Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Italy Part 10 (Venice)

Italy Day Six - Eight:

I can't believe it has been a whole month since my vacation and I am still working on blog posts! Slow and steady wins the race, right??? p.s. I am totally ready for another vacation.

Now, back to Italy!

When we left the winery, we drove for what seemed like forever through the countryside, went through checkpoints,  and crossed a very big bridge until we arrived at Venice. Sort of.

Getting to Venice was an experience. For those of you who don't know, Venice is an island in Italy. The tour bus could not go to Venice, so it dropped us off at a dock across from the city. Our driver, Christiano, then unloaded all of our luggage onto a conveyor belt and it dropped onto a ferry boat that would then transport it to the hotel.

Our group boarded a people mover tram that looked a lot like the Disneyland Monorail and we went from the dock to Venice. The whole process took quite some time, and once we were on the other side we had a pretty healthy walk to our hotel. You wouldn't think that walking to the hotel would be such an ordeal, but there were lots of staircases to climb and we had to carry all of our carry-on belongings. Only large luggage was transported by the ferry boat and anything left on the bus would be there for two days.

Once we were at the hotel Tony pointed out some restaurants we could go to eat dinner but, being the trailblazers of the group that we were, Tony offered to show the four of us a restaurant a little further away from our hotel than the rest of the group was going. So we walked down a bunch of really scary alleyways (complete with a tomb in a random wall) until we arrived at a restaurant 15 minutes away from the hotel. Thank heavens for Houston's wonderful sense of direction. If I had been leading the group we never would have made it back to the hotel! Seafood is a specialty in Venice, it is an island after all, but I had eggplant ravioli that was really amazing (totally worth the scary walk to the restaurant). Then we tried another local flavor - celery gelato. It wasn't terrible, but I didn't care for it.

After dinner, Houston and I wanted to walk around a little more. At that point, when you're exhausted, what's another hour or so? So we walked up and down dark alleys and enjoyed the city lit up at night. Houston bought me some pretty scarves and also picked up two umbrellas - remember how I said anything left on the bus would be there for two days? Yep. Our umbrella was on the bus and a rain storm was rolling in.

The next morning was an early start for our group and right off the bat we did a ton of walking.  We walked to a dock where our group boarded a boat, right as it started to rain. We took a lovely boat ride out of the city and to Murano - a group of islands in the Venice lagoon to see a traditional glass blowing demonstration.

We passed the original city gates and countless leaning bell towers... A normal sight in Venice as the ground is constantly shifting and sinking beneath the city. And the boat ride was pretty enjoyable (at least we were staying dry!) and I started to doze off.

Once we arrived at Ferro & Lazzarini, the glass blowing factory, our group filed into a huge room with multiple furnaces. There were several men in the room working on the most amazing pieces of art; bowls, chandeliers, glass animals and countless other things I couldn't identify. One artist created two pieces for us, a beautiful vase and a horse. He literally created the horse in less than five minutes.

After the demonstration, (I could have sat and watched all day), our tour group made our way through the beautiful showrooms (no photos allowed) and Houston bought me two beautiful pairs of glass earrings! They are so pretty and wonderfully unique!

Then we toured St. Mark's Square in Venice as the rain came pouring down! Coincidentally, our guide let us know that Venice floods over 250 days a year! The local shops are prepared and have platforms stacked and ready throughout the city to make elevated walkways! Crazy.

We walked through the Doge's Palace with its golden ceilings and amazing walls. Every corner we turned lead us to another incredible room. The Golden Staircase is the main entrance to the building.

The Venetian government didn't have a king, but a doge was more like a president and they were elected for life. The palace is where the government conducted business, including trials and other acts of enforcing laws.

One Doge has been blacked out from history (upper left corner in the photo above) in the photo below. Our local guide said he wanted to be king of Venice and attempted to overturn the government.

This is the view from the Bridge of Sighs that connects the palace to the prison. It is the last glimpse of Venice a prisoner would see before entering their cell. Casanova is the most famous prisoner of the Venice prison.

After the tour, we asked our guide to point us in the direction of some delicious pizza and we wandered away from the group. We ended up at an amazing restaurant and had a front row seat to watch the cooks prepare pizzas in the giant wood-burning stove. The waiter was so friendly and we had a wonderful time laughing and eating - and it was nice to get out of the rain.

Ruby couldn't believe I ate the whole pizza myself - I was in pizza heaven! My pepperoni pizza is on the left and Gary's is on the right. So.so.good. Yes, I ate the whole thing in one sitting. No, I wasn't sorry.

After lunch, we walked around Venice, and slowly made our way back to the hotel. When I tried to ask a local shop owner he laughed because we were so far away.  I tell myself that is why he laughed, because it couldn't possibly have been my mediocre Italian:  "Ferrovia, per favore" - Our hotel was across the canal from the Venice train station.

Even though it was raining, we enjoyed walking around and seeing the city. The only downside was that our gondola excursion was cancelled. I was both disappointed and relieved. We had seen a tour group on the gondolas earlier in the day and they all looked miserable and soaking wet huddled in the gondola under their umbrellas. (Houston said he will take me for a gondola ride at the Venetian in Las Vegas).

We had dinner with the rest of our tour group across the canal from our hotel, and enjoyed our second to last Italian dinner (so sad!). We walked back to the hotel with our new friends: Sharon and Jan and Houston treated us to gelato.

By the end of the night I was starting to get home sick, but I am pretty sure that is because our luggage had to be packed and in the hallway at six o'clock in the morning in order for the luggage ferry boat to pick it up. Not fun. - I was totally over waking up early on vacation.

The view and the sunrise as we were leaving Venice were stunning (figures) and almost worth the early morning alarm. Almost.

City:  Venice
Date:  9/30/14 - 10/2/14
Hotel:  Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal
Weather:  Lots of rain and pretty chilly.
Restaurants (Lunch and Dinner): Antica Besseta (D), Rossopomodoro (L), I don't know the name of the restaurant from our tour dinner - it wasn't very good.
The Good:  Our hotel room had amazing air conditioning - Houston was so excited!
The Bad:  Missing out on the gondola ride was a bummer and I couldn't stand the pushy people on the St, Mark's tour - I don't deal well with rude people.
Wish I had:  taken more photos - we stopped using the cameras because of the rain. More gelato - I always wish I had eaten more gelato.

*** All images copyright Polka Dotted Blue Jay and HoustonLaney.com ***


  1. I would love to go to Italy one day. I love that photo looking out of the keyhole window!

  2. Oh gorgeous!!! I've actually not seen Venice when it's cloudy like that-- I really love it, there's a romantic eeriness to your photos!! xo

  3. Beautiful photos!! I studied abroad in Florence in college and all your posts just brining me back. Miss this country!

  4. I love hearing about people getting to study abroad - it sounds like such an amazing experience!

    I miss it too... well, I REALLY miss the gelato.

  5. Thanks Daisy! It was really eery to walk down long, dark alleyways with the cloud cover.

  6. Photo credit for the Bridge of Sighs goes to Houston - I was standing looking out it, commenting how it would be so depressing to be a prisoner walking into the prison and "saying goodbye" to the life outside.

  7. Oh I ate Gelato like every single day for lunch.....why pay 8 euro for a sandwich when I could pay 4 and be just as full ;)