Alright this was a big one. We spent pretty much every minute of Easter Holiday in Italy and it was awesome. We got Friday, Monday, and Tuesday of Easter weekend off from work, so we made the most of it and flew to Venice on Thursday night and started our gelato filled jaunt through 3 of Italy’s most famous cities.
First up is Venice. I’ve heard from numerous people that Venice is like no place else in the world, and they were all right. I’m going to paraphrase and probably butcher all of the history we heard while we were on our trip, so just bear with me. Venice is a big island, made up of hundreds of little islands. There is one big canal called the grand canal that goes through the middle of the island and endless small canals that are as numerous and traveled as the sidewalks and ‘streets’. I put streets in quotes because there are no typical streets. There are two methods of getting around Venice: boat and your feet. Each mode of transportation will allow you equal opportunity to get lost. The streets and canals bend and weave their way through tall buildings. Just when you think the tiny alley you’re walking in is going to lead you to someone’s private courtyard, you end up in a big public square with cafes and kids playing soccer. We had a ton of fun walking around Venice and getting lost.
We took a ridiculous amount of pictures in Venice. Everything seemed picture worthy for some reason. We’ll probably make a bunch of canvas prints once we get back to the states. Here’s me and my fancy DSLR camera.
We bought a 3 day water bus pass while we were in Venice and it really came in handy. The water busses go all around Venice and the surrounding islands. You can just hop on and hop off whenever you want. It’s really simple and convenient. Another not so cost effective way to get around is a gondola, as seen below. They look really cool and romantic and fun…. but we wouldn’t know for sure because we were too cheap to pay 80 euros for a ride.
The poor man’s gondola is called a traghetto. Since there are only 4 bridges across the grand canal, they have these traghetto stations that are basically gondolas that are around specifically to take you across the grand canal. They only cost 1 euro for 2 people. The ride only lasts a few minutes, so you have to take your picture quickly.
We didn’t have a set agenda for our 2.5 days in Venice. We just walked around and did Rick Steve’s audio tours and tried to soak up as much Venetian culture (and gelato) as we could. Here we are somewhere in Venice.
Here’s a picturesque shot of one of the millions of tiny canals. We have a ridiculous amount of photos like this. This city is just awesome.
Here’s an artistic shot of our wine glasses at a cafe in a busy little square. We were killing time before our dinner reservations with some red wine.
Here we are at the St. Mark’s square. It has famous cafes and museums all round the square. See that tower in the background. We went up there and got some more great photos.
Here’s a shot from the tower.
And another. This one is a panorama from Tara’s camera.
On a side note, I saw more man purses in Italy than I had previously seen in my 26 years in America. It was embarrassing for my gender. I don’t care if you have a lot of stuff to carry because you are traveling. That’s what backpacks are for. The thing is, these man purses that I was seing did not even have a lot of storage capacity. They were the size of a small woman’s purse so I was really failing to see the purpose of these man bags. Here’s one for reference of what no man should ever carry around.
On to Florence. We got there via a 2 hour train ride, which was really convenient. According to what I remember from the audio tours and museums we visited, Florence has a ton of art. I’m not a big fan of art, but I really enjoyed seeing all of the elaborately carved statues. Seeing these statues in person really makes you appreciate how hard it would be to turn a block of marble into a muscular naked guy.
Speaking of muscular naked guys, here is a replica of David that is in the Piazza della Signoria. This is where the original was once located. Then, during a riot a long time ago, some furniture (a couch if I remember correctly) was thrown from the top of the castle and David’s arm was broken. As a result, they repaired him and moved him inside an awesome domed building that was built just for the statue. Here is the castle from where the couch was thrown on to David.
We spent our first day in Florence doing all of Rick Steve’s walking audio tours. Here are some of the sights we learned about in the audio tours. First up is the Duomo, which is a really big church.
Next up is the Ponte Vecchio bridge. A fun fact about this bridge is that during WWII, the Nazis destroyed every bridge in Florence but they left this one standing. I’m guessing because it is so cool looking. Now there are tons of shops along the bridge.
That evening, we found an authentic Tuscan restaurant tucked away up on a hill. It turned out to be absolutely delicious. You could tell it was authentic because when I made a dinner reservation at 8:00 pm, the lady on the phone laughed at me. I realized why once we got there. We were the first people in there to eat dinner. The locals started showing up at 9:15 or so. We later figured out what you’re supposed to do before dinner, but I’ll get to that later. Here is our awesome appetizer.
The next day we continued further up the previously mentioned hill and got a really good view of Florence. You can see the Duomo (big church) on the right and the couch castle on the left. The view was really beautiful.
Later that evening, we figured out out why all the locals do not eat dinner until 9:00. They participate in aperitivo. Tara found a locals only type bar where we could give this thing a try. Aperitivo doesn’t really translate to English. If I had to come up with a definition based on my aperitivo experience, this is what it would look like;
Aperitivo (noun): the act of drinking various bitter cocktails during the time when Americans would be eating dinner.
Most of the pre dinner cocktails offered during aperitivo seemed to contain Campari. Campari is a really bitter liquor that is made from herbs and fruit. I had a “negroni” and I really wasn’t a fan, but everyone else at the bar seemed to be. This particular aperitivo had a buffet, which was great because drinking at 8:30 pm on an empty stomach would end my night pretty quickly. These Italians have it all figured out.
The next day, we checked out of our hotel and headed to Pisa via train. We had some time to kill so we explored near the train station and found this really nice square: Santa Maria Novella. Here is another artistic shot of our mid afternoon refreshment. That is the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in the background.
We were only in Pisa for a few hours before our flight back to the UK, so of course, we went to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and took the stereotypical Pisa photos. Enjoy.
One last random thing, we found this cat lounging on a bridge in Venice. There were a bunch of people that had stopped to take pictures because it seemed like such a random spot to find a cat. Everyone was snapping photos and talking to the cat, but he just kept laying there, enjoying his day and ignoring everyone. I must have taken 6 photos of this cat, and he did not care one bit.
That’s all from Italy.