Thursday morning we left Reutte, Austria for our drive to Venice, Italy, which took us through the Austrian and Italian Alps, and they were stunning, partially shrouded in clouds and fog. By now, I was starting to get over the disappointment of not having good enough weather the day before to ride an alpine luge, and the anticipation of crossing over into Italy was now front and center in my mind.
We arrived in Venice by vaporetti, which are like buses on water, and very apropos for Venice. This was my first stop in Italy, and it didn’t disappoint. It was good to have various reminders in everything that I had read and heard about Italy to be prepared for a fairly chaotic experience, compared to Germany, for instance. The Italians know how to embrace la dolce vita, the sweet life, and it’s enchanting.
After a short walk around the main area close to our hotel, which was just a few blocks from Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), we had dinner at a fabulous restaurant. I walked around the waterfront area afterward, enjoying the Venetian nightlife, as the city is equally lovely at night.
On Saturday, we had a fantastic tour with a local guide, and it’s definitely worth doing this in Venice, as it’s a maze of walkways bridges, canals, and passageways, so in addition to someone who knows their way around, you get a fascinating blend of history and current day insights, which makes the visit so much more rich. We then visited St. Mark’s Basilica, and I’m telling you, there is just no way to describe it in words or in photos — it’s a must-see in person. The sheer size of it, as well as the beauty of the interior, is breathtaking. If, like me, you’re not a religious person, simply viewing it from an artistic perspective still leaves you completely awestruck. I took the stairs to the upper level, enjoying the view from the balcony above the main floor, and I went out onto the outside balcony, with a view of St. Mark’s Square.
After that, we had time on our own, to wander and discover the backstreets of Venice. With a couple other people in the group, we made our way to the Rialto Bridge, getting fabulously lost on the way, which is all part of the fun. We stopped by a gelato place and sat on a dock along with Grand Canal, watching the various boats and gondolas pass by. Just sitting there, in this incredible city, in a country that I’ve dreamed of visiting as long as I could remember, without a care in the world, enjoying Italian gelato with good company, and the best view… well this indeed is la dolce vita.
In the afternoon a group of us sat at one of the cafés on the water side of San Marco, enjoying the nearby band, all the people-watching, and just drank it all in. I had dinner with a very fun couple in the tour group, who know how to laugh and enjoy the whole experience of this trip. We then met up with the rest of our tour group members for a gondola ride through the canals at night, complete with an accordion player and singer, the quintessential Venice experience.
Both St. Mark’s Basilica as well as the Rialto Bridge, along with many other sites, are undergoing renovation, which on Italian time, can take seemingly forever, and is just part of the “roll with it” nature of travel, when perfect photos are not in the cards. I was still able to really enjoy Venice, and appreciate the beauty in it, as well as the “character”, nonetheless.
Saturday morning we left Venice on another vaporetti boat to the mainland, and are now in Florence, so I’ll post about that later, and upload photos when I can. Off to explore!