“Traveling- it leaves you speechless,
then turns you into a storyteller.”
– Ibn Battuta
I’m struggling to find words that can accurately describe these magnificent cities in northeastern Italy. But what I lack in vocabulary, can hopefully be made up for in pictures. Without further ado, here we go!
Friday: To Venice We Go
I had an exhausting first week of school but still was able to pop out of bed before 7 am Friday morning in order to start our journey to Venezia! After about a 3 hour train ride, we arrived just outside Venice at the bed and breakfast we reserved using AirBnB. We were warmly greeted by our incredibly welcoming hosts and pleasantly surprised by our elegantly decorated and clean accommodations. If you ever go to Venice, you should stay here. (I know you are not reading this to hear about our housing… but I’m intentionally building suspense.)
Stepping into a “Puddle of Elegant Decay”
Moving right along, around noon on Friday we made it to Venice, the city I have been anxiously waiting to experience for a few months now. This magical place was developed by setting wood pilings on 118 submerged islands in the Northern end of the Adriatic Sea. In early times, the lagoon area served as a place of refuge for those fleeing invaders coming from the north. It grew to be a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The city now contains 400 foot bridges and 170 boat canals that wind throughout the city.
(The one and only) Rick Steves describes Venice as a “puddle of elegant decay”. I’d say this phrase accurately captures what Gabby and I witnessed upon our arrival to this great city–emphasis on the PUDDLE. Yes, Venice charmed me with its remarkably preserved history, unique city structure, and lively culture, but it was also really cold and rainy… BUT, I often think that terrible weather conditions can just make for a more memorable experience in the end so it was ok!
*** Fun Fact: Venice is actually sinking!
As you can see in the picture above, the streets and canals nonchalantly merged together on Friday. This was a new concept for Gabby and I; however, the Venetians are well accustomed to it; this phenomenon occurs 100 times a year! On the bright side, venders consider these days a success and are able to make lots of money by selling ugly plastic bags to unprepared tourists so they can cover their feet. (See photo below.)
*** Fun Fact: The Mose Project was actually completed this year which is a civil engineering project installed to help protect the city from flooding. Last I heard it was too soon to tell if it will be a success, but if you are into engineering and all that jazz you should check it out!
Oh my Gold!
In the afternoon we took a tour through Saint Mark’s Basilica. The nickname for this church is Chiesa d’Oro or church of gold. Built in the 11th century, the church was a symbol of Venice’s wealth and status. It is ornately decorated in the Byzantine and Gothic style and the sides and ceilings of the 5 domes are covered by gold glass tesserae (I just learned this new term!) and mosaics depicting biblical stories. We were not allowed to take pictures inside but I snuck this one of the floor because, yes, you called it, I’m a rebel without a cause…Not really, however, the detail in the floor design should give you some idea of the intricate design of the rest of this magnificent church. Click here to see more of the interior of the church.
***Fun Fact: Yesterday I was researching more about the basilica and Gabby and I both realized that the St. Mark that the church is named after, is the same Mark from the Gospels in the Bible! Face palm. We embarrassingly failed to put two-and-two together beforehand. We regret saving a few euros and passing up the opportunity to see Mark’s bones which are preserved in the church behind the altar. #regrets
The rest of the day we just meandered through the city streets, admired the architecture, paused along bridges long enough to see far down boat-lined canals with colorful and elegant apartments on either side, made cannoli stops, and walked through an alley where men dressed up like clowns tried to put birds on our heads and have us pay to take a picture with them, yes, you read that right…
In sum, it was a cold yet magical first day in Venice!
Saturday: Day Two in Venezia
I’m happy to report there was no rain Saturday and it was a little less cold. In the morning Gabby and I were further captivated by the city built over a lagoon as we floated down the Grand Canal that curves through the middle of the city by boat. Although I enjoyed experiencing the city by foot the day before, I think that Venice was meant to be seen by boat.
The canals are lined with elegant apartments, famous museums like the Peggy Guggenheim, government buildings, historic sites, and of course, very ritzy hotels.
We arrived in St. Mark’s Square saw that the Carnevale celebration had already begun! Carnevale, literally meaning ‘removal of meat’ is the 10 day celebration that occurs before Lent. (So think an extended version of Mardi Gras) The area was full of excited tourists that came from all over the world to experience this celebration.
To be honest I was thankful to escape the crowded plaza and venture into the Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace.
A doge, sometimes translated as duke, was the chief magistrate of the Republic of Venice. Generations of Doges resided in this palace since the 14th century but now-a-days it is a fantastic art museum and historical site.
After the museum we headed off to Murano, the island famous for its glass blowing artisans.
The island was even cuter AND colder than it looks!
In sum, Venice was like nothing I have ever seen before and some of its sights took my breath away. I loved learning more about its rich history and unique culture.
What better way to end a great day than with great pizza.
I know I shouldn’t pick favorites… buttttttttt… Verona is definitely on the top of my list. I found this city to have a quiet yet awe-rendering type of loveliness. Compared to the other cities I’ve visited in Italy, Verona’s pulse seemed much slower and somehow melodic. I found its rhythm contagious and my own spirit slowed down enough to really be able to soak up all the enchanting sights around me. Here is some of the things I saw:
Roman Amphitheater (1 AD)
Main Plaza in Verona
Casa di Juliet
Streets of Verona
Churches/History of Verona
Beautiful, huh? It was a day well spent! I already hate to think this might be the only time I’ll get to see this beautiful city. I’m already hoping to make it back someday.
By now you can probably tell that the time I spent in Venice and Verona was unforgettable for me. And although neither my words or pictures can quite do either place justice, I hope you were able to get even a small sense of their elegance and charm.
P.S. Dear family I love and miss you!
Rick Steves books