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  • Writer's pictureAbby Meyer

Abby Abroad: Carnevale di Venezia

This week began with a food tour at the San Ambrogio market to taste traditional Tuscan and Italian foods. My Italian Cusine professor brought our class to the market to introduce us to her favorite vendors and to show us where to buy the freshest foods. Everything was soo delicious, even the meat, which is saying a lot considering I don't usually prefer many meat-based dishes.

It's official, I've become an honorary professional chef after receiving my white jacket and toque (chef hat) this week! We made sformato di cavolfiore e broccoli con cialda di parmigiano (broccoli biscuits in with a parmesan crisp), Strozzapreti con pesto di caovlo nero (homemade pasta with pesto), torta di mele alla connella (cinnamon apple pie-shaped in a flower). The apple pie was my favorite dessert so far, and we made extras so I was able to bring some home for my roommates.

To finish off the week, we went to an American diner for dinner and grabbed gelato at La Carraia, a gelateria known for the best gelato in Florence. It definitely lives up to its name, but there is a gelateria nearby my neighborhood that could give it a run for its money.

Saturday morning, I woke up at 5 AM to take the train to Venice where I was meeting friends for Carnival. My train had two transfers, so I arrived in Venice at 10 AM. Venice during Carnival feels like something in a storybook. People wore Venetian costumes and masks as they exited the train into the warm sunshine. The canals were bustling with water taxis and gondolas, street buskers were playing accordions, and vendors were selling masks on every corner.

After checking into our AirBnb on the mainland, we took the bus to Venice to begin exploring. We walked along the Grand Canal before finding a family-owned Italian restaurant called, Al Vecio Marangon, which served authentic Venitian dishes. The cover was a hand-drawn sketch of the restaurant, while the inside was written in the chef's handwriting because the menu changed daily. We all ordered linguini with salmon, but it took a while to cook, so we had to rush to catch our 3 PM gondola ride.

Our gondolier, Antonio, took us along the grand canal and pointed out the sights from the water. He was an experienced gondolier of 10 or so years and reassured my friend, Fiona, that he's never seen a gondola tip over. The weather was so sunny and beautiful, which made our gondola ride hard to leave! Afterward, we met our tour guide, who showed us the Rialto Bridge, Basilica di San Marco in the Piazza di San Marco, and the Bridge of Sighs, which used to lead prisoners from the interrogation rooms to their cells. Legend has it that prisoners who crossed the bridge on the way to their prison cells or to the execution chamber would sigh as they caught their last glimpses of Venice through the tiny windows.

Following the tour, we walked throughout Venice looking at the unique shops. Venice is well-known for its glassmaking and mask-making, so we saw many craftsmen in their workshops making beautiful handmade pieces.

We stopped for gelato before dinner, and I got tiramisu gelato which is one of my favorites! We ate dinner at a small family restaurant on our way out of the island where I ordered lasagna and we shared bruschetta.

The next morning, we woke up early to check out and take the bus to the island. We missed the first bus by a few minutes, so we had to wait for the last one that ran on Sunday morning. I was in a rush to make it to mass at the Basilica di San Marco and would have made it on time if it were not for the unexpected roadblock. In order to manage the Carnival crowds, the police were blocking every archway leading to the Basilica on the other side. They weren't even letting the nuns pass through the barriers, so I knew they wouldn't be making an exception for me. They finally let us through the security check, but I made it to mass a little late. The Basilica itself was really pretty, as its walls were painted with gold which shimmered in the light.

We grabbed a quick breakfast sandwich before embarking on the hour and a half ferry ride to Burano, an island famous for its brightly-colored fishermen's houses and restaurants serving fish from the lagoon. I LOVED this island, and I think it is one of my favorite places I have ever visited. The colorful, quaint buildings were situated alongside a canal running through the island. One of my favorite moments happened spontaneously when two swans swam by us while we were taking a photo--it really felt like we were in a fairytale!

We spent the rest of the day enjoying the small local shops and bakeries. The sunshine was so warm this weekend (around 55 degrees), so we enjoyed our Bureaus Bussolai, a typical butter biscuit made in Burano, by the canal. The people of Burano seem to live simply and relied greatly on their craft. Many family-owned shops sold lace items, such as sheets and dresses, which were handmade and of the highest quality. Oftentimes, you would walk into the store and see an Italian grandma sewing an intricately detailed fabric for a dress or an artist painting.

On my way back to the ferry, I purchased a cute painting by an artist to remember Burano. I hope to gather a small collection of artwork from my time abroad, as there are so many talented artists creating work in each city I visit.

We watched the sunset as we reached Venice and made our way through the Carnival crowds back to the train station. While it was dark, the moonlight glistened on the canal waters. We stopped on a bridge and watched the gondolas pass underneath. It was nice to pause for a moment and appreciate the beauty of Venice during Carnival before heading back home to Florence.



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