Monday, July 19, 2010

Italy Recap :: Part 1 (Venice)

Ciao! We're back from Italy! It was a trip of a lifetime, and an experience I will remember forever. During our 12 day tour of Italy, I kept a journal of our daily activities, and wanted to share those experiences with our readers. I've gotten lots of questions from friends and family that are considering taking a trip to Italy, so I thought this recap would help give some insight to those of you looking for your next travel (or honeymoon) destination. I've included a few photos as well, which I hope you enjoy.

Days 1 & 2 – Up, up and away…we’re off to Italy!

Our journey to Italy begins with an overnight flight to Dusseldorf, Germany. We arrive in Dusseldorf bright and early where we have a 3 hour layover. After a bite to eat (nothing like a delicious soft pretzel at 7am!), we board our flight to Venice. At this point, we haven’t slept in 24+ hours, so we dose off for a few. In the middle of our flight the pilot announces that we are flying over the Swiss Alps…boy am I glad I woke up when I heard that! I was lucky enough to have a window seat and it was one of the most amazing views you’ll ever see! Snow covered mountains as the sun is just beginning to rise…absolutely breathtaking!

After a quick 2 hour flight, we land in Venice! We grab our bags and meet up with our family & friends (there are 9 of us traveling together), and the rest of our 40 person tour group. Venice is made up of 100+ small islands all connected by canals and bridges, so naturally there are no cars in Venice…only boats. We are welcomed to Venice with a leisurely water taxi ride to our hotel, on the island of Lido. Our entire group was jetlagged and sleep deprived, but our boat ride into Venice had all of us excited for what was to come! We pull up onto the shore of Lido where we are greeted by our tour director, Monique. She escorts us to our quaint (and absolutely adorable!) hotel right on the water, Hotel Riviera. After a “meet and greet” with our fellow travelers, we headed out on the island of Lido for some gelato and pizza. Lido had the best gelato out of anywhere in Italy, and it was super cheap too…only 1 Euro for a small cup of heaven! ; ) Early night tonight…I think we were all in bed by 8! Excited for our journey ahead…goodnight!

Day 3 – Sightseeing in Venice

Bon journo! Early wake up call this morning to catch a boat across the lagoon to Venice. Upon arrival into Venice, we have a guided tour of Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica, and St. Mark’s Square. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore Venice! First stop on our free afternoon is lunch…we were starving! We went to a local Italian sandwich shop where we enjoyed delicious panini’s. Of course we had to save room for dessert too…another stop for a quick gelato! We spent the entire afternoon strolling through the streets of Venice admiring all of the flower window boxes, beautifully decorated gondola’s, and charming architecture. I am instantly in love with Venice and have to keep pinching myself that I’m really in Italy! Towards the end of the day we made our way to the famous Rialto Bridge that overlooks the Grand Canal…one word…Stunning! After a few photos, we headed back to Lido on our water taxi to get cleaned up for dinner. I had been admiring all of the outdoor Italian eateries and was thrilled that we ended up having dinner at an outdoor restaurant that I had my eye on since we first arrived! This dinner was literally the best spaghetti and pizza I’ve EVER had…absolutely delicious! On the way back to our hotel we stopped for yet another gelato (yes, I know this is our 2nd gelato stop of the day, but can you really blame us?!) and watched a street concert with an Italian band playing Michael Jackson songs…quite entertaining considering there was a clear language barrier with the words to the songs. Awesome day today…we’re still a bit jetlagged, but still having the time of our lives!

Day 4 – Sightseeing in Venice

Today we have the entire day to ourselves (i.e. no wakeup call and no guided group tours), so we decide to head back across the lagoon to Venice again. We spent the morning in Venice strolling through the streets picking up a few souvenirs along the way. There is a heat wave in Italy as the hot & humid weather is coming up from Africa. Temperatures reach a boiling 100 degrees today! After a quick bite to eat (pizza again), we took a boat back over to our hotel in Lido for a few hours of R&R. Later that afternoon, we traveled back over to Venice and decided to take a boat ride up the entire Grand Canal (normally we got off near St. Mark’s Square and just made our way to the Grand Canal on foot). So glad we decided to do this…amazing views and some great photo opportunities! After we made our way up the Grand Canal, we attempted to find a restaurant recommendation that we received from one of our Italy guide books, but were unsuccessful. Fortunately though, we found a small little restaurant down an alley way where the owner greeted us with friendly hospitality and lots of wine! After we left dinner we got caught in a sudden rain storm and decided to make our way back to the boat. I’m certainly not complaining though…the rain instantly cooled things off, and running through the streets of Venice was surprisingly lots of fun! Tonight is our last night in Venice, and I am starting to get a bit sad (I wish we had another day to spend in Venice). So far I am extremely impressed with Italy and excited to head to Florence tomorrow morning!

Check back later this week for my recap of Florence! 

Until next time...ciao! 

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