I left my stuff in San Francisco, but I left my heart in Venice –
Venice. La Serenissima. The gateway of the Renaissance. The folks who invented Quarantine. I will be forever grateful that when I finally set off to see the world, my first stop was Venice. She was more than I dreamed, and a classic example that the world is a bigger place than you can imagine.
Far From the Madding Crowd.
I booked my Airbnb in Venice based on the fact that it had a bathtub (I’ve been living in drought country for years), it was an attic room with a lovely odd window, there was a rooftop terrace, and it seemed to be on the other side of Venice from St. Mark’s Square. It turns out it is in the Cannaregio Sieste in the northwest corner of Venice. This really is away from the main tourist areas. I loved that many of the local shop workers didn’t speak English (or at least wouldn’t admit it). At 8:00 in the morning, the streets were still practically deserted. It was heavenly. This is also where I learned that in Venice it’s not a matter of how far away something is, it’s all about how many bridges are between here and there.
When the Moon Hits Your Eye…That’s Amore.
Not for me, alas. One of the traditions I quickly developed was going to Piazza San Marco at 10:30 each night and getting a table and a glass of wine at Caffe Florian (est. 1720) to listen to their wonderful band. Stand-up bass, piano, violin, and accordion. My kind of music. At midnight on my first night, a fellow not far from me dropped to his knee and pulled out a ring case. I tried to dig out my camera, but she had squealed and thrown her arms around him long before I brought it to hand. Once the applause died down I approached them and mentioned that if they wanted to do that again, I would take pictures for them. He was particularly grateful since that was the one aspect he couldn’t figure out. I feel so blessed that I could help these folks share their incredible moment with their family and friends. I told them both I really liked his style.
Gondolas for the Win
In my exhaustive research of what to do and not do in Venice, I repeatedly came across the suggestion not to take a gondola ride. They are expensive. About $80 during the day, $100 at night, and more if you want the gondolier to sing. I admit that one of the reasons I signed up for a “Wine and Tapas Tour” was with the hope that I might make some friends who would be willing to share the expense. No such luck. There were 2 couples with me, newlyweds and anniversary celebrants, and they did their best to include me, but I was definitely a fifth wheel. Luckily the main reason I signed up was the food and wine, and that was fantastic. I learned to order “dame na ombra” – a small glass filled to the brim with the house wine.
My favorite activity in Venice was signing up for the 1-hour touristy group gondola tour for $33. Yes, they put me in a gondola with 4 other folks I didn’t know. But come on folks – it’s Venice! Nothing says “Venice” like gondolas. More importantly, traveling through the back alleys by gondola is the only way to experience them. Living the history and culture of these craftsmen was as epic as Venice is herself.