48 Hours of Fantastico!

Mom was here for a wonderful three week visit! This trip Mom and I decided to travel on our own for a couple of days and explore Venice. Neither of us had ever been there, and as it is only a 5-hour train ride from Innsbruck, it seemed like a great idea.

And was it ever! Venice is nothing like anywhere else I have been in the world. We had a spectacular time and can’t believe we packed so much into two days.

After the train arrived we walked through the station direct to the Grand Canal, which is the main water artery that snakes through Venice feeding into the smaller canals throughout the city. Here were our first visuals:

We managed to hop onto the correct ferry and made our way to the stop nearest our hotel.

Here you can see the ferry that is Venice's main transportation

Most of the sidewalks are narrow and windy, (does one call them “streets” if it is a city without cars?) but luckily we had a good map and a fairly straight-forward route to our hotel. The family-run hotel we had booked over the Internet worked out well. (Thank you Trip Advisor guest reviews!) I think due to our very last-minute booking, we were upgraded to an apartment that was in another building overlooking the canal. We didn’t spend much time in our spacious room, but it was fun to peer down on the gondolas and wake up in the morning to the chatter of boat operators as they hauled luggage and laundry and groceries throughout the city.

Love the high arched bridges
Gondola passing under our window
It amazes me that all of the necessary business of a bustling city is accomplished on these narrow waterways

As we were in the city for exactly 48 hours, we spent our first lunch going through brochures to plan our itinerary. Mom and I thankfully were completely of the same mind in terms of what we wanted to see and do. Touristy gondola ride? Absolutely! World famous cathedral? Only if we have time. (We have both been lucky enough in our lives to already have toured about 8 zillion historical churches and cathedrals.)

So after a walk through the main tourist plaza, St. Mark’s, we took a 30-min gondola ride. It was fantastic. The gondoliers are all male, dressed as you would expect in striped shirts, and exceptionally skilled. They can pass within millimeters of another boat or a wall without hitting anything.

Mom and I in head out in a 6-person gondola
View from the water
Creative marketing to the tourists floating by

From the gondola it is apparent how dilapidated the outside of the buildings are, wearing away from the constant movement of the water. It must be a huge adventure to even paint these buildings, never mind repair them.

We had been traveling since 5 a.m. (in order to take the more direct train), so after our ride we poked around the shops, had dinner and returned to our room.

The central city of Venice has a population of 60,000 people and I would guess 98.7% of them are affected in some way by tourism. I almost exclusively heard English during our stay here. Even our first night of meals in the touristy area was merely O.K., which surprised me because I’ve been to highway stops in Italy that produced tasty pasta and pizza. I guess when you know almost no-one is returning, you don’t try very hard.

I kept trying to image what this amazing place must have been like 150 years ago…or 500 years ago for that matter. A major center for trade and commerce and culture, filled with the riches of the world. A harsh life too at times, no doubt, subject to the weather in unique and challenging ways.

Our second day’s planned walking tour was flooded out. We were very lucky in that the day before we came there was over a meter of water covering the square. We just had a fairly shallow layer that only lasted until noon. There are table-like pathways set up to get through the plaza, staff wear rubber boots and some brave tourists even take their shoes off and wade through the murky water.

Waiting in line to see the Basilica
Waiters in tuxes and waders

Instead of our tour we spent a couple of hours taking the audio tour of the Doge’s Palace, which we were very impressed with. The Gothic architecture is awe-inspiring and the artwork is brilliant. Our only problem was as we were ready to leave, I took a wrong turn and we was sucked down into the labyrinth of prison cells that span the cellars of the building. A bit disturbing. My photos weren’t great of the Palace, so here are a few images from the official website:

This room was full of historic globes and maps

After a tasty pizza lunch we walked towards another area of the city where the Accedamia is located. The museum itself wasn’t our favourite, although of course interesting, as it housed almost exclusively large religious paintings. We were, however, happy to see a bit more of a residential area of the city with school children and babies in strollers walking by.

Then more shopping, buying Murano glass jewelry and embroidered linen, two things Venice is famous for. The next time I go back I’m going to take a tour of the Murano glass factory. I’m sure I’ll find it fascinating.

Before dinner we went up the bell tower in St. Mark’s Square, which at the time I thought was too expensive and something we probably could have passed on. However, now that I’m home I’m happy to have the pictures of the spectacular view.

Bell tower

All that and not a single car!
Beautiful panorama
One of the Venitian Islands

After a rest at the hotel we found a very tasty restaurant to make up for the night before and then talked and walked down by the water. Beautiful with all the lights.

Friday morning we didn’t leave until noon, so we actually decided to check out St. Mark’s Basilica and I’m sure glad we did! It, like so much else in Venice, was different than anything I’ve seen. There is tile everywhere and the religious depictions are all made from mosaic glass. Stunningly beautiful.

Then back on the train through the pretty Italian countryside and home to recover from our adventure. What a great time! And Mom and I travelled really well together, which is important since we are hoping to spend a week in Scotland to check out our family roots sometime in the next year.

For all the ups and downs of the last two years, I won’t ever regret this time living in Europe because of the travelling I’ve done. I feel blessed and enlightened and a better person for it. And I also know that even if we return to Canada, I’ll be brave enough to keep experiencing more of the world and be able to show it off to Annie as she gets older. And that is a real gift.