It took me a while to get this final backpacking post up, but I definitely I saved the best for last because Venice became my new favorite European city. My friends and I arrived via train from Milan, and as soon as we stepped out of the station, we were standing on the Grand Canal with the sunset painting the buildings a pale shade of pink. That was the start of my taking pictures every couple minutes because each time we crossed a bridge onto a new island (the city is made-up of over 100 islands), I was in awe.
As I’ve said before, I am the farthest thing from a city person, but Venice had a completely different kind of atmosphere. Maybe I don’t like cities because there are tons of cars and traffic. Venice doesn’t have that, so instead of crossing streets you cross canals and the only modes of transportation are boating and walking. It was so interesting to see how that changes the lifestyle; for example, farmers can sell their produce right from their boats parked along the canals and instead of the city have having trash trucks, there are trash boats . I didn’t realize I could be so fascinated by trash.
We had three full days in Venice, which was plenty of time for us to do some sightseeing and relaxing. We did two free walking tours where you just have to tip the guide at the end, so that was an inexpensive way to learn about Venetian lifestyle, architecture and history. How else would we have found out that a gondola costs about $40,000? And yes, we obviously had to take a typical touristy gondola ride.
We also took an afternoon boat ride on the water bus to the island of Burano, which is known for its colorful houses. It had the same beautiful canals as the rest of Venice, but the buildings really stood out. The abundance of bright yellows, pinks, and blues made me feel like I was in the Caribbean rather than Italy, but that also could have been due to the hot weather and strong sun beating down on us.
In the famous St. Mark’s Square, we were able to get inside St. Mark’s Basilica without waiting in a long line of tourists and we went to the top of the bell tower, San Marco Campanile, for 360-degree views of the city. Considering just four months earlier I had seen a replica of the bell tower and the Doge’s Palace in the Italy section of Epcot at Disney World, it was surreal being there in the plaza for the real thing.
And it wouldn’t be my blog post if I didn’t talk about the food, especially when I’m in Italy. Our first two nights we weren’t very impressed because we were drawn to the appeal of tourist menus where we could get a lot of food for a cheap price, and we quickly learned the touristy restaurants do not serve authentic Italian cuisine. After some research and looking down quieter side streets rather than busy strips of restaurants, we were able to find two restaurants full of locals with some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. At the first place, all five of us ordered ravioli with pesto, and at the second, I had mushroom tortelloni. If there’s one thing I learned from all this backpacking, it’s that Trip Advisor is my best friend if I’m looking for a place to eat. And no trip to Italy is complete without gelato—we went to the same place two days in a row and I had chocolate hazelnut both times!
After visiting the island of Sardinia, it was cool seeing two major Italian cities, and I must say I love this country. Next year, my family plans to do an Italy tour and I already can’t wait—mainly because I will forever be craving good pasta 🙂