I am back in London after two glorious weeks in Italy. And I have to say, it sort of feels like coming home. But I’ll save the philosophical musings for another post, and tell you about the first leg of our trip.
I met Sabrina, my Canadian friend and travel partner, in Venice. While I was studying for and sitting my final exam, she was soaking up the sun in the south of France. But once you read about our time in Italy, you’ll see I have no right to complain.
We arrived around 11pm, and since we could only check in to our hostel until midnight, we thought it best to take a taxi. But the driver told us it wasn’t possible to drive there; we would have to take a boat to get to our hostel. And so the fairy tale of Venice began.
Fortunately, we found the place in time (on the public transport ferry and then a short walk). It was one of my favourite hostels I’ve stayed at so far. The place was once a Palace, and you could kind of tell. Our spacious eight-bed dormitory had a high, decorated ceiling – really cool. From our windows, we could see along the canals.
When I was younger, I liked arriving at a holiday destination at night when it was already dark. Because it was always so exciting to wake up and see what the place looked like in the daylight. I don’t think there’s a better place to have had that experience than Venice.
The place is absolutely breathtaking. It’s as beautiful as people say it is, as incredible as it looks in movies and in pictures. Perhaps even more so – it almost doesn’t seem real. Our first day was warm and sunny, and we spent hours wandering through the streets and along the canals, taking it all in.
We decided to take the public ferry to the end of its route, which gave us a feel for Venice from the water. Of course, taking a gondola is the thing to do, but it’s quite expensive. Perhaps one day I’ll go back to Venice with someone special, and ride a gondola with him. It certainly is a romantic city.
For lunch we had our first slice of Italian pizza and for dinner our first Italian pasta. It really is better in Italy. There are many restaurants along the canals, all with alfresco dining. It was lovely to eat our dinner beside a canal. And I mustn’t forget the gelato, which we somehow fit in between lunch and dinner. Oh the gelato… I could include a paragraph about the food we ate every day, but I’ll try to refrain from doing that.
On our second day in Venice we visited St Mark’s Basilica – the first of many amazing Basilicas we would see on our trip. It’s impressive from the outside, but inside you hardly know where to look. There are spires and domes, mosaic and marble; everything with such detail. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photos inside. But if you climb to the top, as we did, you have a fantastic view of St Mark’s Square and the water beyond it.
That afternoon, we took a boat to Murano Island, famous for its glass. We were able to see the glass-blowing in action at a factory, which was pretty cool to watch. It’s done with extreme heat. Shop after shop on the island sells the beautiful, colourful products; anything you can imagine made of glass. From enormous sculptures worth thousands of Euros to more obvious things like vases, to decorative ornaments, to jewellery. A few of my friends scored souvenirs from here, as did I.
Our hostel offered 5 euro, three course Italian dinners every night. A good deal, especially in Venice, which tends to put pressure on the purse strings. Not only was it good food, but it was a great way to get to know people from around the world. A highlight of the hostel experience is interacting with like-minded young travellers.
The next day we took a train to Verona, about an hour out of Venice. (Although we took the slow, cheap train so it took us two hours) The delightful little city was made famous by Shakespeare, who set a number of his plays there, most notably Romeo and Juliet. The top tourist attraction is Juliet’s house, which houses a museum dedicated to Shakespeare’s most celebrated lovers. We also visited Juliet’s tomb, at a separate site. I had to keep reminding myself that she’s a fictional character.
Along our wanderings through Verona, we saw many a church and impressive old building. We climbed to the top of a bell tower, from which we had views across the entire city, out to its surrounding mountains. There were markets, too, satisfying our need to shop. Once again we had sunshine, delicious food… all amounting to a thoroughly enjoyable day.
And that was it for our time in Venice. The following morning, we headed to Florence. Stay tuned for the next post.