My Italian Road Trip: Venezia

My Italian Road Trip: Venezia

I headed down Mount Titano to leave San Marino. It was time to make my way up to the city of canals: Venice (Venezia). In its heyday, Venice was a dynasty. It may be limited to just a city, but the whole surrounding area bears the impact from Venice. The city is steeped in both world and Italian history. Many stories have involved the canals of Venice or the masked nights of Carnivale.

Arrival

I took a wrong turn on my drive and pleasantly ended up driving through a bunch of small Italian towns. The roads were well-kept, and driving on them was quite fun. I loved seeing all the cathedrals and statues in each little community. One thing I noticed was that each town had at least one big church and three bars. I like that ratio. I pulled up to the edge of Venice and instantly traffic numbers tripled. I had read about parking the car and decided I would use the Tronchetto parking garage. The price was right and the line was shorter.

After parking, I came to find out that the water taxis were on strike. Ugh. I had to call my hotel to get the to arrange a private water taxi. Apparently, they aren’t on strike, they just want to do side work.

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Whatever. The ride was interesting: you pass by the trash heap and the junk islands before you turn to face Piazza San Marco and the entrance to the Grand Canal.

I had chosen to stay at the JW Marriott which is on its own little private island, Isola delle Rose. The approach to the island was magnificent. I got checked in and headed to my room to unload my stuff. The island is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think I would stay there again unless it was a honeymoon or something. The logistics and timing wasn’t my favourite. I don’t like waiting for public transport.

The sign on the Island, Isola della Rose
The sign on the Island, Isola delle Rose

The City

I took the shuttle to the main island and started my walk about. The streets reminded of New Orleans: tourists, Carnivale masks, and the faint smell of urine. I was digging it. Unlike NoLa, the streets are way more confusing. Canals are here and there, dark alleys, no cellular reception. I had researched the best places for beer in the city and started making my rounds. My first stop was Bacaro Jazz. The vibe seemed good, so I took a seat a the bar only to find that their beer selection was pretty much just domestics. okay nevermind… Next I took my pictures at the Rialto Bridge. This thing is great. It will be even better once the refurbishment is complete.

Shot of the Rialto Bridge
Shot of the Rialto Bridge

My next stop was a spot called La Corte. As I arrived, the patio was empty, and there was only one couple inside eating.  After waiting at the bar unserved, I took a seat. One waiter came by then proceeded to talk to these three new people who just showed up for 15 minutes. Apparently they were open, but dinner wasn’t being served yet. Great, I just want a beer. Oh no sir… can you wait until dinner? Really? Peace.

This list of places was striking out badly. One more stop: Il Santo Bevitore. I had to backtrack to find the right bridges, but I made it. Walked in and instantly found refreshment. This was what I had been looking for: Local beers, smiling faces, and a sense of beersnobbery. My kind of place. Ariana and Valentina took care of all of my beer needs, helping me walk through the local beers with explanations.

Tap line at Il Santo Bevita
Tap line at Il Santo Bevitore

After a short wait, my friend Joelle (Joie de Vivre) showed up. Since beer is not her thing, it was time to go. But if you visit Venice, make sure to check out Il Santo Bevitore. It is worth it. We had been referred to check out a restaurant in the local neighborhood. This food was great. I was really enjoying my evening. Unfortunately, gondola rides had stopped by the time dinner was over. But, we could head to Harry’s to enjoy one last drink, the original Bellini.

The canals at night
The canals at night
World Famous Bellinis at Harry's
World Famous Bellinis at Harry’s

Day 2

Once again, I signed up for a full day of tours with City Wonders. We spent the morning learning about the Rialto Bridge, Marco Polo, and checking out St Mark’s Square and Basilica di San Marco. The Skip-the-Line tickets were totally clutch. Lines and lines of tourists wrapped around the square. This place was a logistical nightmare. Pictures and videos are prohibited inside. After my experience in Jeita Grotto, I decided to follow the rules and refrain. This is frustrating beyond all hell. They either need to remove the restrictions or enforce it. It is times like this that make me disgusted to be a fellow American. Watching people of all ages boldly taking photos directly in front of the no photos sign then pretending to not understand English. People in my tour group even tried to act like they didn’t know. People are either incredibly dumb and obtuse, amazingly unaware of their surroundings, or embarrassing that full of themselves. I digress. The cathedral is beautifully made. seeing the remains of St Mark and hearing the story was quite an experience. Saint Mark is often designated with the emblem or statue of a winged lion. These things are all over the city and entire area.

View from my water taxi of the Grand canal and the Rialto Bridge
View from my water taxi of the Grand canal and the Rialto Bridge
Beautiful church. I wish that hospital on the left would get Epic
Beautiful church. I wish that hospital on the left would get Epic
Cool building in the middle of two canals
Cool building in the middle of two canals
St Mark's Cathedral
St Mark’s Cathedral
St Mark's Square
St Mark’s Square
Looking out to the water
Looking out to the water

Our tour continued to the Doge’s palace. We learned about the government of the olden times. We even got to walk through the Bridge of Sighs. It is funny that people think this is a romantic spot: it was used to transport prisoners to the final doom… I guess that makes the irony even greater when people propose to their significant others under it. Symbolic, right?

Beautiful art inside the Doge's Palace
Beautiful art inside the Doge’s Palace
View from inside the Bridge of Sighs
View from inside the Bridge of Sighs
My tour  guide, Elena, after an all day success
My tour guide, Elena, after an all day success

I grabbed a quick pizza with Joelle then hopped on a boat to check out Murano (glass island) and Burano (lace island). These places were clearly built to sell overpriced items to tourists. But it was still cool to learn about the manufacturing process. The island of Burano is worth the visit by itself. The colourful houses and cool canals are a photographer’s dream.

Glass statue on Murano in front of church clock tower
Glass statue on Murano in front of church clock tower
Oven where Murano glass is made
Oven where Murano glass is made
fun-loving little cat just chilling after a tough day
fun-loving little cat just chilling after a tough day
Streets of Burano
Streets of Burano

I made friends with some others on the tour. Learned about Belgium from one couple and more about Canada from a mother/daughter combo. Then we rode back to the main island with the backdrop of the sun setting. It was lovely.

I met back up with Joelle, and we finally got to take that romantic gondola ride. It is fun to travel with a friend as singles. You get so many questions..

Made a pass under the Bridge of Sighs... so romantic.
Made a pass under the Bridge of Sighs… so romantic.
View from the gondola... clearly it is leaning towards my side.
View from the gondola… clearly it is leaning towards my side.

we made our way to meet up with Dane and Alam, two friends from Memphis. They were recently married and taking a delayed honeymoon type trip. I haven’t hung out with them since 2010 kickball in Memphis. The world really is a small place. We met up at a lovely little restaurant. It is amazing how time passes with friends. We were laughing and joking and telling stories like old times. I am pretty sure everyone in the restaurant was jealous of us… or they just hated us… who knows? We enjoyed late night spritz to cheers their nuptials and hung out for a bit longer. But I now had to hustle across the island to catch the last shuttle back to the hotel.

It's a small world after all... Four  Memphians enjoying a lovely Italian dinner in Venice.
It’s a small world after all… Four Memphians enjoying a lovely Italian dinner in Venice.

Day 3

Waking up, I knew it was the day I had to leave Venice. Sad. This place was quite nice. Not my favourite city in Italy, but it is still better than a lot of other places in the world. I headed over to pick up a mask and grab Joelle so we could share a taxi back to the parking lot. Yep we rounded the island and saw the trash heap… we were really leaving.

Until next time Venezia.

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