One of the true gems of the world…. Venezia (Venice). The name alone evokes powerful feelings for many people. Romantic gondola rides, historical architectural treasures, beautiful creations blown from Murano glass, unique hand-crafted masks and always… always a city constructed with streets of water. Amazingly, the entirecity is listed as a World Heritage Site in order to preserve it’s unique beauty. According to my Wiki research, Luigi Barzini described it in the New York Times as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”. I’d have to agree with Luigi!
Panoramic view from the roof of our hotel
Venice from the water
The Grand Canal
More of the Grand Canal
Happy to be here
Our good friends Nathan and Danielle joined us recently for a whirlwind visit filled with food, wine and lots of fun (read about it HERE). We punctuated their trip with a stopover in this romantic city. I was intrigued by the history of such a unique place and just did a little research. Venice consists of 117 islands, formed by 177 canals and connected by 409 bridges. I kept waiting for that “ah-ha” moment when I discovered the name of the genius city planner that decided to create a magical city on the water. But unlike Bugsy Siegel’sLas Vegas or Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid’s reinvention of Dubai – there was no one person that can be credited with the conceptualization of Venice. The truth is that refugees fleeing from invasion of the Lombards sought shelter in the marshland that is now Venice. And how do any cities really get built? A collection of people working together to establish trade and industry, creating habitation and then services to support the population. And so the city grew around the marsh and homes and churches and municipal buildings were constructed. This begs another question. How can you build a city on water?
The city built on water
Piers and bridges everywhere
Loved this view
There is a tree that grows in Slovenia and Croatia called an alder tree that is noted for it’s water resistance. Thousands of these trees were imported (and subsequently credited as a contributing factor for the barren land of the Kras region). The tree trunks were fashioned into piles that were submerged in the water, penetrating the sand and mud until settling in the much denser layer of compressed clay. Foundations were laid on the piles and buildings of stone and brick were constructed on these footers.
So now that you know the history, you can join us on our journey. We arrived early in the day via train (the easiest way into the city) and checked into our hotel. Our hotel, Molino Stucky is on the island of Giudecca, set in a beautifully renovated flower mill. After a quick lunch on the roof, we hoped on our hotel’s private ferry to the main island. We toured through the streets and canals, passed over bridges and stopped in shops. The girls bought scarves, glass and other souvenirs while Nathan and I took in all the scenery. We visited the infamous Piazza San Marco and fought for space among the crowds of tourists. We stopped for an afternoon cocktail on the water and eventually made our way back to the hotel to change for dinner.
Our hotel from the water
Hotel from the opposite side
Nathan and Danielle on one the pedestrian bridges
Having fun touring
Piazza San Marco
The lion is symbolic of the Veneto region
Incredible architecture – the Libreria (library)
The Campanile – Bell Tower
My three favorite people in the crowd
Procuratie Nuove built by Vincenzo Scamozzi c.1580
Those aren’t aprons – we just lifted our clothes
The girls enjoying their prosecco
Looks like a romantic moment – really it’s just Nathan and I clinking our beers
After freshening up, we met in the lobby and discovered that we were in for a real treat. Nathan and Danielle had reserved a private boat to tour us through Venice – a wonderful journey elevated by the setting sun . We stopped for some wine and cheese and sat back to enjoy the ride.
Now look a this couple!
Some similar boats to the one we had
Traveling in style
View of Piazza San Marco from the boat
Along the tour
Stopping for a photo on the boat
Nate and D
Magical at night
The gondoliers were still out as the sun was setting
Danielle on the water
From the rear of the boat
All of us on board
Similar to our boat
Eventually our driver dropped us at one of his local favorites for seafood. We settled into a table directly on the canal and enjoyed ordering a variety of food to taste and share. At one point, I felt something wet kissing my feet and realized the water in the grand canal had risen high enough to splash the patrons (me) sitting on the edge.
What a wonderful setting
Starter – mixed seafood
Mussels and clams
Nathan and I shared grigliata mista di pesce (mixed grilled seafood)
Jen got pasta with a variety of seafood
Pasta Aglio e Olio
The water started rising above the pier
Our grappa and limoncello after dinner
When dinner was over, we wound our way through the city at night to discover an entirely different Venice than the one we had seen all day. Long after the sun sets, the landscape of the city changes significantly. Without droves of tourists jockeying for the position to snap a photo (myself included) you are able to re-discover an entirely new place. Piazza San Marco becomes a magical amphitheater where dueling bands play wonderful music and the crowd shifts back and forth to capture the best view possible. We outsmarted the crowd and took up seats directly in front after ordering a nightcap. It was a great way to end the day before hopping on a boat back to our hotel.
In front of the Basilica
One of the “dueling bands”
Our trip to Venice had come to an end as had Nathan and Danielle’s visit with us. We spent one final day with them in Milano (Milan) and bid them buon viaggio (a good trip) back home. We were so thankful we got to do so many wonderful things with friends so special to us. After dropping them off, we rushed home and immediately started prepping for my sister’s visit… she would be arrived just a couple days later. Stay tuned for upcoming posts about their visit – more action packed fun.