We’ve arrived in our final destination, the breathtaking “floating city” of Venice! Venice is a twisting maze of Gothic alleys and charming waterways as Tuscany is to breathtaking panoramic vistas. Consisting of 118 islands and 400 bridges, if you want to master the art of navigation, this is your place! We’ve never seen anything quite like it.
While many of the islands are just a few feet apart and connected by the series of 400 walking bridges, the outer islands are only accessible by boat. The canals that wind in between the islands can be as shallow as three feet deep and are dotted by beautiful bright flowers in the windows and colorfully-painted poles.
Due to its location as the crossroads for many of the medieval trade routes, Venice developed as a seat of power and finance. At each turn, the grandeur of this rich history is still apparent in the ancient buildings and structures.
There are two modes of transportation—you go by boat or by foot. We arrived in the Port of Venice, where we said goodbye to our talented coach driver Antonio, and transferred to water taxi for a ride to our hotel.
After settling in we took a private water taxi to a Guidecca Island to visit the Arti Veneziane alla Guidecca glass factory. Here we watched one of the master craftsmen transform hot molten glass into art before our eyes, making it look so easy. This skill, passed down from father to son, is a dying art as the younger generation searches out more lucrative careers. The hand-blown glass artwork at the factory literally shines over the inexpensive mass-produced work you see in all the markets. Worth buying it here!
Heading back to Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), our Travel Director Giuseppe skillfully guided us through this maze of streets, providing historical insights and local tips along the way. Standing in St. Mark’s Square we are struck by the size of this plaza. It is a huge rectangle of Gothic arches consisting of many buildings which were built and rebuilt over a period of several centuries.
Turning in a 360-degree circle you will see St. Mark’s Basilica, Biblioteca Marciana (the library), the Campanile (bell tower) and Doge’s Palace. The ground level is home to exclusive shops and some of Italy’s oldest outdoor cafes (and most expensive cups of coffee!) with the upper floors housing offices. You can hear live music drifting from the cafes while you rub shoulders with the masses and try to absorb the historical perspective, scale and cultural diversity of all who come to be a part of it.
During our free time we set off to explore (and shop of course). Admittedly it was a little intimidating as initially there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the streets, many of which are not even on the local map and lead to dead ends. We finally got our bearing by using the curve of the Grand Canal, the Rialto (the oldest of four bridges that span the Grand Canal) and the ocean as points of reference.
Of course we have to admit we learned this by getting quite lost and walking about five miles to get back to start…St. Mark’s Square. (Hey, at least we walked off some of our gelato, pizza and pasta indulgences along the way! We know how those Italians stay slender.) Helpful tip: follow the yellow signs on the buildings which have arrows pointing you towards San Marco or The Rialto. It really was like a scavenger hunt.
A few favorite memories include the optional excursion to the quaint Burano Island, one of the outer islands. Burano is a photographers paradise known for its colorfully painted homes which line the streets.
A fun group toast with a refreshing spritz Giuseppe treated us all to outside a local bar behind St. Mark’s Square. This is a popular orange-colored ‘aperitivo’ in northern Italy consisting of aperol, prosecco (or white wine) and club soda, topped with an olive or orange slice. A cheers to our new friends and a great trip!
The city sightseeing with our Local Guide, where we soaked up more of Italy’s culinary delights at the farmers market amidst the locals shopping for fresh produce, breads, cheeses, meat and fish.
And, where our Local Guide shared yet another Hidden Treasure – the centuries-old fish and clam measure carved into this column (right). We never would have noticed or known what that was otherwise!
And last but not least, our favorite view of Venice via a quiet gondola ride through the canals, complete with champagne and a serenade adding to the festivity.
After a whirlwind couple of days in Venice our trip was coming to an end. We celebrated our new found friends, wonderful experiences and memories at a delicious Farewell Dinner. Where we toasted to our adventures and of course to Travel Director extraordinaire, Giuseppe, whose watchful eye and gracious smile guided us through The Flavors of Italy.
Up bright and early to water taxi to the Venice Airport…Arrividerchi Italia…la vita e Bella.
This is Lauren and Linda signing out…Ciao Baby!