The first time Giancarlo and I went to Venice, was about 3 years ago. Italy had just won the World Cup, it was my first time in Italy and Venice was a "quick" 4 hour day- trip from Fano. I thought we had it all figured out, till we got there. We went in the middle of July, on the hottest day of the year, and after a very long 4 hour (each way) train ride. When we arrived, the little city was busting at the seems with tourists, and our daytrip quickly became a dodge-the-tourist-must-find-water-and-shade trip. Needless to say, I wasn't left with the greatest impression of the city. And, since we've moved to Italy, I've been hesitant on going back.
However, Carnevale was on our must-do list for Italy. So, when our friends from New York arrived the very weekend of Carnivale and we all decided to go, I figured now was a chance for Venice and I to meet again.
From Bologna, Venice is a two hour train right North East. Fortunately for us, we were the first stop on the party train. By the second stop, the train was packed solid with people heading to Carnivale. We were heading up to go see the Volo dell’ Angelo "The Flight of the Angel" which is the official kick off of Carnevale. Really, we wanted to go because last year Coolio was the celebrity guest and we were all secretly hoping he'd be there again. If not him, then obviously someone equally as cool.
As soon as we got off the train, the sun was shining and the weather was perfect. Not too hot and not too cold. The crowds were manageable and taking the water taxi down the Grand Canal is the best way to see Venice. The tickets are relatively cheap, 6.50 euros one way, and trip down the Canal to Piazza San Marco takes about 15-20 minutes. Within the first 5 minutes of arriving, Venice had won me over in a way that I had hoped it would the first time around.
Our goal for this trip was simple, to enjoy Carnevale and do it on a budget. Note- if you're trying to save money, don't get a coffee in Piazza San Marco. We made the mistake of being so desperate for a caffeine fix, that we went to the first place we saw. Our total for 2 cappucino's and 2 caffe normale's ended up being more than the 6 bottles of wine that were purchased the day before. Next time, we'll wander the side streets in search of a cheaper place.
Traveling around Italy, TrenItalia is a great, inexpensive way to travel. Whenever we travel, we take the Regionale or Regional train. It might take a little longer, but it costs A LOT less. Our tickets from Bologna to Venice (2 hour/Regionale) were only six euros. We packed a picnic lunch, a variety of meats, cheeses and bread, purchased a few bottles of wine from the local Coop Supermarket and presto cheap picnic in Venice.
The first weekend in Carnevale might just be the best time to go. The Carnevale runs about two weeks in late February. The weather was perfect, not too cold and not too hot. Check the weather online before you plan to go, and AVOID the months of July and August. In my opinion, it will ruin the experience and the beauty of Venice. Also, avoid eating or drinking in the piazza. They are definitely tourist prices, and if you wander away from the piazza down any canal, there are bars and restaurants that are more "local" than "tourist" and will cost you less than half the price of the piazza.
I feel in love with Venice on this trip, and seeing as it's only 2 hours from Bologna, I truly can't wait to go back....next Fall.
For more pictures- click here Venice 2009
and for more information- check out:
Carnevale di Venezia (official site)
New York Times articles and Carnevale slide