Going to Carnevale was a dream of mine.
When I was in primary school we studied Carnevale. Each of us had to choose a Commedia Dell’Arte character and memorise a poem about them. We then had a morning where we dressed up and performed the poem to our peers and parents. I was Pantalone and I can remember the first line of my poem “Pantalone, Pantalone.” (I know, I am a genius for remembering that!) I also studied Commedia Dell’Arte multiple times in Drama and always got cast as one of the lovers. Being a Renaissance history major I have studied Venice extensively and for a Theatre subject I have written a major essay on Liminality at Carnevale.
I finished my study in Prato on the 13th of February and the official website said Carnevale started on the 14th. Perfect! I changed my flight to be on the 15th (not much time, I know, but if I stayed an extra day my VISA requirements would have needed to be changed).
My friend and I were so excited! After we finished our exam on the 13th we went into Florence to celebrate and buy a mask from Alice Masks. Agostino Dessì owns the shop and is an amazing, talented and lovely man. He talked to us for ages about the art of masks and showed us all his new designs. If you are in Florence please go check him out. (If you can manage at least a few words of Italian please try!) We both bought beautiful masks and I got a pair of earrings to match. I promised him one day I’d come back and do his mask making workshop.
We slept at a friend’s place at Florence so we could leave bright and early the next day! It was Valentine’s Day and Trenitalia (I have a love/hate relationship with those trains) had a 2 for 1 deal. We got a train at 8am from Santa Maria Novella and 2 hours later we were in Venice. We had both been to Venice before and were so excited to go back and see it in all it’s Carnevale glory.
We started heading towards St Mark’s Piazza and a few things seemed off. Firstly, no one was wearing masks. Secondly, it was really quite. And then after seeing lots of posters advertising Carnevale we stopped to get a picture beside one. And then we read some horrible words. “CARNEVALE di VENEZIA 2014. Dal 15 FEBBRAIO al 4 MARZO”
15th? No. Something was horribly wrong. It must be a typo.
We got St Mark’s Square, and prayed there would be things set up. There was, kind of. There were people beginning to set things up. No. No. No.
“It’s ok,” my friend said. “I read on the website they have some things a few days before it starts. Like an ice-skating rink!”
We went to the Information Centre and we asked (in Italian, in a hope they would tell us all their secrets) and we simply told “No, Carnevale starts tomorrow. There is nothing on today. Nothing.”
I think at that point I said, well never mind, I’m going to put my mask on anyway. So I did. I have come all this way to celebrate, Italianos changing the dates or misprinting on the website is not going to stop me!!
At this point something amazing did occur. We were standing pretty deflated in the middle of St Mark’s Square when we heard music. We turned and saw people in costume and masks dancing and a crowd observing so we ran over. We craned our necks to see. In the middle of the dancing circle of people was a girl sitting on a chair. Suddenly a cloaked man walked over to her. He took of his mask, she started crying, and yes ladies and gentleman, he got down on his knees and preposed to her. IN COSTUME. ON VALENTINES DAY. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SQUARE. Note to future boyfriend, I think this is incredibly tacky and cute and you would win a lot of brownie points if you did this for me!
With our spirits lifted, we set out to continue to lift our spirits in the only other possible way: Food.
We headed away from the main tourists areas and tried to get ourselves lost in a hope of finding a little hidden, traditional, non-tourist cafe. We walked for a long time and were about to give up when we found a little gem. They even served gluten free pasta! By now, I was one happy girl. And it was delicious! We casually chatted in Italian to each other and the waiter and sipped our wine whilst looking out onto the cobblestones. Perfetto!
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the back streets of Venice and chatting to locals. We found a man with a gorgeous paper shop and admired his beautiful designs based on the Nature and Fantasy Carnevale theme. He reassured us that we weren’t missing out on much because the best time to go to Carnevale is the middle weekend and we would both be in Australia by then. We chatted to a few other mask makers but none as charming and talented as Agostino in Florence.
After a little shopping stop at Sephora, and one last ice-cream fix at heavenly Grom (if you are in Italy, get ice-cream here, it is yummy yum yum!) we headed back to the train station to make our way back to Prato to finish packing our bags to fly home the next day.
We did consider lying to the world and never telling anyone that we actually didn’t get to go to Carnevale but I guess I’m breaking that by blogging about it. The moral of the story; when some plans fall through, even better things can happen. I had an amazing day! And I will go to Carnevale one day but I will save it for when I am rich so I can do one of Agostino’s Mask Courses and then hire a beautiful costume and go to a masked ball.
So … going to Carnevale IS STILL a dream of mine.