This past Friday, the study abroad program we are here with took us (TCU kids) to Siena for the day. Siena is about an hour bus ride from Florence. Siena was gorgeous (this is becoming a theme for Italian cities). We visited the home St. Catherine who is one of the two patron saints of Italy. We walked around in the famous, Piazza del Campo where, every summer, people flock the square to watch the 'il Palio' horse races. We hiked to the top of the old Duomo to see the most incredible view of the city. AND we had lunch at a wonderful Pizzeria.
The next day, my 5 roommates and I hoped on an early train to Venice. Every February-March Venice has a huge, month-long celebration (mardi gras times a million) called 'Carnivale'. Many other European cities celebrate this as well. During carnivale people dress as if going to a masquerade ball, complete with eloquent dresses and intricately decorated masks. Venice Carnivale does not official start until next weekend, but on Saturday night they were having the 'pre-kick-off' to carnivale which consisted of turning on the 'Wine Fountain' in the town circle for all to drink out of. Saturday ended up being the perfect day for us to go; we avoided all the crowds of the official carnivale but still got to see the town all set up for the party.
I couldnt believe my eyes when we got into Venice. The beautiful facades of the waterside buildings are unbelievable and the water gives off a very 'beachy' feeling. Obviously, I took a MILLION pictures! Once we got on land, the town was just as energetic as we had hoped. Kids dressed up like halloween, festive masks sold everywhere, and gorgeous waterside dining. We wasted no time in purchasing our masks so that we could wear them for the remainder of the day and join in on all the fun.
At 6 o'clock we headed to the town square to join the already enormous crowd gathered for the kick-off to Carnivale and the Wine Fountain! We were so anxious to see what this so called wine fountain would be like and why the whole town wanted to see it! The kick-off presentation begin with wonderfully themed men and women dancing all around the fountain to traditional Italian music. More dancing, some quickly spoken Italian, lots of clapping, a million cameras flashing, and then.... THE WINE! Sure enough, red wine flowed out of a beautiful antique fountain. After admiring the fountain it was time for all to enjoy the fountains wine! We all got a little glass, toasted to the start of carnival (and drinking wine out of a public fountain), and then ran to the train station to catch the last train home to Florence.
Ciao for now! Next weekend: Amsterdam!