Day 1 - Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - Carnevale in Venice
As we drove further into Belgium toward Charleroi airport early that morning, the snow fell harder and harder, making me glad that I was leaving. Surely the weather would be better in Italy. We arrived at Charleroi, checked in for our flight, and waited. Our flight was slightly delayed, but not by much.
The Ryanair flight was reasonably short - about 90 minutes - and I had a positively breathtaking view of the snow-capped Alps before we began our descent into Treviso airport. As our imminent arrival was announced, I looked out the window and gazed for the first time at the Italian landscape below. It was much browner and drier than Germany. The sun was shining. There was NO SNOW.
Once we departed the plane and tried to get our bearings, we had a decision to make: take a bus all the way into Venice, or take a bus to Treviso's train station, and from there, take the train into Venice? We chose the former, figuring we would get a nice view of the scenery as we drove by. The only problem was, we had no idea where the bus would drop us off in proximity to Venice's Santa Lucia train station, which is where we needed to go to store our luggage. A look through a guidebook revealed that it was only a short distance from where we needed to go. Whew. We sat back and enjoyed the ride and watched stately villas come into view. Already, I was smitten with Italy.
After a 45 minute ride (give or take), the bus arrived at Piazelle Roma. We debarked, found our luggage, and walked about 10 minutes to the train station. Everywhere I looked was a photograph - postcard perfect. But with luggage in tow, it was difficult to get out my camera and take photographs. Alas, I could not, if I wanted to keep up with my friends.
Once we located the train station and stowed away our luggage, the first order of business was getting food. Since the Carnevale festivities take place in Piazza San Marco - a reasonably long trek from where we were - we decided to start making our way in that direction, and stop to eat wherever looked good. This time, I had my camera at the ready, and I snapped away - Venice is a shutterbug's heaven. I frequently got behind my travel companions, but I always managed to catch up.
Eventually, we stopped for lunch at some nondescript place tucked away in a small square. Stephanie had been to Venice before on her honeymoon, and she recalled eating in that area, so we stopped at a place that she recognized. I ordered spaghetti carbonara, my favorite Italian dish. It was good, but I've had better. I had tiramisu for dessert. It was a satisfactory meal, but it didn't blow me away.
Recharged after our meal, we again made our way toward Piazza San Marco, occasionally stopping to browse in shops or take photographs. Carnevale events were well underway by the time we arrived. The Masque Parade was taking place on a stage that was set up at the end of the piazza, opposite Basilica di San Marco. There was such a crowd that I was unable to see anything. I focused mainly on taking pictures of the people around me who were in costume. Emily, being the tallest one of our group, was able to hold up her video camera to record the parade, and we watched it on the small screen of her camera.
After the parade, some of the participants came out to pose for photographs. Tracey, Emily and Stephanie decided that they wanted to buy some masks, so we visited several of the souvenir stands set up in the piazza until they all found what they wanted. Dusk started settling in, so we decided to go in search of dinner. I took a few more pictures as the lights started to come up around Venice, then we headed back toward the train station. We found a little café and ordered calzones.
We took our time getting to the train station, enjoying the allure of Venice at night. As we were getting closer to our destination, we stopped in a grocery store to get bottled water and snacks, and then walked to the train station to pick up our luggage and get on a train to Vicenza.
Once on the train, we noticed that it was much different from the reliable, efficient German rail. For one thing, the stops are not announced, so we had no idea when we were going to arrive in Vicenza. Every time we pulled into a station, we looked out the window, frantically searching for a sign to tell us where we were. Finally, we asked a passenger how many more stops until Vicenza. She told us that the next stop was Padova (Padua) and then 2-3 stops afterwards was Vicenza.
Once we got off at Vicenza, we immediately hailed a cab to take us to our hotel, about a mile and a half away. Since it was a holiday and nighttime, we were charged quite a bit for the ride, but it was better than trying to navigate the streets at night without a map and whilst carrying luggage. After a short drive, we arrived at the hotel. The lobby was very attractive and clean, so we felt good immediately upon entering. Once we made our way up to the room, we were impressed to find that it was huge, clean, and despite its shabbiness, it was charming. It was also very cheap - the four of us shared a room for about $120 each night. We had two twin beds and a queen bed. I immediately claimed one of the twin beds. We settled in, two of us took our showers to help save time in the morning, and then we were asleep.
An article was published about this trip in the January 2007 issue of Connection magazine. (I was also supposed to do the entire photo spread, but they only used about 5 of my photos at the most, and the absolute best one that I took wasn't even used).
This is the best photo I took there. It was published in a photography anthology in December 2006:
See the rest of the photos from day 1 here