We said a sad goodbye to Tuscany and promised ourselves we’d return one day with a rental car to explore more: vineyards, hiking, etc. (We’re dreaming of my siblings and their spouses all returning with us for a week in the hills! <3)
Somehow we managed to make all our buses back into Firenze (the actual Italian name of Florence). We got on board the first train to Venice and we were off. Thankfully no trouble at all getting into Venice, hopping onto “public boat number 1” to Rialto Bridge and walking the few short blocks to our private hostel room. We stayed only that night and the next full day and night before we needed to leave for Athens. Venice was our shortest stay and will probably remain our shortest stay of the whole adventure, mostly because it is so expensive to actually stay on the island of Venezia, but also because we had already booked our stay in Greece when I went back to plan out Italy and it’s just sort of the way it worked out. We had heard so many mixed reviews about Venice. Some people love it and others say it’s dirty and not worth the hype. Robbie and I must be really low maintenance or something because we just sincerely appreciate and enjoy every place we go (I guess with the slight exception of Stockholm, although it’s certainly not like we hated it. It just wasn’t our favorite.) for what it offers. We don’t go into a place like Venice thinking it’ll be like Faroe Islands or vice versa. Every place has its beauty and value, and we try to experience it with open hearts, ready to take in the magic that is specific to that city or that country. With that being said, Venice was lovely to us and there really is a certain magic about the place.
What made Venice super different than anywhere we’ve been so far is that cars are not allowed on the island. With transportation only being on the water and everyone else just walking, the city had a certain quietness to it even with plenty of tourists. We noticed right away that people congregate in the popular squares, like St. Mark’s or Rialto Bridge, but they seemingly don’t explore into the rest of the city much. Robbie and I thoroughly enjoyed our long walks through the winding, empty streets and alleys of most of the island. It would be so quiet in some of the walkways, it would feel like we were the only two people outside, as if we were in a suburban neighborhood during the work day. This was so fun for us. We definitely got lost a time or two, just wandering.
The first evening I talked Robbie into taking me on a gondola ride. It’s sort of cheesy (and honestly way too expensive–all gondola rides in Venice are the same price no matter who you buy it through: $80 cash-only for a 30 minute ride) but I felt like we couldn’t go to Venice and not take a gondola. Robbie, although originally didn’t think it would be that great of an experience, ended up loving it. It really was romantic, even if it’s all a little forced. We took the ride at sunset, the air still warm from the sun, yet cool enough to cuddle up close to each other; the calm water reflecting the brick buildings perfectly. Our guide rowed us down empty canals and busy ones at a perfect pace. We heard the echo of an Italian man’s singing. We floated under bridges and waved to strangers watching out of their top-floor windows. It was special and we were so glad we did it. Definitely worth the experience.
That same night we grabbed some bananas, cashews and drinks (random, but that’s what sounded good because for some reason neither of us were very hungry that night for a full dinner) from a local Coop market and found a fun dock to sit on where other couples and friends had made their way to picnic on that evening as the sun made it’s final descent. We had the view of this amazing art installation of giant hands reaching out of the water and onto the building above. It is supposed to symbolize the tragedy of the rising water levels. Venice, without very expensive intervention, would be sinking, and technically still is, but they’re slowing the progression of it by certain methods. The art piece is really unique and unexpected. It won’t be there forever, so we were happy we had the chance to see it in person before it gets taken down.
The next day, our only full day in Venice, was really just spent visiting St. Mark’s Square, the beautiful basilica there, hanging out by the water, wandering the streets, crossing so many bridges and admiring the gondolas, and eating our last pizza from Italy we will eat for a really long while. The night ended with more snack eating on some steps right next to the famous Rialto Bridge along the Grand Canal until pretty late. We talked for a long time about the great parts of Italy, our favorite meals, our favorite moments or days in different places, how different each spot was that we chose to stay in in the country and what made them special. We discussed how surprised we were by how much we loved Rome (considering how low our expectations were), how we’d loved to revisit Tuscany to see more of it, and how we feel we had the perfect amount of time in Amalfi to do it justice.
Venice was short, but truly sweet. We are so happy we made a stop here before leaving the country. Our three weeks in Italy were something else– a true joy and life-long desire fulfilled!