Italy-Part 8: The Floating City-Venice

After our one night stay in Florence, we anxiously made our way back to the train station with all of our luggage. It was a good day, as we were heading to one of the most anticipated stops of our trip, Venice! 2 hours later we arrived at Venezia Santa Lucia train station. This train ride was the most memorable and distinctive of all of the trips we had taken because the train tracks actually go out over the water and drop you off right smack in the middle of the island of Venice. It was awesome to look out the windows on the train and see water on both sides!

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When we walked out of the train station, we instantly realized that we were standing at the edge of the Grand Canal!

We were both giddy at the sight of it and couldn’t wait to get to our hotel to drop off our bags and check out our suite. A few months prior to our trip, I celebrated my 30th birthday. For my gift, Dustin had spoiled me rotten and reserved us the honeymoon suite at Hotel Rialto and it had a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge. The Rialto Bridge is largest and most famous of all of the bridges in Venice and our hotel was as close to it as anyone could get! We were stoked to finally be arriving!

WP_20150929_12_45_57_ProThe alleyways of Venice all start to look the same after awhile and we had no idea where we were going once we left the train station. Eventually we started seeing signs for the Rialto Bridge so we just followed those. It ended up taking us almost 45 minutes to get to our hotel by foot with all of our bags and we had to carry them up and over about a million bridges but when we finally got to our hotel, it was so worth it!

Right outside the front door of our hotel several gondolas were docked awaiting their next passengers.

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We went into the hotel to check in and found that the front desk looked exactly like all of the movies I’ve ever seen where people check into fancy hotels in Italy. There was a wall of keys (real keys, not plastic cards) with ornate tassels on each of them and a bell hop who took our bags up to our room for us.

When we arrived at our room, he opened the door for us and waiting on the table near the open balcony doors was a chilled bottle of Prosecco with two glasses.

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The room was very lavishly decorated and everything was pink! There was a huge chandelier over the bed along with fancy antique furniture. I felt like a princess!

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We poured a celebratory glass of Prosecco and walked out to the balcony. There were 3 large flags hanging from our balcony and we later realized it was because we had been given the main hotel room of the entire hotel with the best view and best balcony!

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Hotel Rialto is a rather famous hotel so when we walked out on the balcony, there were people taking pictures of our room and of us since it was the main one. We felt like celebrities for a minute and it was fun!

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The only disappointing thing about it was that the bridge was under construction and much like what they did with the Trevi Fountain in Rome while it was being worked on, they put a large canvas cover over the bridge with a picture of what it normally looks like on it, so we were essentially just looking at a picture of this famous bridge.

The other side of the bridge, however, was still intact so we were still able to see if from that side. Across from our room on the other side of the canal, the hotel there had a sign affixed to the outside that said “No Mafia! Venezia e sacra!” (No Mafia, Venice is sacred!).

Italy 2344We found that kind of comical for some reason because the Mafia has never seemed real to us. It was always just something that existed in gangster movies and here it was right in front of our faces!

Feeling the need to dress up a little more to better fit our fancy surroundings, we cleaned ourselves up and changed clothes and then headed out to explore Venice. We had packed in a carry on for 16 days so after 13 days, needless to say, our clothing options were running low by this point in our trip. Dustin found a shop that sold really nice men’s dress shirts with unique style for a very good price so he bought a few so we could dress up for dinner while we were there.

Italy 2446We found a cool old pub down one of the alleys where the bar was made from an old boat, and being boaters, we of course had to stop in for a quick drink.

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Afterwards we kept walking until we found St. Mark’s Square, which is the main square in Venice that you always see in movies that are filmed there (like Just Married, the Tourist, etc.).

The square is known for having a multitude of pigeons in it at any given time of day or night. We had fun watching them land on people as they fed them but I was like a little kid and wanted to feed them myself! Pretty soon an older gentleman came up to us and offered us a piece of the bread that he had been feeding to the birds so that we could also feed them. I thought that was so nice of him! We instantly had birds crawling all over us and it was hilarious!

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Pigeons in St. Mark’s Square

After strolling around the square a bit, we found a little outdoor café down one of the alleys nearby and decided to stop for lunch. They sat us at a table outdoors and we took in the sights and sounds of Venice while we dined. I had the best lasagna of the trip at this café but sadly I don’t remember what it was called!

In Venice, you travel to everything either by boat or by foot. There are no vehicles on the island. Most everything is done by boat on the island. We saw DHL delivery boats, garbage pick up boats, milk boats, and even witnessed a funeral procession by boat while we were there. So we decided to take a boat ride to see a little more of the floating city. We noticed that they had “waterbus” stops all over the island and this was essentially their public transportation system and the cheapest way of getting around on the water.

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Waterbus stop

So instead of paying an outrageous price for a water taxi or a ferry ride, we just purchased a waterbus ticket for about 7 euros and rode through every stop so we could see the entire island. If you aren’t in a hurry, this is an inexpensive way to see everything, but it does take a little longer since they make so many stops.

At one point on our “tour” we passed a massive incoming cruise ship that towered over the city. It was hard to say which one more aptly deserved the nickname of “Floating City”, Venice or the cruise ship!

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Since we had eaten a late lunch, we weren’t really hungry for dinner that night but we still wanted to be out and about so we went out looking for a nice place to get a couple of drinks. We saw an open air rooftop restaurant/bar and were drawn to it because of the Tiki torches that were lighted around its perimeter. We found our way to the hotel that it was located in and took the elevator up to the top. The place was sharply decorated in a modern style and had sort of a tropical vibe to it. If it weren’t for the blistering wind, it would’ve felt like we were in the Caribbean or something, as they had palm trees and brightly colored exotic plants.

The server was a very friendly man and could tell that I was chilly so without even asking, he went in the hotel and brought me a blanket to use. How thoughtful!

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After our drinks we decided to explore Venice by night! Before our trip we had watched a lot of You Tube videos to get travel tips and one of which said that night time is the best time to explore Venice because a lot of the tourists retreat to the mainland and it’s a lot less crowded. This was so true and it was neat to get a different perspective on the city. We walked back to St. Mark’s Square to see it lit up at night and it was gorgeous!

Italy 2558There was a classical concert being put on in the square so we stopped and listened for a bit and it gave us a soundtrack for our memories of that night. All of the outdoor eateries in Italy are so quaint and the music and the stars gave them an extra level of charm that night.

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A neat picture that Dustin took of me in St.  Mark’s Square

As we were making our way back to our side of town, we walked past a shop that had a traditional Venetian dress that would be worn with a mask for Carnival. It was stunning and made me want to don a mask and have Dustin whisk me away to a ball!

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A little further down there was a more contemporary shop that had the most beautiful dress in the window on a mannequin. I was sad the shop was closed because I wanted to try it on! I assumed it was too rich for my blood anyway, so we moved on and kept exploring.

We eventually came upon the Rialto market. Although it was closed at the time, it was neat to see. This is where a scene from the movie “the Tourist” was filmed with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie and it was cool to stand in the same place where they had once stood while filming it.

On the way back to the hotel, we walked past a nail salon and glanced in the window and had to do a double take to make sure we were seeing correctly. There was a woman with her feet in a glass box of water and there were tons of tiny fish swimming around nibbling at her feet.

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Apparently in Europe this is a common salon service to remove the dead skin on a person’s feet. For a moment, I thought about trying it because I love to try the traditions of other cultures but the thought of those fish chewing off other people’s dead skin and then chewing on my feet disgusted me so I decided to pass. I would’ve had to ask, “Can I get my own new fish?” Ha! We asked the woman if we could take a picture so we could share with everyone. Definitely not something you see every day! After that, we finally made it back to our hotel, and before heading upstairs, we stopped at our hotel restaurant and purchased a bottle of wine to share in our room.

The next morning after breakfast, we went to the docks just outside of our hotel to see about going on a gondola ride. We were told it would cost around $80 euro for a ½ hour ride. Although this seemed kind of steep, we knew we couldn’t go all the way to Venice and not go on a gondola so we splurged! It was so peaceful being guided along the tiny narrow canals alongside the elegant architecture of this medieval city. The gondolier in the boat behind us was singing to his passengers so it felt authentic. Just like we had imagined!

We passed the Venice Casino, the Rialto Market, and rode under the Rialto Bridge.

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I would’ve been absolutely content to explore all of the coves and nooks of the city by gondola for the rest of the day, but unfortunately our wallets wouldn’t allow that so we again decided to explore and see what we could find by foot.

Earlier in our trip we had spent some time in the Cinque Terre. We had planned on hiking on “Via dell’Amore”, or Walk of Lovers, where it is customary for two people in love to lock a padlock on a section of the fence and throw the key into the sea to “lock their love”. We thought that since we were on our honeymoon, this would be a fun and symbolic thing to do. However, the trail there was closed when we were visited due to erosion so we were unable to use our lock. While in Venice, we looked all over for an alternative place to put our lock. We finally decided on locking it on the very back part of the balcony of our honeymoon suite. It was completely out of sight to the naked eye but we could see it and we would always know where it was.

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Our locked padlock

 We then took the keys and went up to the middle of the Rialto Bridge and threw the keys into the Grand Canal. This ended up being more special for us anyway.

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Throwing our keys into the Grand Canal

 Eventually we ended up back at the shop we had passed the night before with the beautiful dress in the window that I wanted to try on. This time my luck was better and they were open so we went in. The dress on the mannequin was the last one they had available so the woman took it off for me to try on and to my surprise, it fit perfectly! And it was actually being sold at a decent price! Not knowing where I would ever wear a dress this formal, I tried talking myself out of buying it but Dustin liked it and convinced me that I would need a formal dress for when we go on a cruise sometime. So I bought it! When we got back to the hotel I tried it on again and couldn’t resist posing for a few pictures on the balcony of our fancy hotel.

It has always been on my bucket list to stay in a fancy hotel on the Grand Canal and get all dressed up there so thanks to Dustin, I got to cross that one off the list! J

For our 2nd and last night in Venice, we went across the canal to a cozy outdoor café for dinner. The candlelight dinner on the Grand Canal was so romantic and I just felt blessed to be there with my new husband enjoying this dream come true!

After dinner, we went out to buy a few souvenirs and we both ended up buying some authentic Venetian masks. We were a little hesitant to buy them, wondering if they would make it all the way home without getting broken but the man in the shop assured us that they were sturdy enough so we purchased 3 (I couldn’t decide between two of them)!

By this point in our trip, we had accumulated quite a bit of souvenirs so in order to get them all home, I bought another small suitcase from one of the vendors in Venice and we put all of our goodies in it and then ended up just checking that bag on the way home. To our delight, nothing was broken when we returned home! After buying our masks, we grabbed a quick night cap at a café at the edge of the Rialto Bridge and watched the boats cruise down the canal before heading up to our room.

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The next morning, we had the 45 minute walk back to the train station looming over us. Worried that we might miss our train if we got lost and not wanting to cart our luggage over all of those bridges again, we decided to take a water taxi back to the station. We had been wanting to ride on one because they are such cool boats but they had pretty steep price tags for a ride. It was a quick 5-10 minute ride to the station and cost around $60 euro! But it was our last glimpse of Venice so we decided to make it count!

After our quick but lovely boat taxi back to Venezia Santa Lucia, we boarded a train for our last stop of our Italian honeymoon, Verona.

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