I need to clarify--I have not gone back to Italy. I would LOVE to go back to Italy, but these blog posts are simply re-living the two weeks Scott and I spent in Europe in June. The reason why some things are in present tense is because many time I'm copying straight out of the journal I kept while we were traveling. Someone asked me last night if I had been back to Florence and I realized that I hadn't been very clear...sorry!
This particular morning we slept in and didn't leave the hotel until 11:30. One of the great things about Venice is that you don't have to be busy while you are there. If you stay 2 or 3 days, you'll see everything you want to see and still have plenty of time to wander around and relax. The first thing that we did was head to St. Mark's Square to see the Basilica. We'd been to the Basilica before but we went again, paying admission to go all the way up to the top and to see the museum. The Basilica is fascinating. It's the final resting place of the bones of St. Mark--stolen in the middle of the night during the crusades and smuggled back to Venice in shipping crates.
The Basilica is one of the more interesting churches that you will see in Europe. It's not classical with it's middle eastern style and it's very distinctive. This is due to Venice's ties with the Eastern world. At one point, Venice was the shipping capital of the world and was the main connection between Asia and the eastern world and modern, classical Europe.
After touring the Basilica, we climbed to the top for some great views of St. Marks square and the Grand Canal.
I look like a little bug woman with those glasses. If only I'd known how I looked...
After frying to a crisp on the overlook, we stepped inside to view these guys...
These four horses once stood on the overlook on top of St. Mark's Basilica. They were the trademark of Venice and made of solid bronze. In the heyday of Venice, this sculpture was one of the most well-known images in Europe. They were so famous that Napoleon carried them off for his personal collection, but they have since been returned to Venice. These are the originals, finally brought into the barn after years of salt-water exposure. Copies of these guys still sit outside on top of the Basilica.
We also toured the Doge's Palace, connected to the basilica. When Venice was in her glory days, the Doge was one of the most powerful men in the world. His palace is fascinating, but no photos allowed, strictly enforced. After a few hours of touring, we took a gelato break and wandered around taking some shots of the city.
Gondolas are a trademark of Venice, but they cost 75-90 euro for a daytime ride and upwards from 95 euro at night. Scott and I took a gondola ride the first time we came to Venice, so decided to save our money for other important things. Like gelato.
St. Mary's de Salute. This beautiful church was built thanking God for sparing 2/3 of the city during the Plague.
Ah, the gondoliers. Some charming and handsome, some....not so much. This one was singing, trying to get tourists to pay for a gondola ride as they walked by. I took this picture and ran, half afraid that he would try to lasso me into paying. He had a lovely voice but native Venetian women say that those that succumb to the charms of a gondolier "have slices of ham over their eyes." I think some of the meaning might be lost in translation...
It costs more to by a gondolier than it does to buy a new car and you actually have to take a test to become a certified gondolier. It's one of the biggest businesses in Venice.
After resting, Scott and I got ready for dinner. We decided that we would have a nice, canalside dinner ad we found a nice place next to Rialto Bridge. It was touristy, but very romantic and typical "Venice." Our table was right beside the Grand Canal overlooking one of the busiest part of the canal. There lots of gondolas floating by, music, and candles...it was such a nice dinner.
We had one coke and one water bottle...and lots of glasses. There was hardly enough room for our food!
Some of our dinnertime views:
After dinner, we headed to St. Mark's Square to re-live something very special...our engagement! While in college, I spent a semester living in Spain studying abroad. On my spring break, Scott flew over, we met in Milan, we took a train to Venice, and that night he asked me to marry him. The story is very sweet and he was so excited to propose (he had help from Camille).
Venice is the perfect backdrop for a proposal. We went back to the same cafe on the square and sat at the same table where he popped the question. We asked a nice girl to take our picture and while we were standing there, smiling for the camera, we heard a lady shouting in a foreign accent, "KEEEEEEEES!!!! KEEEEEEES!!!" So we obliged and kissed for the camera and the small crowd that the very nice but very drunk Belgian lady had attracted.
We told the girl taking our picture that we had gotten engaged there 3 years ago and the Belgian woman asked, "Well, how did it turn out?" I told her that since we'd been married for over two years I thought it had worked out pretty well. We then had a very bizarre conversation with her about Florida, hurricanes, and the Godfather theme song. After she started to actually sing the theme song very loudly, her husband (who spoke no English) dragged her away very apologetically. Apparently, the "I'm-sorry-please-excuse-my-spouse" look is universal.
After this interesting end to our evening, we wandered back, enjoying Venice at her best---after dark!