Italy’s way of life is amazing, but Venice may have it all…it’s beautiful, adults are expected to take naps, and there are snacks everywhere. We left Ravenna on bus and arrived in Venice that afternoon. We stayed on the Venice ‘Islands’, which is basically where all the tourism is. If you stay on the ‘mainland’ you would have to take a water taxi, tram, or bus everyday to the islands that make up all the pictures you’ve ever seen of the floating city. We snaked our way through small alleyways and over canals until we met our AirB&B host. We couldn’t figure out why she wanted to meet us by the San Marco Square, about 10 minutes from her place, instead of us just going directly to where we were staying until she started to direct us back to her place. Very quickly it became apparent why; Venice is SO hard to navigate–Google maps can’t even save you here. We winded down several alley-ways, narrow enough that Caleb could touch both sides of the alley. Caleb and I exchanged wide-eyed looks–how would we ever find our way by ourselves? (Landmarks are your friends: ‘Okay, we turn left at the picture of the bald guy, take a right by the sign that says ‘Arsenal,’ but we still got lost once or twice). We took a quick nap (because we, of course, drank a little bit too much the night before we left, as always) and then went off to explore our new city.
Venice, besides being known for its beautiful canals, is home to cicchetti. Cicchetti is basically little snacks like sandwiches, fried foods like cheese or fish, or fresh bread topped with delicious meats and various spreads (kind of like Italian tapas). Food in Venice can be quite expensive and we didn’t eat one actual ‘meal’ the whole time in Venice. Instead, we went on ‘cicchettii bar crawls’, where we would get drinks and different cicchetti at the various bars we found, ranging in price from .50-$2.00. The first place we went to we got wine (you can get house wine for as little at $1) with various cicchetti, like salmon sandwiches, fried calamari and mozzarella balls. Each day in Venice always ended the same…with us going to 2-5 different cicchetti bars, getting drinks and snacks before wandering on to the next ‘cantina’ we could find. We ended our first night after hitting several food stops and exploring the San Marco Square and the Rialto Bridge.
The next day it was raining, which for some might mean disappointment, but for us was good news, as most of the other tourists stayed inside and it felt like we got the city to ourselves. We wandered the Venice islands where we walked through the gardens and Remembrance Park, the old naval gates at the ‘Arsenale’ and, of course, stopped at various cicchetti bars, warming up with delicious snacks and good wine. After our cicchetti bender we went home, only to be convinced to have a drink with out AirB&B hosts and the other guests. Our host was Chinese, and it seems like almost all the guests besides us were as well. One guest, Dennis, was adamant that we share some grappa with them (strong, homemade brandy), and after a few shots, Dennis, our hosts and the other guests were teaching us Chinese words and phrases while we answered their various questions about English and our culture. What was supposed to be only ‘1 drink’ quickly turned into three hours later. Our host and the other guests expressed how happy they were that we joined them as we stumbled up to our room.
That next day it wasn’t raining, but the town of Venice was totally flooded. Some streets were completely covered in water, which seems to be a pretty common occurrence there as you could see maintenance men working everywhere to drain the water from the streets, locals walking by unbothered in their rain boots. We wandered to a different area we had not seen while on our cicchetti benders that was near the university, that we figured out quickly since there were young students everywhere. We spent hours walking through picturesque alleyways and over bridges, stopping at cicchetti bars and filling up on some of the best food and wine I’ve ever had. We came home to Dennis and the other guests drinking in the kitchen, again, where Caleb was convinced to stay for an ‘English lesson.’ I could hear Caleb’s calm ‘teacher voice’ instructing the five adults in the correct way to make the ‘R’ and ‘S’ sounds from our room. He said he went through the whole alphabet, created a pronunciation guide for each letter, and drew examples, pictures and sentences to help them practice. The night slowly turned to morning as a ‘quick lesson’ turned into a three hour class.
The following day was our last, and we did it like true Italians; we got a nap in and of course found more cicchetti bars and ended our night watching a football (the soccer variety) game. I was sad to leave Venice as it was our last stop in Italy. I think anyone wanting to travel should definitely see Italy, it surpassed my expectations, and not just because of the food/wine/nap time :). I will say that while Venice is absolutely stunning, I can’t imagine being here in peak tourist season, those little alleyways get pretty packed! Bright and early and slightly hungover the next day, we got on a bus (after walking for an hour through those small alleyways with our big ole backpacks) to country number 10: Slovenia.