Updated: Apr 22
Venice is even more beautiful than I remember. The weather was perfect – 75 and sunny. Hardly a cloud in the sky. Canals and bridges everywhere you looked. Boats driving by as you walked past. Gondolas parked everywhere. It was impossible to look anywhere and say that it did not belong on a postcard.
We traveled to Venezia with my study abroad program this weekend. The group left the Rome train station at 9:45 AM on Friday and arrived in Venice by 1:30 PM – I love bullet trains. After we arrived, we walked out of the train station to find ourselves facing the Grand Canal. Where else in the world can you do that?
Our hotel was located about a three minute walk from the train station. Not a bad location. Zach, my apartment-mate from back in Rome, and I shared a hotel room. The room itself was nothing special, but the true benefit was the patio we had next to our room. It had great views of the Venetian rooftops and was a great place to hang out at night.
View from our patio
We had free time until 3:00 PM, so we dropped our bags off and set off to eat lunch and explore the area by our hotel. A group of us walked until we found a pizzeria that had round pizzas. This meant a triangular slice, something we don’t get in Rome. I opted for a Sicilian slice, though, and a bottle of Coke. It only cost me €4,50 which is cheaper than Rome. After our pizza, we walked around a bit more before heading back to our hotel.
After we all made it back to our hotel, we took a vaporetto or a water boat to the Guggenheim Museum. This was a very cool method of public transportation as we were able to ride along the Grand Canal of Venice and take pictures. None of us wanted to get off – it was so beautiful.
The Guggenheim Museum was a bit of a disappointment for most of us. It consisted of pre-modern art – an art form which I along with many of my classmates do not appreciate. To me, it looked like a kindergartener’s artwork – chaotic and disorganized. The tour guide tried to drive home the fact that it was art because no one had done it before, but most of us just didn’t get it and went onto the outdoor patio of the museum for the second half of the tour. The weather was beautiful and we were able to admire the beauty of the canal along with some pieces of “art” like “Three Colored Dog” and “Man with Erection Riding a Horse.” Both are pictured below, feel free to be your own judge as to whether or not they can be considered to be art.
Three Colored Dog
Man With Erection Riding a Horse
After the tour was finally over, we were free to explore parts of Venice for an hour until we had to meet for dinner. We decided to go to a point that overlooked the outside of Piazza San Marco and the rest of the canal to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, our internal compasses were off and we faced the wrong direction. It was still absolutely beautiful.
We also found a random statue of a giant naked boy holding a frog. I’m not entirely sure what the significance was, but I was happy to see a piece of art that even I could consider to be art.
We then walked to the meeting point for dinner and got there a bit early, so we did my favorite hobby of the whole trip – sat on the edge of the canal with our feet dangling off and relaxed. We people watched, admired boats that went past, and talked. I wish we could have done that for the whole trip. It was so relaxing and it was nice to act like we had nothing to care about for a while.
Dinner was really good and I tried a lot of new things I would not have tried if I were still in the USA. We started off with a fish lasagna and had crab meat with potatoes. It honestly was not that bad and did not taste fishy whatsoever. I was very proud of myself for expanding my taste palate and trying something new.
Friday night, we all went back to the hotel after dinner because we were tired. A group of us went out onto our patio to talk, relax, and watch the moon rise over the Venetian skyline. We eventually went back to our respective rooms to retire for the night. Before we retired, though, a few of us played a game of scoba.
Saturday was our only full day in Venice. We woke up bright and early to have our hotel’s breakfast. Then, we left for Saint Mark’s Square for a tour. We wanted to go into the Saint Mark’s Basilica, but they apparently instituted a new “no shorts allowed” policy that our tour guide was not aware of. We could have bought a cloth to cover our knees for one Euro, but the line to enter the Basilica was 30 minutes long. We took a tour of the Doge’s Palace which was the main government building of Venice before the Italian Unification in 1861. It was fascinating to learn how liberal the Venetians were. They preached religious tolerance and their lawmakers were made up of a panel of 144 politicians. It was not as aristocratic as the rest of Western Europe. The palace itself was gorgeous. We saw the intricate artwork on the walls and ceiling and also received a bit of a history lesson.
St. Mark’s Basilica
Golden Staircase Outside the Doge’s Palace
After the palace, our tour guide took us to an open air food market which is very popular on Saturdays. It was fascinating and reminded me of a slightly larger version of Campo di Fiore in Rome.
Our tour guide recommended a restaurant for lunch, so a few of us went. I had a delicious plate of gnocchi and we shared a liter of wine for the table. My portion was only €9,50 which, again, was cheaper than Rome. The waiter was hilarious and made the meal even more entertaining. It was a really fun experience. After lunch, we went to a meeting point to catch a private tour boat to the islands of Murano and Burano. The boat ride had more beautiful views.
Murano is famous worldwide for it’s glass. We saw a Glass Master make a vase and a horse from scratch right in front of our eyes in less than 15 minutes. He was phenomenal and made the horse move it’s legs before it got cold and hardened up. It was very impressive.
After Murano, we went to the colorful fishing village of Burano. It was my favorite part of the trip because it was a less touristy island and people actually lived there. Our boat docked next to a child playing on a swing set. The village itself was beautiful. It had houses of every color – red, pink, yellow, orange, blue, etc. Burano is also known for it’s lacework. After walking around a bit, we went and sat with our feet dangling off the dock to take in the postcard-like view.
After Burano, we went back to our hotel to quickly change before our final dinner in Venice. The food was not as good as the night before- we had a plate of cold cuts, mushroom risotto, and very dry turkey. Dessert consisted of a very strange tasting tiramisu, but who am I to turn down tiramisu?
I almost fell asleep at dinner, so I went back to the hotel after dinner and decided to call it an early night at around 11:00 PM. The rest of my friends went to try and discover Venice’s nightlife. I’m happy I didn’t go because they returned at midnight a bit disappointed.
Venice at night
On Sunday morning, we went on a tour of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice. The tour consisted of visiting three Synagogues. After the tour, I went to a Jewish Bakery to try to find a bagel, but had no such luck. I bought a sugar cookie instead, though.
Then, we went back to the same pizzeria we went to the first day for a slice of pizza. I got a regular slice this time and it hit the spot. Then, we bought gelato and ate it while sitting on a park bench. Afterwards, it was time to head back to our hotel to grab our bags and head to the train station.
The scenery on the train ride is absolutely gorgeous – exactly what I imagined the Italian countryside would look like!
I had a great time this trip. I wish we had more free time to relax and walk around the city. It would have been nice to have an espresso in Saint Marks Square, take a gondola ride, and go on a proper walking tour of Venice.
The one thing that surprised me about Venice was how cheap it was. Compared to Rome, Venice was cheaper. Gelato was €1 in Venice instead of the €1,50 it costs in Rome. Pizza was cheaper here and the cost of sit down meals were also cheaper. I heard Venice was expensive, but it was a pleasant surprise!
I have a full week this week and head off to Pompeii, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast next weekend.
Note: This post was originally published on April 11, 2011 in a blog entitled “Romeing Around Europe” which chronicled my study abroad experience.