In a few more weeks it will be Fat Tuesday. Time for donning masks and partaking in over-indulgences of one kind or another before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Usually I am throwing beads from a float in warm New Orleans at this time, but last year I was in Venice during Mardi Gras in the frigid cold rain.
The sky was gray and the temperatures were hovering around the freezing mark, but my enthusiasm for visiting one of my top bucket list places was unwavering. People were crowding the streets despite the inclement weather and shops selling Mardi Gras masks were extremely busy.
Since there were white caps in the channel, I skipped the whole gondola ride thing and opted to walk the streets behind St. Mark and shop for some souvenirs. The cramped side streets were crowded with hoards of Mardi Gras partiers and the necessity to use umbrellas made passing slow moving pedestrians darn right impossible. We didn’t complain, however, because there were plenty of warm inviting shops to peek inside for respite from the cold.
Murano glass shops were also popular for tourists and we found a magnificent one that sold jewelry made from pieces of Murano glass. Their inventory carried unique pieces that were inexpensive – dangling earring and necklace sets were their specialty. We scooped up several items for gifts for family back home and at 10-20€ per pair we purchased a couple each for ourselves.
On days like this when Venice is masked in clouds and chill, it would be natural to say the trip was a bust, but I say it was a win for us because it forced us to get off the beaten path where we discovered charming bridges and colorful buildings that we may not otherwise have encountered. We lingered long over our Venetian lunch of Italian wedding soup and pizza, sipped some local red wine and considered the trip a success.
The bottom line is, Venice can be expensive and crowded, but with a great attitude and perseverance you can see the best of this iconic city and enjoy it no matter your budget. And, if you can, plan to go during Mardi Gras, because when it is not raining you will be treated to incredible shows in St. Mark’s Square and enjoy all the festive folks who embark on the sinking city to enjoy age old traditions.