We arrived in Venice after a short flight from Madrid. A bus then brought us to a port where a water bus was to take us to various docks scattered throughout the city. Venice is basically a series of roughly 100 'islands' separated by lagoons, rivers, and the Grand Canal. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the island, so boats carry people (and goods) from one end of the city to the other. While we were taking the water bus to our stop, we saw water ambulances, water UPS vehicles, and water taxis (even with the little TAXI sign on the top!).
After settling into our amazing hotel (complete with balcony and river view), we decided to do what we normally do in new locations: take a walk and get lost. Lucky for us, the first place we ran across was a gelateria and enjoyed our first true Italian gelato. To be honest, I have no idea what we got since this was one of MANY cups of gelato we would treat ourselves to while in Italy. After that, we continued on to St. Mark's Basilica, called by some the most beautiful Catholic structure in the world. Since it was later in the afternoon at this point, we decided to just check out the exterior and the rest of Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square). Our eyes were overwhelmed by the intricate mosaics, statues, and domes covering the basilica. In addition to the basilica, the Piazza San Marco is flanked by two glorious bell towers: St. Mark's Campanile and St. Mark's Clocktower. The Clocktower (part of which is shown below) is an example of an astronomical clock in which the position of the sun and moon along with other zodiac information can be determined.
This astronomical display is topped by a what looks like a digital clock with Roman numerals. You can actually see the numbers change every five minutes. Then, above that clock are two bronze statues next to the bells. These statues have blackened over time, so they are known as "Moors" (how politically correct, huh?) At 55 minutes past the hour, you can actually see the statues swing mallets against the bells to appear as if they are the ones striking the bells.
After people-watching on the plaza for awhile, we decided to start thinking about dinner. (Okay, that's a lie, because we probably had started to think about dinner the minute we landed in Italy. . .). We went to a casual eatery deep in one of the Venetian neighborhoods. Before I mention what we ate, I should mention that a typical Italian meal is endless with multiple courses. First there is the antipasto course (appetizer), follwed by the primp piatti (typically a pasta). Following that, a secondo piatti (a meat or main course) and then a contorno (vegetable or side dish). Finally, the dolce (dessert) is enjoyed with a caffe. So, you can see why a meal might take two hours and cost a lot of euros! With all of that information, Chris and I decided to split an antipasti (an appetizer of various seafood pieces) and a primi piatti (pasta with salmon and zucchini). For dessert, we split a piece of tiramisu. At that point, Chris made a decision to try a piece of tiramisu in every city we would visit.
The next morning, we decided to trek back to St. Mark's Basilica and view the inside. One of the most interesting parts of the interior was the tile floor, which was literally warped so badly that it formed deep divets that looked like waves. Venice is literally sinking, and as a result, the tiles have started to sink unevenly. In addition to the actual nave, we visited the treasury which included an impressive collection of precious gems, pottery, relics, and other rich treasures from the days when Venetian Crusaders conquered Constantinople.
Following the Basilica, we popped into a Venetian glass studio where we were treated to a private glass-blowing demonstration. I bet you never realized that a glass lemon could be transformed into a glass cat, huh? After that, we continued on our walk where Chris indulged on a pastry filled with chocolate-cafe cream before finding a little restaurant for lunch. Feeling a little bit rushed, we both ordered the same dish: raviolis stuffed with porcini mushrooms in a lobster sauce over arugula. This meal may have Chris' favorite meal the entire month we were in Europe, and a top contender for me.
More walking and more snacking, we finally decided that it was time to head back to the hotel for a little rest. On our way back, we picked up some groceries and had a little cocktail party on our balcony. For dinner, we decided to stay in our neighborhood and visit a pizzeria for some Italian pizza and beer. We ended our last Venetian night with a walk over the Rialto bridge (one of the four bridges that crosses the Grand Canal) and a little people-watching on St. Mark's Square. Tomorrow, we had a six-hour train ride to the Cinque Terre!