Anyone who was anyone seemed to have something to say about Venice.
“It smells terrible!”
“It’s very cold there.”
“It’s sinking, did you know?”
Of course, there were a few positive remarks – but mostly, Venice’s word-of-mouth was grim.
With all of these preconceived ideas, who knows if I would have made it to Italy’s northern coast at all.
Luckily, I had a class trip that put this city on the map for me. And I’m glad it did.
Do you know what I think?
I think Venice is beautiful.
We arrived bright and early to Venice’s train station, and though it was cold and windy we wasted no time getting out to explore. With a few hours free time, we were eager to use our weekend “water bus” passes to get a little ways from the hotel, then trek back.
Maybe a little too eager, because we hopped on an express bus to the island Murano. Which we realized when the boat started to get out a ways in to the open ocean, awkward. We deserved the laughs we got from other passengers, but with plenty of time and plenty to see, we were content just riding the blue waves.
Half an hour later and back on main land, we wound our way down alleys and along canals, over small bridges and past fresh seafood markets. We walked down tiny streets where the silence was surreal, and loud avenues excited with the commencement of Carnival.
Carnival is a month long festival in Italy, but certainly is most famous in Venice. Like a classier version Halloween for all ages, the month of February gives little girls good reason to walk around in princess gowns while older couples don elegant Renaissance attire on their powdered white faces.
And everyone wears a masquerade mask at night, and many do during the day as well. In every color and shape, Venetian masks are sold around every corner in the city – both in high-end stores and by street vendors.
A biggest sight that we saw was Piazza San Marco (location for the J.Crew July style guide, fyi), and the general grand canal area. My favorite place was Ponte Rialto, one of the larger bridges with shops and eateries fixed on it. At night, it is romantic and majestic.
Actually, all of Venice is romantic. Venturing off the bright and busy Grand Canal, the places I liked best were small bridges over tiny canals – where quiet homes with flowers on their terraces let out to moonlit waterways just large enough to let a small boat or gondola pass through, gently interrupting it’s stillness.
We enjoyed pizza and drinks at a microbrewery-esqe trattoria and also ate half our body weight in gelato (Kit-Kat is my new favorite!), and after a few more drinks and walks along the water we found ourselves home and soundly asleep after a long day.
Waking up was easy with the smell of warm, sweet croissants wafting up through our vents.
It was still confusing, seeing as our room was in the attic where manor style wood-braced alcoves framed yellow paisley walls and ceiling on red carpet. So after reassuring myself I was in northern Italy, not Germany, we all rushed downstairs to get a good meal.
Make that a great meal. After weeks of grabbing quick, unsatisfying breakfasts before class, it was more than wonderful to eat continental breakfast two mornings in a row. Cereal, granola, yogurt, fresh baked goods, meats, and cheeses – we were happy to fill up, especially with the price of food in Venice. We all tried to stick to one meal per day.
Plus gelato, because YOLO.
Like déjà vu, I was back on the water bus with my class to Murano. This time, our intended destination was this island, and more specifically one of it’s many glass factories for which it is so famous.
Our experience at the glass factory started off on the right foot with “American” coffee and cookies, then proceeded to a small show where we watched glass be hand blown in to pitchers and small animals. The animals are made in less than a minute, so it’s very intricate but also quickly done! Some of the class even got to help, which was just as fun to watch.
After we had been completely mesmerized by the working and shaping of the molten glass, we toured a showroom with chandeliers that could pay for my entire college education. It was all very beautiful, though aside from a few bowls and vases, the glass works weren’t really my style. With big blue glass sea life and overly ornate lighting fixtures, they reminded me of something you would see in a rich grandparents Florida home.
We also got to make our own mosaics and jewelry! A notion that first seemed very exciting and promising until my final product was revealed and looked impressive for a five-year-old. But it was fun. I stuck to buying a few small presents for friends and a glass paperweight for myself – they were just too pretty.
Back on main land, we checked out Doge’s Palace, once home to the highest political figure of Venice. Elaborately decorated with murals mapping the world framed in gold crown molding, it was a sight I was happy we saw.
With the afternoon dwindling away, we made our way back to meet our group at the hotel. Everyone was sad to leave Venice on such a perfect sunny day, but also ready to sleep the four hour train ride back.
This weekend was my first time traveling on the national train line, and I absolutely love it. The trains are clean and spacious, with large windows to see the sights of Italy speed by at 160 miles per hour. From our journey to Verona through the foggy green hills and mid morning sun, to our rainy trip out to Venice surrounded by water, all the way back to Rome with a nearly full moon lighting up the Tuscan countryside – all views were frame-worthy. Trains really are a comfortable, affordable, and beautiful way to see Italy.
And so that was Venice. It was both everything I had pictured, but also far beyond my imagination. The city itself feels nearly godly, as though it had to be created by higher powers with abilities and creativity beyond human power.
I look forward to telling people the rest of my life how enchanting it is, and like many places I’ve been and will go, I do hope to return someday.
Ciao, for now.