We had looking forward to Venice for weeks, eager to return to our hearts' home, Italy. We were especially excited because Venice was to be hosting Carnival while we visited. In the past we had found that Venice was filled with tourists and contained no Italians. We hoped that Carnival would entice the local population of Italians into the streets.
We arrived in Venice after the "best" night train experience of the trip. We walked towards our hostel in the early Italian morning (about 9 am), watching shops open and people heading to work. Shallow tables ran down the centers of several streets which pedestrians could walk down to escape the floodwater standing on the pavement. When we arrived at our hostel we found that the street leading passed the door had been submerged as well but, as a low-traffic side street, no tables had been erected. The water was shallow enough for the girls' shoes to ferry them across. My boot had developed a weak point which the water would have exploited, so I pulled my boots off and forded the street in bare feet. The early February water numbed my feet by the time I made it the ten or so feet to the hostel door. As an experienced traveler I kept my towel easily accessible and soon my feet were back to normal and again in the comfort of my boots.
We checked in and decided to immediately head back out. The hostel had three pairs of galoshes for guests to borrow, and we wanted to see St Mark's Square flooded. We got lost, checked the map, corrected, and repeated the cycle a few times before reaching streets with signs for San Marco. When we reached the square we were ecstatic. Parts of the church were underwater and the square sat almost a foot below water level in some places. We walked through the cathedral and splashed around in the square before walking out to the bay. We decided to take a different way home and look for lunch on the way, which we got at a little trattoria. The girls noticed real Italians, even some who were definitely locals, and got very excited. Exhausted from our small excursion (even the best of night trains isn't good), we went back to the hostel for naps. That night we got some gelato, a treat we'd been excited for since arriving in Europe.
The next morning it was snowing in Venice, another exciting event. Flooded again we pulled on the galoshes and visited the Doge's Palace. There was much gold and many paintings in the very impressive building. By the time we left it was mid afternoon and we were hungry. We hunted down a restaurant that would serve food at 3 pm and found a nice one. We shared a sampler plate of appetizers and an incredible plate of pasta with mussels. The waiter taught us how to say the food was very good in venetian slang and rated our pronunciations (I did the worst). After dinner we went back to the hostel to Skype loved ones for the rest of the evening. We also looked in to the events that Venice supposedly was hosting, and found that things really got going that weekend. We decided to stay an extra night so we could attend the festivities on Saturday.
On the third morning we had to move. We had booked another night with our hostel but couldn't stay in the same room, or even the same building. However the streets were flooded again, and we couldn't move until they had subsided, which took until the early afternoon. Maria spent the morning working on things while Giana and practiced online video streaming without Netflix (a piece of modernity that hadn't yet reached Italy). Once the floodwaters had subsided we moved to our new apartment and made lunch.
That evening we decided to explore some of Venice far from the touristy places. We walked to the far eastern point of the island discovering a green park with trees and bushes and grass... on Venice! We were astounded. On the walk back we found a café and wrote postcards over gelato and drinks. Afterwards we walked to St Mark's Square to see it one last time before the party got going the next day.
Our final day in Venice we checked our bags in to the train station from which we would be departing that night. So many people were already in costume that morning we had to join in on the fun. We stopped at several mask shops before finding the perfect masks. We befriended a Venetian mask maker in the process. After several rounds of masked selfies, we departed for St Mark's Square, the center of the day's festivities. As we neared the square more and more people covered their faces with masks, and many had more elaborate, full-bodied costumes. We admired several, including traditional Venetian cloaks and masks, Star Wars characters, and American hippies protesting for peace. The square was packed with people, many watching the show on the huge stage. A pair of emcees looking like Stanley Tucci in the Hunger Games narrated the proceedings, including many well dressed young people, a procession of some importance, and a doge. Alas, being entirely in Italian, we didn't follow the narrative or get any of the jokes. After events onstage quieted down we got some dinner at a café. We returned to the square that night for dancing and general frivolity. Many tourists wanted us in their pictures, apparently looking like legit Venetians in our masks. Finally, we had to board our night train for Munich, a bit too early to get in on the really good parties but we had fun with our limited experience and enjoyed seeing some classic Venetian customs and meeting some genuine Venetian people.
"Part of the ship, part of the crew"