Around 5:30 pm yesterday, I was feeling like I needed a little air. It didn't take much to convince Mike to join me for a walk to Campo Santa Margherita - the enticement of a beer at Imagina Cafe was all he needed! The campo was already crowded with all sorts of people and live bands getting ready for the last night of carnevale celebrations when we arrived.
From the outside, Imagina Cafe looked pretty quiet, which was just what I was hoping for. Once in the door, however, we discovered a fairly large party going on in the front room. There was no doubt what this was-- a graduation party. Here in Venice, they are called Laureate festa's, organized by friends and family in a local bar or cafe for the graduate. There are certain level degrees called Dottore, and these are the ones celebrated with a Laureate party. The graduate is made to walk around the city with a laurel wreath (what else?) on their head or around their neck, they are typically dressed up in some outlandish getup almost like a Halloween costume, and their friends make them do pretty awful tasks. My favorite part is when the whole assemblage starts singing at the top of their lungs a special song "Dottore, Dottore" as they march along the city streets. It reminds me of sorority and fraternity hazing. My Italian tutor Marzia tells me that this does not happen in other cities. I like that it's unique to Venice.
We see alot of these Laureate parties. Last night was the first time we were ever invited to join one. When we got inside the cafe and saw this party, we also noticed that our doctor was in attendance too! Our doctor has his office in Campo Santa Margherita also. We see him regularly, both in his office or walking in the neighborhood. He never looks up when he is walking, and even in the office he is fairly brief in all conversations. So last night Mike and I were incredibily surprised when the doctor approached us, with a huge smile on his face, said hello and invited us to have a drink of prosecco with them. He was the father of the Laureate!! We were going to decline his invitation, but he wasn't having any part of it. He spoke to us in Italian and English, handed us drinks, then brought his son over to meet us. Our dottore was very proud of his son! He also offered us desserts, lovely little pastries from - where else- Tonolo. He could see that I was going to decline the dessert, so he laughed and told me not to worry about my cholesterol tonight! Wow---he not only knew who we were, but he remembered my ailments!!
It was pretty much the end of their Laureat festivities, but we enjoyed being included for a few minutes at least. This was way more than just a polite glass of prosecco, this was another sign that we're being accepted into the community, and by the last person I would have ever expected it from!