After months of reading Rick Steves, watching Stanley Tucci, and scouring the internet, our trip to Italy was finally here! We spent 15 nights in Italy – three nights in Venice, five nights in Florence, three nights in Siena, and four nights in Rome with our traveling companions Susan and Sarah. We used TripMasters to book our trip, which consolidated the flight, hotels, and trains into one price. I highly recommend! It went by really fast, but at the same time when we were in Rome I felt like our time in Venice was months ago! I’ve decided to break up the trip into several blog posts, starting in Venice.
We flew out of Chicago O’Hare airport to Amsterdam, had a short layover, and then flew to Venice, all on KLM Airlines. A quick tip – it has been a while since I flew out of O’Hare, and I didn’t realize parking was going to be such a problem! Luckily we found Preflight Airport Parking, and this is where I will be parking from now on. The shuttle was very fast going to as well as picking us up from the airport.
We arrived in Venice around 11:30 AM, and took a Vaporetto (water bus) to our hotel, the Sina Palazzo Sant’Angelo. This hotel is located right on the Grand Canal, and there is a Vaporetto stop a few yards away. The location was fantastic, and the hotel is absolutely beautiful! We could not have been happier!
We had booked a food tour for the first night – which is a pro-move that I learned from Nancy Sweet. Not only do we get to find out more about the city right away, we learn about their restaurants and local food. We took the Eat Like A Local 3-hour walking tour, and our guide was George. It was so much fun and just the right amount of food!
The next day Susan roamed on her own (she’s good at that!), and Tim, Sarah, and I went to St. Mark’s Square to meet with our tour guide, Veronica. I booked her through WithLocals, and she was going to give us a private tour of the Majestic Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica. Veronica was amazing and I am so glad we chose her. She felt like a friend almost immediately, and gave us a lot of information about Venice. I did not know how far the Republic of Venice reached, or how powerful they were, until this tour. Great job Veronica!
One of the more interesting things about St. Mark’s Basilica is that the marble, stones, and all of the opulence you see was pilfered from churches, monuments, and palaces in Constantanople by Venetians participating in the Fourth Crusade. It is really beautiful!
That evening I attended my first opera, and I don’t know a thing about opera! It was held at the 15th century palace Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto, and the audience moves room to room with the performers during the opera. We saw “La Traviata”, and even though it was all in Italian, it was fantastic! Definitely a highlight!
Day Three we headed to Venissa Winery to learn about winemaking in Venice (please see Vino in Venice – Our Visit to Venissa Winery for details).
That evening we took another walking tour, which was supposed to be about the plague. I’m not going to write very much about it, mainly because it wasn’t one of our favorite things to do … which may have something to do with our tour guide mentioning a great place to get tiramisu, and then us getting there too late LOL. Even so, our tour guide was very knowledgeable, but I thought we would hear more about the plague that infected Venice in the 14th century. But we did get to see some parts of Venice that we had not, so that was definitely a plus.
Overall, Venice was just amazing, even for this old gal with arthritic knees! It is truly beautiful, the food and wine are delicious, and the people are very welcoming. It was a great start to our Italian Adventure!
On the fourth day we took the train to Florence – stay tuned, more to come!
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