Venice was worth the 13-hour flight, 3-hour wait at the Frankfurt Airport, 2-hour connecting flight, and even the unbearable seasickness on the vaporetto. Once we landed in Venice, it wasn't quite the romantic start I had imagined. Everyone has to take the water bus from the airport to go anywhere, but my stomach just wasn't having it. We just had to get off 5 stops early and walk all the way to the hotel. It also was unexpectedly cold and rainy in Venice that day. I vouched I would never get on another water taxi ever again. Then Elias murmured, "I spent 30 euros on those tickets..." then my "are you serious right now" glare followed. Do not fret, our marriage is stronger and healthier than ever—all is well.
Getting off the water taxi was a blessing in disguise indeed, because although we had to walk 40-45 minutes dragging our luggage, we were able to familiarize ourselves with the map and sightsee our way through Venice. I'm going to admit that I don't like walking too much, but walking that day was all a big adventure. I was also just thankful to be on ground. Here's a funny fact: Venetians do not like to walk. They are so used to their vaporettos, that even a 30minute walk is a major ordeal. One of the waitresses who gave us directions seemed very worried for us because I was not willing to take another vaporetto. She looked as if we were going on a week long journey through the Sahara Desert. If you never get seasick, by all means, take the easy way and conserve your energy.
Locanda Barbarigo, our "hotel" or more like a B&B, was very hard to find—turned out we walked right past it twice. When we finally found the tiny red door after almost an hour of walking in the rain (again, dragging our suitcases), it was such a relief. Their lobby was as small as an average hotel bathroom in America, and our actual bathroom was as small as an apartment closet (not a walk-in closet). If you're going to Europe, you gotta embrace small spaces. The interior decor was beautifully antique, and right out our window was a narrow canal from where we could hear the passing gondoliers sing along to an accordion. Basically, we woke up to people serenading us every morning.
Once our suitcases were on the floor, the only place we were able to relax was the bed. But no time to waste! As soon as I looked a little more presentable after the 14 hour flight and our walk in the rain, we were right back out with a camera and map in hand.
Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) is the place to be. For most tourists anyway. After days of research, I knew one of the tourist traps was to buy or eat near the touristy areas. So we asked our concierge for advice. He kindly circled all the options on our map. Drawing a big circle around the Piazza San Marco's entire area, he said in broken English, "This whole area is very very expensive. Like gold." He was right. They say, eating at any of the restaurants at the main tourist sites is basically paying for the view rather than the food. We didn't want to do that. Every single meal was so precious!
The very first restaurant we went to was family owned and very small. This was usually a good sign. You have to try lobster in Venice, so I did. I have to talk about the pasta at this point. They make their own pasta, and it is NOTHING like what we find in the states. I now understand the true meaning of "al dante": not just undercooked and hard, but extremely chewy and even sweet. It was easy to see that the locals there led a very relaxed life, just enjoying every moment of day. Even the pigeons there were the fattest, and no doubt the happiest.
SIMPLY GET LOST
My friend's advice (who visited Venice) and my advice now to anyone visiting Venice is this: simply get lost. Elias and I got lost plenty even with our map, and that's how we found the most magical spot. It's by the Grand Canal, where about four restaurants are set up on the water. We ate at one of them as the sun was setting, and the view, weather, and food were all so amazing. I think it was the most romantic dinner we've ever had in the last five years. Really, when you are in Venice, relax and eat and walk.
While wandering around, we found many alleyways we fancied. The exposed brick, orange walls, and historic lamp posts were captivating. The one below was my personal favorite. Upon finding such a scenic spot, one must pose obviously.
I was always going to be OK with skipping the gondola ride, just because of the price. And it's just a fancy boat with a man in stripes. But our gondolier, Fabio, was perfect. He had a very thick Italian accent when he spoke English to us, and he would whistle and sing in his husky voice during the ride. He seemed like he was about 50, dark, and stocky. He told us he was the third generation gondolier in his family—his grandfather was a gondolier, then his father, and now himself. "I love Venice, I love my job" he said. When we were going under a bridge he said, "you must kiss when we go under the bridge," which we hesitantly complied. We caught the short fifteen minutes of gorgeous sunset at the beginning, but soon it got dark and mosquitoes started appearing. Poor Elias was my personal bug repellent throughout the entire trip...I didn't get a single bite while he ended up with about ten. Yikes. The gondola ride was romantic, at least when there weren't a bunch of people just staring and taking pictures of us. I have to warn you though, the price goes up after sunset from 80euros to 100. Because we were rushing to get a ride on our last night in Venice, we couldn't find any other couples to split the cost with, so we ended up paying the whole thing. It's quite an experience, so I'd say it was worth it.
Ah, I still think about Venice. I still think about the sunset, the cool breeze, the pasta, the lobster...even the fat pigeons. If I were to go back to any city in Italy, it would be Venice, hands down.