Personal Statement: A Venetian adventure

By Erin Kirkland, Daily Photographer
Published February 25, 2013

VENICE, Italy — Venetian Carnevale is supposed to be the Italian equivalent of Mardi Gras. But what happens when a torrential downpour washes away the rich colors, golden-glittering festival masks and confetti? Let me tell you.

My roommates and I couldn’t switch our bus tickets, so we decided to continue our adventure to Venice from Florence, despite the 100-percent chance of rain and Michigan-worthy cold weather. Even with the unfortunate weather, tourists still crammed into the city — most in dry places. Darting through the narrow alleys with umbrellas was like playing a sad version of bumper cars. Each person thought they were more important than the other, and as a result, chaos ensued.

We made the most of the situation by shopping and eating. But when the time came to meet our group at the Palazzi di Roma, things got interesting. Our tour guide had warned us that part of Venice’s charm was its lack of street signs and the true Venetian experience involved “getting lost.” Yes, that sounds romantic and ideal, when there aren’t 40 mph winds and heavy rain. As night joined the rain clouds to darken the city, we started winding our way through dimly-lit, narrow streets and over miniature bridges to find our departure group.

We made it to Palazzi di Roma at 8:02 p.m. The group was told to meet between 7:50 and 8:00 p.m. for the 30-minute walk back to our bus. And, of course, we couldn’t find the group. After several phone calls, we realized that we would just have to make the trek back by ourselves.

Using somewhat-familiar landmarks now blurred by the heavy rain, we ran towards our final destination. Now, in addition to the 40 mph winds, torrential downpour and darkness, add the fact that our umbrellas became inside-out and useless, and we managed to step into a foot of water, soaking our feet. We asked several locals where Tronchetti was — the place that our bus was parked — and were quite alarmed when they told us that we needed to take a bus there. Didn’t they know we didn’t have time? We began sprinting towards our final destination in the pouring rain.

I will never forget the singular image of my roommate, Marina, running over one of the bridges, calling out to our other roommate, Kara, and me to slow down. The intricate feathers of Marina’s Venetian mask were drenched and drooping, her second umbrella of the day was blown out and shopping bags hung limply from her left hand.

But we made it. The bus left three minutes after we boarded, and we prepared for the three-hour ride as we tried to cozy up in our soaked clothes. I couldn’t even feel my fingers.

But my story’s not done.

“Do you mind turning up the heat, please?” Came a voice from the back. And when the driver fumbled to turn up the heat and didn’t respond right away, we knew there was something quite wrong.

“Attention, everyone. There is no heat on the bus. Please realize that this is not EuroAdventure’s fault, but the bus company. Please don’t let this detract you from booking any further trips. Jimmy and I are willing to give the clothes off our back,” announced one of the tour guides.

I could see images of falling bookings and bad reviews in his eyes as he gave the same speech several times throughout the night. And someone actually did take him up on his offer and donned his Pittsburgh Penguins sweatshirt for the rest of the trip.

However, a loud pop quickly distracted us from our cold, wet state. One of the bus’ tires had blown out, but, of course, the bus driver didn’t stop and we continued to wind our way through snowy mountain roads.

Despite images of our bus falling over the edge of the mountain flashing through my mind for the remainder of the trip, we made it back to Firenze — an hour late due to the snow and tire situation, but all in one piece. A cold also followed me back to Florence.

Don’t get me wrong, Venice is extremely beautiful — when it isn’t raining. I would love to go back, but under some “different” conditions.

As I’m writing this, I’m taking a bus to Switzerland for the weekend, and so far we still have heat. The weekend’s forecast says cold, but sunny. I brought an umbrella just in case.

Erin Kirkland is an LSA junior.