Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dennis & Erin's Excellent (Italian) Adventure - Part 1

I know, I know, I've been slacking. It took me a full week to get back into my normal routine, then a couple more to post pics to Facebook and Flickr. But I'm finally back to normal and all the photos are posted, and now it's time to make you jealous with all the little details.

Day 1 (Tuesday, October 13)
We flew Delta (which I refuse to hyperlink to), which I wouldn't recommend to anyone. Our original flight departed Austin around 1pm, connected in Atlanta, and then continued on to Venice and arrived at about 10:30 the next morning. Two weeks before our departure, Delta canceled our original flight. Our new itinerary departed about 6 hours earlier, at 6:45am, but only arrived in Venice 1 hour earlier. And we had stops in Atlanta and JFK. Delta FAIL. The only redeeming qualities were the unlimited free wine and beer on the transatlantic flight and the free Bejeweled I played the entire flight on the screen embedded on the seat in front of me. Oh, and I watched "Night at the Museum 2", also for free. Awesome.

Day 2 (Wednesday, October 14)
We arrive in Venice, and I am totally excited! Why? Well, first, I'm in Venice. But also because Mr. Liggiland had a 50/50 shot at getting arrested at immigration. You see, one of his brothers signed him up for Italian citizenship when he was just a teenager (their grandfather immigrated from Italy, so they were eligible), and Italy has compulsory military service. Not knowing this, Mr. L didn't know to file the requisite waivers until after the fact, which is when the Italian consulate promptly lost them. Maybe. We don't know. It seems that Italy has yet to enter the 21st century, because they still do everything on paper and don't digitize any of their records. Suffice to say, I spent months telling Mr. L he better be on his best behavior or else I might turn his AWOL butt in at immigration. My threats turned out to be completely empty though because Italian immigration consists of one guy who takes your passport, gives the photo a cursory glance, stamps it and sends you on your merry way. That's it. Thoroughly disappointing for me, but a big relief for Mr. L.

We got to skip baggage claim because we managed to fit everything into 2 carry-ons, thanks to the magic of Space Bag Travel Bags, which may be the best invention ever. Using these awesome instructions, we purchased our tickets for the water bus from the airport to old Venice and found the bus stop (which is a long, chilly walk from the airport terminal). I was a little nervous about trying to communicate, but it turned out pretty much everyone could understand my broken Italian (and the guys on the bus were more than happy to correct my pronunciation of the stop we needed) or, more often, spoke enough English to get by. The bus ride was a long one, over an hour, but it gave us an opportunity to take in some nice views of the lagoon and Venice from a distance.

We got off at the San Zaccaria stop, named for a little church nearby that's dedicated to John the Baptist's father. After getting slightly lost, we finally found our hotel, Hotel Fontana, which turned out to be right around the corner from the church. Lesson number one in Venice: what they call "streets" we call "alleyways," so take that into account when trying to navigate.

Our hotel, Hotel Fontana, seen from the street.

Even though we arrived a little early, our room was ready so they let us check in. While the room's decor wasn't luxurious, it made up for it with the most picturesque view of the Venetian street below.

See? Picturesque.

After a much-needed nap, we headed out to wander Piazza San Marco.

Piazza San Marco, with the Campanile (Bell Tower) on the right and St. Mark's Basilica in the background.

Detail of St. Mark's Basilica.

Detail on one of the buildings lining Piazza San Marco.

After a bit more wandering around the Piazza area, we headed to dinner at a restaurant near our hotel, Trattoria da Roberto. We each had pizza - I had pizza capricciosa, which had all the usual yummies as well as artichoke hearts, and Dennis had the "house special," which had pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, and "wurtzel," which looked like a sliced up hot dog. All tasty enough, though, to satisfy us at the end of an exhausting first day.

Day 3 (Thursday, October 15)
While I slept well our first night in Venice, Dennis did not. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we headed out see the interior of St. Mark's Basilica (no photographs allowed) and the Palazzo Ducale (aka Doge's Palace, also no photographs allowed). While neither of us was terribly impressed with the Basilica (we're just not church people, I guess), we did like the Doge's Palace. My favorite part was crossing the Bridge of Sighs and touring the prison.

Exterior of the Doge's Palace, sometimes called "the wedding cake" because of all the ornamentation on the building.

Detail of the Doge's Palace.

The Bridge of Sighs is undergoing some restoration work, hence all the sky-and-cloud-covered scaffolding surrounding it. Dennis commented that it looks like the windows of the new store going in at the mall.

Next up was a wander through the streets of Venice, courtesy of our fabulous Rick Steves guidebook. We got to see the former Nazi Party headquarters in Venice (which is as ugly a building as you might expect) and the La Fenice Opera House before finally making our way to the Rialto Bridge. We had a quick lunch in a cafe (where I first experienced an involtini - a rolled up, toasted warm pizza), then went to see the bridge. While the bridge itself was lovely, the view from it was much, much better.

We wandered the area
surrounding the Rialto Bridge, which is known for its fish and produce market, and saw some gorgeous things, including this amazing spice shop.

After our mini-adventure, we headed back to the hotel (stopping for gelato along the way, of course!) and took the a short afternoon nap. Afterwards, we got up and headed back to the Campanile di San Marco for some gorgeous sunset views of Venice.

A rainbow over Venice at sunset.

To finish the day, we headed out to dinner. Dennis had what he called the second best calamari of his life, whileI had some very tasty spaghetti alla carbonara. We finished it off with what I would eventually decide is the perfect Italian dessert: tiramisu and caffelatte.

Coming Up Next: Murano & Burano, then on to Florence!

1 comment:

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