Venice, Italy — [Thu 7/16, Fri 7/18]

We had taken the overnight ferry from Bar, Montenegro to Bari, Italy then boarded a train bound for Venice via Bologne arriving at Venice Mestre train station on the mainland around 7:30pm. We took a bus to the hotel, checked in, and spent the night. The next morning we were up early to catch a bus into Venice. We were all very excited… we finally made it to Venice. 🙂

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Ah…. Venice!!! It is very magical. The canals. The gondolas. The old houses. The squares. And of course St. Marks Basilica and surrounding St. Marks Square. We had booked a spot on a free walking tour for 10:45am. We arrived a bit late and nobody was there. We met a few others who had been waiting that said nobody showed up. So we were on our own. Now, if you’re used to knowing where you are, you will not like Venice. Even with a map in hand, which we didn’t even have, you will get lost. But that’s the whole point! To get lost in Venice and discover something new at every turn. Actually, you can’t get completely lost in Venice. It is an island. And there are signs to St. Marks, the Rialto Bridge, and the Train Station. You can always just follow the crowds as well.

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After lunch Tuyet managed to find a self guided walking tour on line that starts at the Rialto bridge and explores the San Polo side of Venice. We managed to find the bridge and crossed it to the St. Marks side where the tour starts (or so we thought). After reading a bit of history, we crossed back over the bridge to explore the San Polo side of Venice, only we had just crossed to the St. Marks side and got completely lost. 🙂 Eventually we ran into St. Marks Square. WOW! It was much grander then I had expected. The basilica was undergoing some renovations so we couldn’t enjoy a full view, but from what we could see, it was pretty amazing. We waited in the line to get inside and were not disappointed. I loved the gold plated paintings on the ceiling!

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After dinner near the square, we walked around a bit more with the intent to just get lost. At each intersection we would ask the kids which way to go and just go. As the sun started to go down and it began to cool off, we did what you must do when in Venice, take a ride in a gondola. Aside from it being expensive and only half an hour, it was pretty cool to ride around little side canals through old neighborhoods and old houses.

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Exhausted after a long, hot, and humid day, we grabbed some gelato and headed to our bus back to our hotel.

The next day we did manage to catch a free walking tour at 11am. The free walking tours we had been on to date had an equal amount of talking about history and such and visiting/viewing monumental sites. This tour was mostly talking and visiting local artisan shops. It was very interesting to hear the history of Venice and how it was built. Although we didn’t see any sites (except for a good view of the Rialto bridge under renovations), some of the local stores were very cool. At a mask making store we could watch the artist creating carnival masks through the window while the guide spoke. Next to that was a very cool local book store. Many books were displayed in boats and bathtubs so that when Venice floods, the books would stay dry floating in the water in their boats. Out back were stacks of old water damaged books turned into stairs and a ledge allowing a view over the wall to the canal. If we had more time to spend in the book store, I’m sure we would have found more interesting and quirky things to buy as souvenirs.

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During the tour the guide told us how to spot actual local shops and restaurants including what was the local cuisine; Cicheti, which are Venetian Tapas and Sprtiz, a drink made with liquor, wine, and soda. We managed to find such a place and enjoyed an excellent Venetian lunch with a Spritz.

One can’t go to Venice without a little shopping (I guess). There were tons of shops selling Italian leather purses (real leather) for far cheaper than can be found in the states. Tuyet and Tia did a bit of shopping and got a cute little black purse for a bargain. Also near the train station was an “O Bag” shop where Tuyet bought a cute Red bag with beige rope for handles.

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We caught the bus back to our hotel and stopped at the Pizzeria next door for dinner. Real Pizza! Really Good Pizza!! 🙂 Then ice cream and another Spritz for dessert.

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It was time to get to bed early as we had to get up early to catch our train to Milan… and the World Expo! See you there.

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