July 7, 2015 Italy – Days 5, 6 and 7 – Venice! (and Murano and Burano)
Oh Venice. I wanted you to be my favorite. I still love you oh so much, but Florence was such a tough act to follow.
As I mentioned in the last post about Florence, my travel experience tends to relate to my expectations. When we went to Hawaii I had incredibly high expectations, and thankfully Maui more than exceeded them. When I went to Paris with my dad 6 years ago, it was terrible. Mostly because I had such high expectations, and it fell so, so short. But Luxembourg, where we went the very next day, I had a completely clean slate for. I knew nothing about it, I had no expectations whatsoever, and it was by far my favorite part of our trip.
I have dreamed of Venice forever. It’s always been at the very top of my ‘someday maybe if I’m lucky’ travel list. When I fell in love with Florence, I knew Venice would have a tough time following it. When we first arrived at the train station, we were shuffled onto a water taxi stuffed like sardines with dozens of other tourists. It was hot, it was loud, babies were crying, and it smelled awful. Not the first impression I was hoping for. Once we got off the taxi (thankfully only two stops in) it was tourist hell. Cheesy souvenir shops everywhere, people trying to sell us selfie sticks (a theme for this trip… it won’t end), and English speaking tourists everywhere.
Thankfully we got to the hotel quickly, which is beautiful and amazing (I’m writing this from the hotel now!) and were able to drop off our bags and start over. We got an incredible meal just by the hotel and I couldn’t have loved it more. Pizza with scampi, shrimp, clams, and mussels. I had only finished one other meal this whole trip – the tortellini at La Fornace in Rome – and this was a much larger portion. Whoops!
After dinner we took a short nap and then headed out to explore. Once we got away from the crowds, Venice was more like what I had expected. Beautiful, serene, unique. Beautiful textures and colors everywhere. A dense labyrinth, where half the fun is getting lost.
I really liked this building. I spent maybe 10 minutes obsessing over it.
All in all, Venice was pretty incredible, but still a bit of a let down. The scads of tourists made it feel like a grown up Disney World, and it kind of lost its authenticity. The beautiful Venice that I had dreamed of was there, but it was covered in vulgar t-shirts, and cheap souvenirs. Even getting away from the ‘touristy areas’ was still touristy compared to what we experienced off the beaten path in Rome. There was one time we wandered into a very empty area that we discovered was a residential district with a really cute dog park, but that was really the extent of getting away from the tourists.
Our second day we just explored Venice as best as we could before doing a gondola tour that night. We walked pretty much the entirety of the archipellago by the end of the day. The gondola ride was a disappointment as we were crammed into a gondola with 4 other strangers and weren’t even able to sit together. Considering what we spent, we would have been better off getting a private gondola for only about $10 more, but eh, you live and learn. We ended up at a crepe shop for dinner and had the most beautiful meal of the trip. The cute Italian man that owned the shop made everything slowly and with love. Including freshly squeezing oranges to make juice to order! And it was the best juice I’ve had in my life. So good I almost cried.
Our third and final day we had a tour to Murano and Burano islands. Murano is the island of the glass masters – the masters of the art of glass blowing. The tour took us to the island, we watched a demonstration of the glass blowing technique (and man these guys are good – and I’m not a complete stranger to the art of glass blowing), and we were given a very small amount of time to shop. Steve and I got out of the factory as quickly as we could and spent the 30 minutes we had exploring Murano and the other shops on the island. I didn’t get a chance to take my camera out, but Murano was what I dreamed of when I had dreamed of Venice. I’m so sad we didn’t have any additional time on Murano, and that we were leaving Venice the next day. If we were in Italy one more day we would have spent the whole thing in Murano. Beautiful and serene, clean and not overloaded with tourists. If you’re planning a trip to Venice, make sure you stop over in Murano. We’d do a day or more, but even a few hours is absolutely worth it.
The second stop on our tour was Burano island. Burano is a fisherman’s town with brightly colored buildings – they say so the fishermen could find their way back home from the water. The women of the island do hand stitched lace, a trade that is dying, as young people don’t want to keep up the tedious work. I can’t exactly blame them. Most lace these days are made by machine, but I did get to see two older women on Burano doing the hand stitching, and it was very interesting to see! It was a beautiful place to explore and much like Murano, a welcome escape from the claustrophobic feel of Venice.
This is literally the only photo I took in Murano:
We watched the guy make this in less than 2 minutes. Pretty damn impressive.
Burano is just fun to look at.
Tomorrow (today by the time you read this) we head home and although I’m more than ready to sleep in my own bed, snuggle our little Sherlock and see our friends and family, this has been a truly incredible trip! Rome, Florence and Venice were the perfect three places to visit with our limited time, and I love that we were able to do so much! Hopefully we can come back some time. I’d love to visit Florence again and spend more time on Murano! Until next time, Italy! Ciao!