Carnevale in Venice: My Favorite Experiences

I arrived in Venice at night by vaporetto, the boat rocking gently as I observed the promenade. I could faintly smell seaweed as I stepped out of the boat, the cobblestones illuminated by ornate street lamps as passersby strolled past in 18th century carnevale costumes. I looked up and to my surprise, saw stars.

From the start, Venice felt both magical and bizarre, like a cross between a James Bond film and medieval time travel. And needless to say, I quickly fell in love with the surreal, sinking city.

And while visiting Venezia I didn’t see one museum, because damn it, after the Midwest’s polar vortex I wanted to enjoy some Italian sunshine.

Here are the highlights from my lovely week in Venice.

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Staying in a Gorgeous Rental House in Zattere

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Thanks to the lovely Edna‘s invitation, in Venice I stayed with her group of friends in a stunning canal-side house. The house was located in Zattere, a residential neighborhood with a wide waterfront promenade.

I think bunking up in a residential area was among the reasons I fell so hard for Venice- sipping my cappuccino while watching runners in the morning and groups of surly teenagers smoking cigarettes after school was so much more interesting than being among fellow tourists.IMG_5526

Also, in our beautiful six-bedroom home we were able to cook every night. When it was my turn to make dinner I prepared tortilla de patatas, a Spanish classic, and we enjoyed fresh fish, beautiful vegetables and fondue on other nights.

Joe taught us how to make spritzes and negronis too. (Which I thought tasted like cough medicine. So much for being sophisticated.)

And next to our house was a charming cicchetti bar, Cantinone Gia’ Schiavi. Cicchetti are the Italian cousin of pintxos, little appetizers on bread. I particularly loved the creamy gorgonzola and walnut- yum.

 

Sampling the (Somewhat Dangerous) Local Wine

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On the way home one evening, Lizard and I stopped at La Freschetteria, a wine bar where the owners fill up plastic jugs of wine for you for only a few euros. We opted for a prosecco and red sparkling wine (raboso).

Well, it turns out, this wine was… overly effective. After a wild night out at a Venetian club we deemed the wine to be roofie juice, devil wine and the most dangerous substance in all of Venice.

Having Fried Doughnuts and Italian Coffee for Breakfast

Apparently in Venice it’s tradition to eat fried doughnuts, or fritelle, during Carnevale. As a Detroiter this very felt familiar as we eat pączki on Fat Tuesday.

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And of course, when it Italy you have to imbibe as much coffee as reasonably (or not) possible. Because as we all know Italian coffee is the nectar of the gods.IMG_5726

Wandering the City

Venice is a labyrinth. So many times we hit dead ends while wandering (and in Venice a dead end is water), and eventually we realized it’s easier to to just take a vaporetto than to navigate the canals.

But whenever we got lost we just drank more coffee, so no loss, right?

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Disappointments

You guys know I keep it real on this blog, so I wanted to detail what I didn’t love about Venetian Carnevale.

Well, Carnevale as a whole was a disappointment. While I was expecting merry-making and dancing, what I got was occasionally seeing someone walk past in a costume.

I highly recommend coming to Venice but probably not during Carnevale. It seems better suited for older people- it’s not as much a young person’s festivity.

And aside from the cicchetti and one venison ragù with fresh pasta, the food in Venice was the worst I’ve had in Italy. Plus, it was highly over-priced.

But overall I had a fantastic time in Venice. Venice made me realize how arrogant a traveler I’ve become- I had put off coming to Venice for years because I thought I’d hate it. And I am so glad that hubris didn’t sway me from visiting this winter.

Have you ever visited Venice? Would you want to go for Carnevale?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

19 thoughts on “Carnevale in Venice: My Favorite Experiences”

  1. Such beautiful photos and how wild about, “The Devil’s Wine!” Cheers to you! – Leah

  2. Your posts are beautiful!! And the donuts look delicious. Although, I have heard that (in Florence, actually) some bars will drug the tourists’ drinks… Be careful!

  3. I also thought Venice had the worst food in Italy (well I only went to 5 cities, but out of those). I stayed in a horrible little hotel. It was when I was 19 and suuuuper broke. I’m glad you were honest about the negatives too. The fact that you were there with friends to stay with and hang out with and still didn’t love carnevale really shows something & is good for solo travelers to know in case they don’t have friends to meet up with… then they’ll be very disappointed!

  4. A jug of wine for a few Euros sounds like a really good and a really bad idea ha. Too bad the food wasn’t great- but the food you photographed looks delicious! Lovely photos of the city as well.

  5. I was 50/50 towards Venice. While I could wander the streets and chill out in cafes for days some places just seemed too touristy and everything was expensive. I expected it to be that way and it wasn’t a huge deal, infact I was part of the problem as everywhere I looked there was a photo waiting to be taken but being able to stay in the residential part definitely looks like the right way to stay there. I stayed on the mainland (cheaper).

  6. It’s nice that you were able to experience Venice and stay at what sounds like a really nice house! When I was there I stayed at a pretty bad and very overpriced dorm. So lucky you ;) I definitely have mixed feelings about Venice. I’m so glad that I was able to visit it — it’s so beautiful and it’s the perfect place to spend a few days and explore the maze-like streets. I would never tell a fellow traveler to skip it. But it is super touristy and super expensive. I don’t remember the food but that’s interesting you weren’t very impressed with it. I love the honesty!

  7. Such a lovely post, Venice is definitely on my lists! I do agree on the overpricing my parents spent like €5 every time they ordered a drink. Oh well, overall this is a very nice post and your photographs are beautiful! :-) xo

  8. Gorgeous photos, as always, Ashley. This post seriously made the city look like more than just a tourist theme park. Wonderful!

    BTW if you really want to experience Carnival, come to Spain ;) (Cádiz and Galicia are the best places to have fun and experience the local culture, too!)

  9. Such wonderful photos Ashley, it looks like you had a great time. I always love that you keep it real on your blog, hopefully if you go back it will be a bit more lively. Don’t think anything can be done about the prices though!

  10. I often hear things like the canals of Venice smell and it’s too touristic and crowded, but your experiences sound like it’s worth the smell and the chaos! The city is magical….and I’m yet to discover it.

  11. Great post. I enjoyed your pictures. It reminds me of my trip of getting lost to find ourselves again! It was a great way to get off the tourist track and experience Venice the way the locals do. There was construction on some of the popular attractions when I was there, which made some of my pictures less appealing, but I still had a great time!

  12. I am SUPER jealous. I’ve been lucky enough to go to Italy twice now and still haven’t made it to Venice. Your photos make me so envious, it looks absolutely stunning. I’m surprised to hear about the food, food in Italy is some of my favorite!

  13. Venice does look beautiful! After 2 visits to Italy, I’ve yet to make it there, but your photos make me wonder why I keep skipping it…

    I have to say, even though 99% of travelers say the best food they’ve ever had was in Italy, by and large I was unimpressed with the food I had while we were there. I’d say the best food we ate by far was in Bologna, but I think 2 years in Asia really did a number on my tastebuds. Now I’ll take a banh mi sandwich over a panini any day of the week!

  14. So true what you wrote about a lot of dead ends. I went about nine years ago and found the exact same thing! Have you travelled Thailand before? Im heading there in two days, after Dubai but before Australia. Would love some advice on where to stay in Bangkok if it isn’t too much trouble??
    Thanks in advance,
    David

  15. I am in LOVE with that picture of the woman’s sun costume! So gorgeous! And it reminds me a lot of my town Santa Barbara’s big annual Solstice festival where everyone dresses up like that. Too bad that Carnivale wasn’t so fun, I’m surprised!

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