I do my best to keep up with a journal when I travel, but there’s nothing quite like getting back to blog about it! If I didn’t blog our trips, I honestly do not believe the photos would ever get organized. Plus, I love the planning part, so I spend a ton of time researching tickets and hotels and activities. Other people should benefit from all of those travel tips, too! 😉
So, thanks to Hopper, I found “cheap” flights to Italy before Christmas. Robert and I like to travel in March — it’s before busy season in Europe AND before our busy wedding season. We’ve also had pretty good luck with weather in late March, so I hope we get to stick with that trend!
I was really excited to be less nervous about flying this time, but that certainly didn’t last. On our way to Heathrow, we had awful turbulence. Just awful. At one point, the plane just dropped, and everyone gasped. I wanted to cry, but I knew that wouldn’t help. I prayed, squeezed Robert to death, and tried to focus on old episodes of Modern Family. Eventually, things smoothed out, but my nerves were pretty shot.
Surprisingly, and probably due to straight up exhaustion, I slept on our short flight to Marco Polo Airport. That was much smoother, praise God!! I was so grateful to get on land, but that didn’t last long! We got our tickets for the water bus to Venice. It was a pretty long ride through the lagoon! But once we started seeing St. Mark’s Square, I was squealing a little.
Oh, and a little note for the photogs out there — after lots of research, I invested in a Fuji XT-20 with a 35mm lens for travel. It was worth every penny. I felt much more free . . . and LIGHT! So, I used my Fuji and my iPhone for wider shots. I was worried that I would miss my “real” camera, but I didn’t. I was just SO grateful for a light, versatile camera! And of course, any photos of me are from Robert’s superior iPhone. I’m going to need that portrait mode feature on my next upgrade!!
Lorenzo was there to meet us as soon as we got off the boat. Best travel tip? Get the international plan on your phone!! Robert added international data to his phone for $10 a day through Verizon. It was WELL worth it. We were able to communicate with all of our AirBnB hosts, find restaurants on Yelp, use Google Maps, etc. And trust: using Yelp to find our meals served us WELL! We had one bad meal in 2 weeks!
So, back to Lorenzo. He owns the hotel/AirBnB that we stayed in. If you’re staying in Venice, you should absolutely stay at Lorenzo’s!! I actually found him in my Frommer’s Guide to Italy, and I’m so glad! His place is super close to everything — it was about a 5 minute walk from St. Mark’s. When we got there, he showed us our room and the common area, then helped us get oriented with Venice and the major sights.
After a nap and a shower, we were ready to explore! We had just enough time to run around St. Mark’s Square, wander through some little alleys, and see the Ponte di Rialto, aka the oldest, most famous, and most photographed of all the bridges over the Grand Canal!
I had a little girly freak out when we turned the corner of a random, tiny alley and saw Tiffany & Co. Then I looked up and saw Balenciaga, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, and Saint Laurent. I’ve been reading Vogue since I was about 15. It was like the pages were coming to life. And the stores were all so pristine and beautiful!
There’s nothing more beautiful than Italian architecture. Nothing!
Don’t hours and hours of travel look good on us?! 😉
The next day, we found St. Mark’s flooded! For a few weeks during the late Spring & late Fall of each year, Venice floods, especially in St. Mark’s Square because it’s the lowest point. At first, we didn’t understand what all the platforms were, but on Saturday morning, we realized that they’re bridges!
I texted our friend who had just been in Italy to ask if bringing my duck boots would be “too American.” Well, I might look East Coast as hell, but I’m really glad I brought them!! I didn’t have to buy the plastic boots that vendors were selling for 10 euro. 😉
We started our first day in Venice with a tour of Murano, Burano, and Torcello, the popular smaller islands in the lagoon. Murano is known as the glass-blowing island. Venice chose to move all of the glass-blowing studios here because of the fires.
Here’s how I got this photo haha
Here I watched the birth of a photographer. 🙂 This guy was so patiently helping the little one frame a shot, pointing out the rule of thirds and leading lines. It was so cute.
The next stop was Burano, which is known for handmade lace and colorful houses. I want to live here. Even on a drizzly, dreary day, it was so CHEERFUL! How could you not be happy when all of your buildings are yellow, pink, blue, and orange?
My little photographer’s heart was fully alive here.
How many photos of these colorful houses is too many? The limit does not exist.
Look at my little fiancé!! He wasn’t my fiancé yet, but I really love calling him that.
This little man is my favorite.
Our last stop was Torcello, home to 11 residents. ELEVEN.
Robert, ever the adventurer, got tickets for us to climb Torcello’s bell tower. The views were pretty incredible!
This big brother was holding onto his little brother so he could peer down at the ducks in the canal without falling in. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
When we got back to Venice, it was raining some, but we explored some more anyway! You could walk around this little island all day and never stop finding new alleys & canals that are adorable.
Throughout our trip, Robert was always patient when I had to stop to photograph every cluster of “love locks” along the way. That’s why I’m going to marry him. 😉
This street is actually a large canal that they recently paved over.
The next day, we bought a skip the line tour for Doge’s Palace. It was pretty expensive, but I thought it would be worth it to a) skip the insanely long lines and b) learn things and actually know what were looking at. I hate going to big, historic places and just walking around not knowing what you’re looking at. Luckily, we had a really great guide who made it worth it. He shimmied right past all the lines and other tour groups, which made us feel very important. He was also incredibly passionate and proud of Venice’s history, which made ME feel really proud of Venice!
Inside the Palace, you get to see the Golden Staircase, which is painted with 24k gold. It’s incredible.
All of the rooms are opulent and beautiful so that any visitors would never forget that the republic of Venice was number one. The top and bottom doors were even part of that. The top part of the door ONLY opened for the Doge, partly because his flag bearers and stuff were tall, but also because . . . that door only opens for him. He was the man, but he wasn’t a king. Venice was really big into finding conspirators and imprisoning them before they became tyrants.
WHO MAKES ART LIKE THIS ANYMORE?
After a lunch break, we went into St. Mark’s Basilica, which is very dark but also beautiful. The sad thing is . . . there are no photos allowed. You know, there is research says that sometimes taking photos actually weakens our memories. In this case, not having any photos of the inside makes it hard for me to remember what it even looked like! Especially after another week and a half of seeing some of the most famous churches in the world.
From the Basilica, we figured out how to get through some exhibits and eventually outside to overlook the Square. It was raining (of course!), but still very, very cool (of course).
I would also recommend checking out Museo Correr, which is at the opposite end of the square from the Basilica.
During our last evening in Venice, the flood waters (aqua alta) were expected to be so high that they would even flood our little street. The restaurant we had dinner in closed early so everyone could get home before water was up to their knees. All night, I heard the pumps flushing water out of the building and the late night folks sloshing through water below us. Venice is a wild, wild place.
Oh, and before we went to dinner, Robert helped Lorenzo fix the bathroom sink pipes that another guest had broken. He kept saying to me, “Oh you must be so proud, he’s so handy!” I was like, “Well, this is actually very normal. He’s kind of a landlord, too.” 😉 Lorenzo was so grateful that he took us out for a spritz before he met friends for a movie. His movie was cancelled because of the impending flood. That’s life in Venice!
In the morning, we said good-bye to Lorenzo and caught another water bus to the train station. Next stop, Florence!!
ALL THE LINKS!
Al Chianti — we adored this place! This is where our waiter spoke Italian, English, French, Spanish, and some Mandarin. Plus, it was the best spaghetti carbonara I had the whole trip!
Tours & Activities
Murano, Burano, & Torcello Boat Tour (you will save money if you buy from here)
Skip the Line Guided Tour of Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) — If you love history, I would recommend the Secret Itineraries Tour. That takes you to more restricted spots in the palace. I wish we had done it!
Water buses: use ticket stations at the airport and docks
Train: Trenitalia (we took the speed train to Florence)
What I wish we had time for: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Maybe next time! 🙁