Thursday, August 3, 2006 (DAY 9)
Today = Venezia.
To be honest, this city isn’t at all that Hollywood has made it out to be. Yes, this fish-shaped island is picturesque and unique with it’s gondola-spotted canals and flocks of pigeons flying through San Marco Piazza. Perhaps it was the rain at the beginning of the day that put a damper on things, but overall I found this city very crowded and touristy.
But of course, I couldn’t let my trampled expectations cloud the perfect opportunity for an adventurous day. I spent my time in Venice immersed in one of my favorite activities – getting lost. Why? Because that’s what you do here. Once out of view of Doge’s Palace and Campanile Tower, Venice is a maze of narrow cobblestone allies glittered with bistro cafés and shops selling everything from Versace designer bags to cheap masks and glass necklaces.
But backing up a bit, our tour started off the day with a glass-blowing demonstration. Italy is famous for its Murano glass. We next moved onto the lace school for some more lessons in Venetian culture. Then I was off amble wildly through Venice.
Along the way, Kathryn and I did some shopping, took some pictures (the Rialto bridge and Italian chefs are must-haves for any photo album) and stopped in a café for wine and coffee. Playing off the adventurous spirit of the day, I decided to have a caffé freddo since I had no idea what it was. As it turns out, caffé freddo means cold coffee, and though I’m not usually a fan, this was the best cold coffee I’d ever had. It was rich and vibrant, sweet but not sugary. Absolutely delicious, though not as strong in caffeine as I hoped. (No Italian coffee seems to be.)
Then we met up with the group to take part in a Venetian tradition you might have heard of – a gondola ride. We enjoyed the canals sipping our wine and relaxing under what turned out to be a clear sky. Our gondolier (we’ll call him André for lack of remembering his real name) navigated the waters with grace, though he refused to serenade us like they do in the movies.
Afterwards the gracious cook at Trattoria da Bruno welcomed us into his restaurant for a delicious fish meal (they eat the whole thing here… head and all). An accordion and clarinet decorated the room with familiar tunes that we enjoyed dancing to. Italians really are a very generous bunch, and to not appreciate their hospitality would be like kicking them in the stomach.
Then we hopped the boat back to our hotel, singing merrily along the way. From what I can tell, Italian hotels are great. They have A/C. Their bathrooms, however, are another story. Very small. Very compact. The toilet is inside the shower! And of course there’s the bidet to wash off your hind ends. (Though I wasn’t brave enough to find out how well that works.) Then it was off to rest because tomorrow we journey onward through the Tuscan valley.