Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Day 3: Venice
Although technically billed as Day 3 of our tour, Venice was our first sightseeing destination. In retrospect, I think it was my favorite day of the tour, and I would definitely love to go back one day. Venice is a lovely and unique city. Rick Steves, the travel guide writer, beautfully describes it as a "city in a state of elegant decay". Situated in a lagoon just off the mainland of Italy, Venice is a car-free city of a hundred islands connected together by 400 bridges. Since Venice only has 65,000 residents, it is pretty deserted during the early morning and evenings. But, during the day it is swarming with tourists who day-trip in to enjoy its sights. We were some of those very tourists. Since we were staying on the mainland, we woke up early to catch a ferry over to Venice for a 9:00am guided tour of the city. It was a beautiful time of the day to see the city -- still quiet before the huge influx of people. Our guide took us down quiet alleyways and explained about the city's history and architecture. So beautiful!
Our guided tour ended in Saint Mark's square. You've probably seen it in movies -- it is teeming with pigeons and birdseed sellers. Because the pigeons are known to transfer illnesses such as salmonella, we didn't feed the birds. From the square we headed to a glass-blowing demonstration. Venice is known for its ornate glass beads, jewelry and glass art.
After the glass blowing demonstration, we met up with my friend Carmen and her Italian hubby Gianluca for lunch. I've met Gianluca before in the States but Brett had never met either Carmen or Gianluca. I never actually had much of a conversation with Gianluca because he didn't speak much English back then but now his English is wonderful! It was great to get to know him a bit and learn more about Italian life from him. After lunch, they headed off to the other side of the island where they were to meet another friend, and we made plans to meet up again later in the afternoon.
From there we headed to get a "gelato" (Italian ice cream) and to visit the Doge's Palace. Ella was exhausted by this point and ended up falling asleep in our arms as we toured the rooms of the palace. Our visit was cut short as we needed to meet back up with the group for our gondola ride. Gondola rides are known to be expensive. Our tour director told us that this was a "reasonable" rate for a 30 minute ride -- 20 euro per person (about $27). That's still expensive in my book, but it was worth it for the experience. It was a lovely trip through the city and along the Grand Canal. Unfortunately, Ella didn't really experience it -- she slept through the entire ride. But, at least it was a relaxing way for us to hold her during her nap.
After the gondola ride, we met back up with Carmen & Gianluca for a drink along the canal and more conversation. It ended all too soon as they needed to head for the train station and we needed to meet back up with our group to catch the ferry to the mainland. Overall it was a wonderful day full of beautiful sights and a pleasant visit with old friends. I look forward to returning one day.