Of course, "Italy" is a pretty tall order, so I picked Venice. It's so unique and different and I was very curious to see this city. Fionn had been there already, but he very sweetly agreed to go again for my sake. Aww :)
As we flew into Marco Polo airport, the view took my breath away. You could see the city as you flew in, and wow was it pretty. The Adriatic Sea was a pretty blue green and all the snaking tributaries and marshland reminded me so much of my own native Georgia lowcountry. When I got off the plane and felt the humidity and smelled the salty swamp air, it made me feel at home. I instantly knew I was going to like Venice.
To mix it up a little, we decided to stay in the nearby city of Padova, which is about a 30 minute train ride from Venice. We figured that way we could get away from the hoards of tourists in Venice and get a more authentically Italian experience.
We booked a great little hotel near the train station in Padova (Hotel Al Cason for anyone looking for a hotel in Padova) and used it as our home base. The outside wasn't very impressive but inside it was modern and pretty, plus the rooms were great, breakfast buffet amazing, and free wifi-I think we picked a good one :)
Once we arrived at our hotel, we freshened up and then headed out to explore Padova. It's a nice city with the usual small European city attractions- pretty cathedrals, a botanical garden, museums and the like. We enjoyed looking around, taking pictures, and just strolling through the streets. We stopped for dinner al fresco and ate some amazing pizza and an almond cake with custard.
Day Two we were up bright and early so we could have a full day in Venice. Even though there were still a lot of tourists, we were lucky to come early enough that we could mingle with real Venetians out doing their Friday market shopping. We wandered into a very residential neighborhood and were able to get a feel for the place off the beaten path.
Once we started heading towards St. Mark's plaza, the tourist tidal wave became pretty intense. Venice has really narrow streets, and we felt a bit suffocated by the mass of people. It was worth it once we got to the plaza though. The architecture was really beautiful. The line to get inside the tower and the Basilica were not so beautiful...probably some of the longest lines I've ever seen! We thought about it, but in the end decided it wasn't worth spending over an hour in the baking sun. Ah well!
We continued our walk, running across some pretty churches, some guys giving away free hugs, and lots of pretty canals and streets. We stopped in a little shop for some lunch and the famous Venetian drink, the Spritz Aperol (very orange, huh?)
After lunch we wandered through some more neighborhoods, I bought a Venetian mask (go ahead and laugh!) and we just enjoyed getting lost in the city. We went into a few churches and shops, but mostly we just had a good time walking around. That's my favorite way to travel-just wandering around and getting a feel for the place.
And we found a Giorgia boat... :)
Part two coming up soon!