train station though on some sketchy roads. We watched some Italian show on TV that had Bradley Cooper on as a guest. He obviously doesn’t speak Italian, so he had an interpreter that would sit behind him and whisper in his ear. It was really bizarre. I’m not quire sure what the show was about either. It was kind of like a talk show, but then Bradley helped someone put on some elaborate something in the studio that was “The Little Prince” themed. There was some woman and some guy and the woman did something and they may be in love but it was not very clear and then Bradley Cooper was there for some reason.  It was some strange TV.

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The Castelvecchio is a medieval art museum, that means mostly all Jesus art. They have a Rubens in the collection but it was on loan. The castle itself is cool though. You can walk along the castle walls and there is a bridge that crosses the river. The Arena di Verona is even older than the Colosseum and it is much better preserved. And you get to walk all over. They actually use the arena for outdoor operas in the summertime. It is really cool. For Carnevale, they had live music being performed outside the Arena in English and Italian. They were actually pretty good. There were less people dressed up in Verona, but they have one of the oldest Carnevale festivals in Italy in Verona. It is less than Venice, but it is still kind of festive. It’s certainly not as hectic as Venice.

Now, what Verona is really famous for is Romeo and Juliet. Obviously, they are fictional characters. They are not really from Verona because they aren’t real people. But the main tourist trap in Verona is Juliet’s balcony. It is so stupid. She’s not real. They picked the dal Cappello family, which is kind of like Capulets but neither Capuleti nor Capulets, and designated their home as Juliet’s home. The balcony is actually half of a sarcophagus. People pay to go in the house and stand on the balcony, so they get in everyone’s pictures. There are so many people there. They write on the walls and lock things. There is a statue of Juliet in the courtyard. Everyone goes up to it, young and old, men and women, and takes pictures touching her breasts. It is the strangest thing. Shakespeare never even came to Italy as far as I know. So it’s not like he came here and found inspiration. It’s all just a tourist trap. Romeo’s house is privately owned. There is a plaque outside the house that is completely covered in graffiti.

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The sarcophogus that is Juliet’s balcony
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Don’t any of these balconies look prettier?

We just enjoyed ourselves in Verona, eating gelato in the piazza and people watching. We paid to go in the Duomo but the Battistero was in use for a baptistry, so we got jipped. The Titian was under restoration so we couldn’t see that either. It was a waste of money. I mean, the church was fine, but we didn’t see any of the things we wanted to see in the church.

We barely made it back to the train station in time. It’s hard to cross streets in Italy. The left turn lane is all the way to the right and the middle is just for going straight and they each have their own lights. How stupid is that? Will has gotten pretty good at crossing the street now though. He just goes for it, Professor Cavina style. It’s how Italians cross the street, with no regard for the cars. To top off the weekend, I came back to an apartment with no hot water! Thank god I took a shower at the hotel!

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