Day 5

It was chilly but a much nicer day when we left Castelrotto and headed for our next stop, Venice! The city of Venice is actually much more than the islands in the lagoon that I generally picture in my head; there’s an expanding area on the mainland that’s also part of the city. Sadly, the costs of living on the islands has gotten so expensive that many Venetians are moving to the mainland and commuting to work. Hotels are taking over and the place is being overrun by tourists. I can’t complain too much, we’re part of that. The good thing is that Venice is protected since it’s a living museum and there are a lot of restrictions as far as renovations/remodels.

Everything in Venice is done by boat because there are no cars or motorbikes in the city – I really enjoyed this. We left the bus behind on the mainland and took a vaporetto (a ‘bus boat’) to the main island. From where the boat dropped us off to the hotel was a short walk but we crossed many canals which was a bit of a challenge for those with heavier bags!

Venice, being on a lagoon, is subject to very high waters every so often in the fall/winter season. To cope with this and keep people from having to wade to work, they set up these temporary walkways everywhere that get submerged. For now they are just staged in stacks everywhere.

After we got checked in and settled, Sarah took us on an orientation walk followed by a gondola ride! It had originally been planned for the next evening, but the weather looked questionable and gondoliers are unlikely to work in the rain.

Immediately after our gondola ride, we went to dinner. We came into view of the Rialto Bridge for just a minute before we ducked into a little alleyway which led to our restaurant. This dinner was AMAZING. The wine came first, quickly followed by a beautiful and oh so delicious caprese appetizer. We then had a choice of spaghetti with mixed seafood, cuttlefish (regional dish), or a more traditional meat sauce. I went for the cuttlefish, even after being warned it might turn our mouths black temporarily. After the pasta, the waiters brought beef, calamari and shrimp, and then salad! OH, and tiramisu for dessert! We were all bursting at the seams after dinner but it was SO worth it!

Kathy (anther Washingtonian on the trip) was having too much fun suggesting that the waiter was interested in me… And of course I turned red at the suggestion. I blame the multiple glasses of wine we kept pouring each other. I think if anything, he was wondering how in the heck I was eating so much!

Having spent a good many hours with each other at this point, our group was starting to mesh so well. Everyone already felt like old friends and the jokers in the group were starting to show their inner goofball!

Day 6

We spent the morning with a local guide who took us on a winding walk around the city, explaining more about how the city of Venice functions, how it was formed, and many historical tidbits.

This vantage point really made the lean of the Campanile stand out. It’s actually fallen down a few times already and there’s plans in place to take it down and rebuild before it falls on it’s own again.

One thing I knew I wanted to find in Venice was a Venetian mask, so Sarah pointed out this shop as one that was very reputable. Mom and I made a point to go back there after our walk.

The boats were somewhat limited by the bridge clearance/ water level and would sometimes get stuck waiting for the water level to change. Another interesting boating tidbit: motorboats travel like cars would normally at home, on the right, but gondolas do the opposite because the oar is on the right.

Midway though our walk, we got to visit an artisan’s workshop where oars and fucolas – sort of the equivalent of the gear shaft – for gondolas are made. The fucola is unique to each gondolier and gondola because it’s based on height and trimmed to fit the gondola tightly.

Our tour continued until we had another short break near the local marketplace, in particular the fresh seafood market.

Our last stop of the walking tour was St. Mark’s Basilica. Our guide gave us a short overview and then left us to enjoy ourselves inside.

Later that afternoon we toured the Doge’s Palazzo, guided by Rick Steves’ audio tour.

After a quick bite to eat near the hotel, we joined a large portion of the group and finished out the day with a Vivaldi concert. Beautiful!

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