We are going to Italy this weekend! It’s so nice to be able to say that.
Venice is only a 6 hour drive from Vienna, which means if we leave town with the sunrise we can get there by noon. Our timing was pretty good considering all the stops for coffee and bathrooms along the way. It’s hard to argue against McMuffins for breakfast when the McDonald’s is a real work of art!
But soon we were in Italy, driving past vineyards and listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and after parking the car, we took the train across to Venice to meet Christina and Glenn. That’s “Glennnnnnnn,” with two N’s! For lunch we found a pizza place along the canal, and sat on the steps with our Aperol Spritz outside in the sunshine.
We were lucky to have a weekend in Venice full of sunshine!
Our apartment was in the Santa Croce neighborhood, in an old building with tiled floors and a wide, winding staircase. Through our windows we saw colorfully plastered walls and people feeding their cats in the flower boxes.
Venice is famous for tourist crowds, but this part of town was nice! A normal neighborhood, with a little corner shop selling salami and wine, and shelves of pretty little Easter cakes. People passed by carrying grocery bags and hung out their laundry to dry.
At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, we are the only people out on the sidewalk. Ahead on the right, with the green awning, is a restaurant that has been added to the Gower Top 10 for restaurants we love: Ostaria Al Vecio Pozzo. It’s hard to describe the best Italian food ever, but it involves perfect everything.
In the morning we had breakfast the way the Italians do, by ordering cappuccino and eating our pastries standing at the counter with everyone else. I try not to be one of those awkward camera people taking pictures in tight spaces, but in this case I had to! It was too wonderful a moment to forget, and I completely understand how Howard Schultz had to bring this inspiration for Starbucks to America. The coffee bar is the same bar that turns into a place for apertifs and drinks in the evening, and sometimes I think that even in the morning, everyone sort of wishes it was time for a drink?
We ordered croissants and sfogliatella, a flaky “lobster tail” pastry filled with cream, and now sfogliatella is on the list of Best Things I’ve Ever Eaten In My Life. Mike agrees. There is only one bite left of the sfogliatella, over there on the left. The next time I come to Venice, I will ONLY eat sfogliatella.
So we finished our cappuccinos and dusted the pastry flakes off our coats, then left our coffee bar sanctuary to slip into the busy traffic of tourists outside. We lingered past window displays of jewelry and shoes, and were amazed at all the interesting things to see! I love the way Europeans window-shop. I could spend weeks here taking pictures, and the best surprise was how much the boys loved it too.
While standing on a bridge waiting to get a picture of this Beer Barge, a bird pooped on my coat. The nerve of that bird! Now Mommy has a Poop Coat.
Here are Mike and Eli, being decoys for me. I was trying to get a picture of the guy through the tunnel, sitting on a chair.
I liked the way this construction worker had a kitty bag hanging next to his work clothes. Everyone likes shopping bags with kitties.
Whenever we got lost, these signs to the Ferrovia (railway station) pointed us back toward our apartment.
Many twists and turns later, we arrived at Piazza San Marco.
We didn’t know there was such a cool bell tower here! It was sort of like a glockenspiel with all the moving parts, and a great way to show the boys why learning roman numerals is worth it. Because you know, when in Rome….
In the afternoon we bought Vaporetto tickets to go out to the island of Murano. There are so many boats in Venice! The boys loved the boats. Murano is the famous island where Venetian glass is made, and we were lucky to be able to see a demonstration even though we arrived late in the day. Mike remembers visiting Murano with his Mom and Dad when he was a little kid. The glass-blowing was mind-blowing, this artist made a glass horse in minutes!
The English family that came after us wasn’t so lucky. For some reason they were told the process was broken, and they didn’t get a glass demonstration. “I think that lady’s a big fat liar!” “I think she’s a big fat liar too!” Eli now repeats this in an English accent whenever we need a laugh. He’s pretty good at accents.
To be honest, I’d been avoiding a trip to Venice because of what I thought would be huge crowds. It’s true, Venice is crowded. It sort of reminded me of an Ant Farm, with all the ants crawling along their little trails and climbing over each other in such a hurry. At the Rialto Bridge, it’s controlled ant chaos. Motor boats growl and gondaliers shout, fruit-sellers yell, babies cry, and all the restaurants lining the canal are bursting with people. We had to shove our way through a tight and grumpy crowd and were one of thousands snapping pictures.
But like an ant farm, if you get off the main trails there is a lot of other sand.
In the quiet neighborhood of Squero di San Trovaso, we were alone peering through the back door of the Gondola Factory where Venice’s elegant gondolas are built.
We found a quiet church, remarkable because it was so… PLAIN.
This gondalier wasn’t working but just polishing his gondola. It’s probably sacrilege to say this, but I can’t decide if the gondaliers in their striped outfits remind me more of Waldo or the Hamburglar?
I was afraid to go to Venice because of low expectations. All the crowds, all the cruise ships, the dirty streets and high prices, these were the myths that I believed. Packaged and sold like an attraction at Disneyland, I wasn’t sure how real Venice would be.
I had no idea Eli and Jake would see it in a different way. To them, at their age and still on the short side, the whole world’s a crowd anyway. How do you define a crowd when all you ever see are backs and legs?
“I love Venice because of the boats!”
“It’s smells a little. That’s good, though, if somebody was trying to attack you.”
“Check out the WC, it’s nice!”
“That’s where the James Bond Movie was filmed!”
“I like being near the water, and the pastries!”
I like that too.
Also the company.
So I guess with all these things, Venice is a place our family will remember and love. I’ve already promised Eli and Jake that we will come back someday, and I will take their kids on a gondola ride!
Looking forward to being a grandma. Life is all about having things to look forward to.