Kenzie Travers, Italy
I look out in front of me at the rolling hills and the grape vineyards that line the infinite Tuscan landscape of green.
There are red roofs of yellow houses, villages, rock castles peeking over to make themselves known.
I stand on the rock wall, above it all, breathing heavily from the two-hour uphill hike. My view is like the picturesque images I Googled before arriving in Italy, the images I would never have believed to be in front of me.
There is always something to do or something to look at here in Florence, whether it is taking a bus to a wine tour, climbing The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore steps (also known as The Duomo), up the Piazza Michelangelo to listen to someone play the guitar as the sun sets over the Florence skyline or simply window shop in the Italian boutiques or at the market for fresh produce.
Last weekend my roommates and I ventured off to Venice, Italy, for the famous Carnival. Carnivals happen in a lot of European countries, but Venice is most known for their burlesque-style masks and costumes each year.
We took a three-hour bus ride to Venice, arriving in Tronchetto, where we could shop for a mask.
We then took about three or four water buses to Burano.
Usually we wouldn’t have needed to make that many transfers, but since Venice was crowded due to the Carnival, the water bus destinations were different, and it took us longer to get to Burano.
Before Burano there is the island of Venice called Murano, which is famous for its glass blowing shows and workshops that showcase gorgeous glass blown objects, but we were too late for the shows.
Upon arriving in Burano, we notice that all the houses are painted in bright, eccentric colors. This is for the sailors who, many years ago, needed something to signal their arrival in coming home through the fog of the sea.
The streets are skinny and narrow, with displays of lace outside the shops, and laundry hanging on balcony railings up above.
The streets are empty due to the Carnival happening over at Piazza San Marco, the center of Venice.
Then we stopped at a small cafe for pizza, before taking pictures, and paid for our placemats (sitting down), like you do in many Italian restaurants.
Purple placemats with silverware wrapped in a purple napkin.
After we took some pictures of the breathtaking area: floating boats on the water against the colorful houses, the sun setting over the port, the cute flowerpots in the window of a neon orange house with blue shutters, and the leaning tower in the distance, we took the 4:35 water bus to San Marco.
Upon arrival, we walked through narrow, dark cobblestone alleys, which were really just streets, in between high stone buildings, up rock steps, and over small bridges over the waterways where gondolas pass.
The water glinted from the lights going off in the distance, and the confetti that lay on the streets gave promise to the Carnival ahead.
We walked over the Rialto Bridge, a famous bridge in Venice and one of Venice’s top attractions; it is one of the first of four bridges over the Grand Canal. Under the bridge are shops and above, lookout perches for the gondola filled water way.
Finally we arrived at San Marco square, where the crowds were thick, people dressed in extravagant costumes of gold and purple sequins, leather, paisley vests and families dressed in medieval attire, lace and wigs.
The population that was not dressed up danced around with their wine bottles flying in the air, and thrown to the ground along with explosions of confetti and yelling and singing.
The magnificent buildings of San Marco draped the event and looked so powerful against the night sky.
Lights cascaded off the buildings from the main stage in towards the back of the square, where the crowd was more condensed.
A giant music video played on the stage, where a DJ also stood, along with people dressed in costumes, dancing and posing for pictures on a runway.
In order to fit in with the eccentric crowd, all one could do was buy a bottle of wine, split it with a friend and dance your way into the crowd.