We have left the clean, organized, efficient, and oddly American country of Germany for the busy, chaotic, and somewhat dirty place that is Italy. Our Italian adventure begins in Venice, the sinking island. What can I say about Venice… Well, for one it was a whirlwind of a visit as we spent only really a half day in the city. Venice is like an old, decaying maze that happens to be filled with people. It does actually smell rather funny. The streets are canals and crosswalks are bridges. Any street that isn’t a canal is a sidewalk sized alley lined with shops. Every winding alley has a similar arrangement of stores selling Murano glass, masquerade masks, gelato, souvenirs, and some high end retail as well. They all started to blend together. Murano glass is a type of hand blown glass made in Venice (I think) and is made into jewelery, vases, bowls, animal figures. Its quite pretty and the intricacy of some of the pieces is amazing.
One of our first stops was for gelato, and even several days later I still think it was the best gelato I’ve had… Some sort of ricotta and fig flavor and pistachio! We wandered into the city along random routes while taking in the sights, finally making our way to St. Mark’s Square. St Mark’s Square is home to sights including St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace (former ruling palace of Venice). We toured the basilica, which is lined with beautiful mosaics and shining gold. At least, it would be if they turned the lights on… I assume the darkness is to preserve the artwork, but it makes it difficult to appreciate! We were unwilling to spring for tickets into the other sights, but I’m sure they’re fab as well. What we did spring for, however, was a gondola ride. It was awesome. Our guide was a native of Venice and truly loved his city. We were rowed through a part of the Grand Canal as well as some smaller canals without even sidewalks liming them. Everyone in Venice has some sort of boat parked in the canal outside their home. No one can live on the first floors anymore due to flooding. From the canals you can see wet and rotting doors that are now partially submerged. I read that the city is undertaking a project to help contain the rising water levels, but it isn’t complete yet.
After the gondola ride,we stumbled into a small restaurant for some wine and dinner. I skeptically ordered a gnocchi with crab dish and was rewarded by some of the tastiest gnocchi ever. Why don’t I eat gnocchi more at home?? We happened to be seated next to an American couple at dinner who were just the sweetest people. They had decided to use their retirement years for travel and were so impressrd that four young women were trailblazing through Europe. It was too cute. Anyway, the Italians eat dinner typically much later than Americans, so we never have a problem getting a table at our normal dinner time. Full Italian meals have several courses… Antipasti (appetizer), Primi (first course – typically a small serving of pasta), Secondi (second course – typically a meat or fish), and coffee or dessert. Of course different wines can be paired with each! They can last a few hours.
It was dark by the time we were done eating. Venice is either really romantic or creepy at night depending on which alleyway you happen to be walking in. Next time I’d like to take a night time gondola ride (and check out some of the museums)!