I let out a deep sigh as we slogged our suitcases and backpacks back to the train station. After all, the three days and nights we’d spent in Florence had been amazing. It wasn’t fair that we had to leave so soon. The city was historic, romantic, artistic, vibrant-yet-relaxed and so much damn fun. Disappointed but eager to explore our next destination, we boarded the train for Venezia.
The train ride was good for recharging and for reading up on the history of Venice. We knew the city no roads, but waterways instead — and that its population was smaller than Florence or Rome. I’d read Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice years before, but memories of reading it only conjured up descriptions of the city, not insight into the city’s founders, triumphs and struggles. We read that Venice was built on a marsh by refugees of Roman cities, and that it rose to power when it overtook Constantinople in the early 11th century. Later, on our private tour, we learned a great deal more about the city and its “borrowed” religious relics from other rising and fallen God-fearing greats.
Anyway, arriving at the train station immediately gave way to great views. It was beautiful — but bizarre — to see people lugging groceries, suitcases, kids and laundry across bridges large and small. While the water did have a slight odor, it seemed mild (not at all like the fishy/sewage smell I've heard others complain about).
We arrived around 11:30 and were hungry for lunch. A few side "streets" away from a major bridge, we spotted Enoteca due Colonne. The place looked casual, unassuming and popular with lunching businessmen. We enjoyed small servings from the ristorante's deli counter. Mmmmm fresh sauteed peppers and eggplant in tomato sauce, zucchini, bread, stuffed tomatoes and a salami sandwich — all washed down with Coke Lights. I did mention to Dan that this was the most vegetables we'd had in one meal yet. I think our bodies thanked us. One can only go so long on wine, pasta and meat. While we heard Venice had many a tourist trap restaurant and attraction, we thought the food was authentic, the staff nice and the price decent (21 euros for everything).
We then made our way to our bed and breakfast in the Jewish Ghetto. Domus Orsoni was out of this world. Our accommodations had been great in both Rome and Florence — but Dan really outdid himself with this final place. The lobbies, sitting areas, rooms and bathrooms were all adorned with tile from the famous Orsoni glass factory. We enjoyed looking at every stunning room in this place. I wish I could find more photos of the breathtaking mosaics proudly displayed on the first level. Our legs thanked us, too, as we were only one flight's worth of stairs from our bed this time. Our room ran us about 150 euro/night.
Seeing in that we only had two nights to spend in Venice, we were eager to go explore. We meandered around the Rialto Bridge, picked up a few nicknacks for friends from vendor booths, popped and out of shops, enjoyed some gelato and watched kids (illegally) feed and hold pigeons in St. Mark's Square. We ventured into a bookstore off the square to find out more about recommended restaurants and the nightlife. As we paid for an expanded map, we saw a poster for Carnival the Show, a theatrical performance on the history of Venice. We were a little leery of the 39 euro/person ticket cost, so we asked the cashier what she knew about the show. She said she'd heard good things — and that it was a good orientation to the city. We said, "what the hell" and bought two tickets for later that night.
We gave ourselves just enough time to bust it back to Domus Orsoni to freshen up for dinner. To make the show in time, we decided to buy passes on the Water Bus (just like it sounds — like a metro transit bus but on the water). Would you believe the passes were 6.5 euro/person for one trip? A looming water bus strike also made us feel a little uncomfortable... but hey, it was faster than walking and cheaper than a gondola!
It wasn't long before we had rip-off moment number two. Short on time, we popped into what looked like a fast food joint. Run by a handful of Asian twenty-somethings, we safely assumed the self-serve restaurant wouldn't be your traditional, authentic, Venetian cuisine. In our minds, we thought this would be kind of the Italian equivalent to a Picadilly. Well, a couple of chicken breasts, a side salad, some bow tie pasta and two small glasses of wine later, we owed this little joint 35 euro. Yikes!
The Carnival show received decent feedback on TripAdvisor, but I wouldn't recommend it. Pros: a digestible Venetian history in an hour and 20 minutes, good seats, easy-to-understand actors and relatively entertaining plot line. Cons: a pretty strong campiness/cheesiness factor, probably a younger (or much older?) target demographic and a steep price tag for what you get. To be honest, I wondered if that cashier lady somehow got a commission off our ticket sale. There's no way she could say [in good faith] that she'd heard good things about the show.
It was an expensive night, so we decided to walk back to our place. The walk back was actually quite refreshing, as the weather remained a steady 65 degrees at night.
After the day's turn of events, I realized why some people like Venice to Disneyworld. On top of developing a feeling that Venice was more likely to exploit tourists compared to the other cities, it was also on this day that I realized none of my comfortable shoes were actually that comfortable. Note to fellow lady travelers: flat shoes (even lightweight tennis shoes) don't always equate to comfort. I will invest a little more in walking shoes for our next trip.
After a day of hitting the mainstream, we went to bed in our fabulous B&B with our minds drifting to tomorrow's highly-rated walking and boating tour through the city...