Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Our Italian Adventures Part One: Venice

If I’m being honest, I can’t say I did much preparation for this trip, other than packing my suitcase, so I have to give Brian most of the credit for how perfectly executed our entire trip was. He had traveled through several other parts of Italy 10 years ago so I put my trust in his experience and put most of my energy into researching lunch and dinner hot spots I found from searching some of my favorite blogs and using my ever-so trusty travel companion, Trip Advisor. My mom made several comments before I left about how confused she was that I hadn’t been reading Travel information books (or let alone, bookmarked pages to read on the plane), but it ends up Brian’s previous knowledge coupled with my love for all things food was nothing short of perfection. 

I think the idea of leaving Graham and getting him all squared away for 10 days was the real reason I couldn’t concentrate on what I was going to do when I got there. The bigger obstacle was saying good bye and getting out the door. 

And so our Italian travels begin…

Brian and I had lots of miles built up from a year less traveled after having a baby so we decided to do this Italian trip right and fly business class overseas. After all, isn’t that what the Romans would do? I was hoping this would help us feel rested but between the adrenaline, excitement, and a great book, Emily Giffin’s The One and Only, it was hard to keep my eyes shut for too long. So after hours upon hours of traveling (and eating) we arrived in (Dusseldorf for a layover) and then Venice far from rested, but anxious to begin our journey. 

Several days before leaving on the trip, I had gotten my hair highlighted and talked with my hairdresser extensively about all our destinations (I’m not sure Brian would completely agree, but this conversation was extremely helpful, as I’m pretty sure I started numerous conversations on the trip with “my hairdresser told me…”). 

So here we go, "My hairdresser told me" that in Venice, you will arrive to your hotel by boat, and sure enough I saw pictures of this happening on the website so that’s exactly what I pictured. Brian on the other hand was reading this long novel of directions that involved way too many modes of transportation to get there. Luckily, we settled somewhere in between our two visions so after getting off the plane we grabbed tickets for a community ferry that made several stops and dropped us off near St. Mark’s square where we walked a couple blocks (in circles just a few times) to our hotel. While this wasn’t the worst way to get there, I would definitely recommend looking into spending a little more money and taking a private taxi from the airport to hotel. gorgeous scenery + private boat = money well spent

A view from the ferry as we were getting closer to our final drop off destination

Our hotel was amazing! Our room looked exactly like the picture on the internet, and had windows that opened up to views of the canals with gondolas cruising by. 

The canals outside our hotel window

We were quick to join the streets of overflowing tourists and check out all the well known sights.

The Rialto Bridge (the oldest bridge across the Grand Canal):

A view of both sides of the Rialto Bridge

Both sides of the Rialto Bridge and the walkway through the center

Our View from the Rialto Bridge

The Grand Canal

St. Mark’s Square

The Bridge of Sighs (prisoners used this bridge to enter their jail cells. This was their last view of the city.):

A light fixture that reminded me of The Venetian; An amazing sailboat; The Bridge of Sighs

I was in awe of all the gorgeous flowers hanging from the buildings. All fully bloomed and full of color. This city is nothing short of an experience that belongs in Disney World or at least a storybook. At one point I looked up at the sky and had to second guess myself as to whether or not we were inside. It was the perfect color blue with clouds loosely dispersed all over.

By late afternoon the jet lag was trying to set in so we stopped at a touristy cafe for a "Cafe Americano" pick me up, followed by a glass of rosé. We enjoyed watching the gondolas stroll by underneath the Rialto Bridge before getting back out on the streets and checking out more sights.

 A random canal behind us

Grand Canal

Grand Canal

More Grand Canal views and where we got on our Gondola

Venice was the only place I couldn’t find an amazing recommendation for dinner via word of mouth, so we followed our gut, and decided upon a little spot near our hotel that we thought was just great. We sat outside in a tucked away spot away from the crowds and had great food. Since eating there I've looked up the Trip Advisor reviews and they weren't too great. There were lots of complaints about the service and looking back it may not have been the best, but they did recommend a delicious pizza and the atmosphere was just what we were looking for. 

The wine and pizza are from dinner; the spaghetti carbonara is lunch the next day

One of my best friends told me about the dueling orchestras that played in St. Mark’s square so after dinner we headed in that direction to enjoy some wine and gelato. This was my first gelato experience and let’s just say I ordered like a pro. I added a gelato-biscotti sandwich to my order as we were paying and it was probably one of the best decisions I made the entire trip. I tried to order one every night thereafter and could never find one similar. I’m still dreaming about that simple yet oh-so-tasty delight. 

The orchestras were great entertainment and the perfect end to day 1. 

I’m not a breakfast person, and Brian informed me that Breakfast is not a big deal in Italy, but both myself and italy surprised ourselves by making this one of my favorite meals of the day. Each hotel in every city we went to served a breakfast spread complete with thinly sliced salami and assorted cheeses that made for a fabulous breakfast sandwich on sourdough bread. and I definitely can’t leave out the biscotti with nutella that usually capped off the “not a big deal” meal each morning. 

When Brian and I travel, there’s not a lot of down time. Ok, we do sit at restaurants several times a day soaking up the culture with a glass of wine and an appetizer or two, but there’s a lot of tourist sights and tours that take place in between so this breakfast was a great way to get me through to the next meal each day.

Our first stop after filling our bellies, was a gondola ride. We hopped on near the Rialto bridge and enjoyed taking in all the scenery and riding through the narrow waterways in the city. The rest of the afternoon was spent strolling around the city. Mid morning it started raining on us, but fortunately I made a split decision to buy a hat just minutes before the first drop sprinkled down so I was well prepared for the on and off showers that would accompany us the rest of the afternoon. 

Kisses on the Gondola

I'm always a sucker for a great hat on vacation. 

When the rain started coming down harder, we snuck into a little cafe and grabbed a pasta carbonnara snack. Not long after we headed back to our hotel where we grabbed our bags and took a water taxi to the train station to make our way to our next destination. Florence. 

Arrivederci Venezia!

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