Ok, here I go writing about the first of our many wonderful stops. I have been putting off writing about this for the last few days because we have done so much in the last few weeks that I just don't know where to even start! Here's my best shot at what I can remember from the beautiful city that is Venice.
On Saturday, February 27, my mom, dad, Justin, and I left Siena in our cute little Fiat Panda rental car and headed for Venice. This was going to be my third trip to Venice, but I was just as excited as I was the first time. My parents had just arrived in Italy the day before and everything was new and exciting for them. Also, this was Justin's first time to the city built on water. By the time we arrived in Venice, it was mid-afternoon and the sun was shining; it was a beautiful day. Our apartment hotel was just a few minutes away from St. Mark's Square on a cute and quiet canal.
After settling into our room, we decided to explore the city before the sun was gone. We first headed to St. Mark's Square, "the most beautiful drawing room in Europe," according to Napoleon. Stepping into this grand piazza for the first time (or even the first time in a few years) is breathtaking and leaves you awestruck. All of a sudden, after walking through narrow alleys and over small bridges, you come out to this great opening filled with people, cafes, pigeons, and one of the most beautiful Byzantine cathedrals in the world. This great square looks out on the lagoon of Venice, which is a reminder of where you really are. As it gets later and the sun begins to drop in the sky, the mist from the lagoon starts to take over the city giving it a magical glow. Pictures and words can't really do justice to the feeling that Venice gives you.
After walking around Piazza San Marco, exploring the lagoon area, and sneaking into the basilica right before it closed for the night, we decided to head over to il Rialto. Il Rialto is the most famous bridge in Venice, crossing the grand canal and also home to a huge market area. Here, we did some shopping (mostly window shopping), picture taking, and then stopping in a cafe for a bellini. The bellini is the drink to have in Venice. It is simply prosecco and peach puree. It was originated in Harry's Bar, a famous bar at the mouth of the grand canal that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent. Now, it is served for tourists all over Venice.
After wandering around for awhile longer, we started to get hungry and found a restaurant near our hotel that served Venetian seafood specialties. We started our dinner with a mixed plate of small seafood bites. It included polenta with baccala, anchovies, crab cakes, stuffed mussels, and other regional seafood specialties. Then, I had a black tagliatelle with squid, zucchini, and tomatoes. It was a very nice Venetian style dinner.
The next day, we woke up to a very different Venice. The sun was gone and the streets were wet. No, it had not rained over the night, but the lagoon was taking over the city. This is a daily fight for Venice as the tide comes in. We passed shops that the entire floor was covered in a couple of inches of water. You couldn't tell where the sidewalks ended and where the canals began.
We made our way through the water to the Doge's Palace right off of St. Mark's Square. As we toured the palace, the water slowly made its way back into the lagoon. After this, we walked around, found some delicious pizza for lunch, and then took a gondola ride through the canals. As touristy as this seemed, it was a great way to see the city from a very different perspective and a very memorable experience.
We left Venice early that evening just as it was starting to rain. Venice is a city unlike any other that I have ever been to. It is absolutely crowded with tourists, but very unique and still truly it's own. There are many people who work and live there and still have to fight back the water everyday. To see more pictures from our trip to Venice, you can visit my Picasa web album here: http://picasaweb.google.com/recarlisle/Venezia# . Next stop on our road trip: Bologna for some amazing food!