Thursday, April 30, 2015

Venedig: die erdfrei Stadt // Venice: The Floating City | Italy, Part 1

April 3, 2015

We spent a calm 28 hour period in Mannheim between our trips to France and Italy to catch up on laundry and sleep before we were off again. We spent the three-day weekend in several different Italian cities, which I felt was enough time to explore half of the cities, but others I want to return to. Our first stop was the beautiful floating city of Venice.

After an overnight bus ride through the snowy Swiss Alps it was a relief to arrive in the sunny Italian state. We took a ferry into the city, disembarked at San Marco's Square, and spent a few hours wandering around the city until our tour later in the afternoon.

None of us had a city map, though I honestly doubt having one would have done us much good as the streets are so narrow and close together - Venice is not the place for claustrophobics. It was never a problem, however, as we somehow always ended up back at San Marco's Square regardless of the direction we went. The square was packed with tourists but once we set off on a side path and turned a few corners the city became peacefully quiet. The streets are lined with old buildings - stores and eateries on the bottom with flats on top - and we had a hard time catching a glimpse of real Venetian life as everything seems geared toward visitors. 

One of our main priorities in Italy was to find gelato, so after wandering the streets for a bit we searched for a relatively inexpensive gelato stand. Some backstory: everyone I know who has gone to Italy has raved about "authentic Italian gelato" and has come off as a bit of a snob. I've always discredited their statements because I've had gelato in the States and in numerous European cities, and to me it's good but not as earth-shattering as they make it out to be. So when we stopped at a fairly nondescript stand on the side of an alley, I wasn't expecting anything better than what I'd found in Mannheim or Vienna. OMG was I wrong. It was the best thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. CB and I both got strawberry and dark chocolate flavours and they were utterly divine. If you've ever wondered what eating pure magic would taste like, buy gelato in Venice.

After our gelato experience we walked back to San Marco's Square for our tour. Our group was led an elderly, sassy Venetian woman who was very knowledgable about the city and often called out in rapid Italian to people she knew in the streets. I particularly found her explanation of the city's architecture fascinating, as Venice was once a vital port city and hosted traders from all over the Mediterranean, and thus has a unique blend of styles throughout the city.

Photo credit: Inhumanly tall man 
At night we took the boat back to our bus and drove a few hours to our hotel in Bologna. There were a few places I wish we had gotten the time to visit, particularly the beach-y area across the water and the famous bookstore with cats, but otherwise I felt like a day in Venice was more than enough time to see all its twisting streets and beautiful canals. 

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