The view from atop a bridge in Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Woke up early to my new friend Kaitlyn’s booming laugh. I tried tagging myself in one of her Instagram posts the previous night but accidentally tagged a guy from Hong Kong with a similar user name! He left a very confused comment on her photo and we couldn’t get over it. Oops!

After a very carb-heavy buffet breakfast, we hopped onto the bus heading to the boat yard. The boat ride to Venice was one long, amazing view and I was in sensory overload due to our arrival at the floating city. Tour guides in Italy have to be certified for each place they specialize in, so we acquired a very tall, Venice specific guide who walked us along the coast towards St. Mark’s Basilica.

The square where the Basilica stands is intrinsically gorgeous. Apparently, the entire square floods during heavy rain and the people who live there use planks to get around above the water! As for Basilica itself – I can’t event begin to describe its magnificence (I promise that is not a copout description!). It is covered in 24 carat gold leaf glass murals that portray the various books of the bible. I felt so small inside the Basilica and my neck started to ache from looking up at the art on the ceiling for almost the entirety of the tour.

Inside St. Mark's Basilica

After the Basilica tour, we walked through the narrow streets to the famous Murano Glass Factory which makes Venetian glass. Over thirty years ago, my mother visited this very factory and bought a red and gold wine glass set that we use every Christmas. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to retrace her steps and go to this family famed place. Once we climbed up the old, narrow, wooden steps to the artisans workshop, we watched one of the glass masters make a beautiful glass horse and then toured the gift shop (of course!). I even saw the same glasses my mother owns!

Post glass tour, we had a mandatory gelato break, and then we headed for the gondolas. Our gondola captain was singing Italian hits like a drunken bird throughout our ride and said “spaghetti” when we told him to say “cheese” for the camera! He was great. You could basically describe all of the gondola guys as having the “Jersey Shore Guido” look. Overall, it was a very relaxing and fun experience floating through the canals of Venice.

About an hour of cruising later, we navigated through the maze-like streets of Venice to a restaurant with wifi for lunch. Plus-side to Italy’s tourist area restaurants – lots of them provide free wifi if you eat there. Down-side to Italy’s restaurants – the waiters get very irritated if you ask for tap water. The tap water is perfectly drinkable, but they always want to charge for bottled, so they will tell you they don’t have tap when they do.

After lunch and an agitated waiter later, we did some street vendor shopping and I acquired a beautiful painting of Venice from a local university art professor. It was bursting with color so I had to have it as a souvenir.

We eventually made our way back to Dario (our overall tour guide) and hopped back on the boat to out hotel. Since our dinner experience at the previous night’s restaurant was so excellent, we returned with an even bigger group for some pizza. One of the girls tried the black squid ink pasta and her mouth turned black! We ate and then hurried back to the hotel to subsequently zonk out.

Venice travel tips:

  • Bring a hat and sun screen. All of the outside walking under the sun will catch up to you.
  • Ask for tap water at the restaurants. Why pay for bottled when the tap is just as good?
  • Go to the glass factories for a demonstration. Not only is it an amazing art to watch, but the demonstration is a worth while break off of your feet during a full day of touring.
  • Haggle the street vendors when buying souvenirs. Most of the prices are very negotiable if you are not in an actual shop.

Getting to Venice, Italy

After two days with our 43 people tour group, little sub-groups started forming. I became good friends with two other girls from Texas and one from Miami, all of whom decided to room together in our hotel outside of Venice!

We arrived in the late afternoon to an adorable hotel right on the beach. It was a little chilly on the coast so we grabbed sweaters and headed to the beach before sunset. Despite the cold, some of the girls ran into the ocean. I dipped my toes in and immediately got goose bumps and respect for those crazies who were in up to their necks! We got a little crazy with pictures instead..

Silliness on the beach in Italy

The sun started setting so we took off on an adventure through the little town to find a place to eat. We found a quaint little family run place with home-made wine and tortellinis – my favorite combination! A few other girls joined our group, totaling 10 in all, basically filling the entire restaurant! Even with all of the other girls, our “core four” group ended up having a very deep and fulfilling conversation about our lives. It’s amazing how people from all different backgrounds can become so united in such a short period of time.

After such intense conversation, and a little more vino, we decided to lighten the mood with some 1€ go kart races on the way back to the hotel. I ended up on the “cop kart” and chased everyone down. It was silly but was one of the most fun nights of my entire life!

Go Karting in Venice, Italy

After a few laps around the track, we met the rest of the tour group back at the hotel for a night-cap and then bed to rest of for our day in Venice!