Italy: Lost in Venice

The first time Brad and I came to Italy together was in January 2013, New Year's Day to be exact. So, the last time we had been to Venice was during the winter time. It was not the best to time visit Venice, to say the least. As you may know, Venice is an island that is slowing going to flood over time. Winter, being the rainy season in Italy, much of Venice was flooded. Not to mention we had the worst time finding a place to stay because most places were closed for this slow season. Ever since that first trip we decided we needed to return to Venice during the summer months. [gallery type="rectangular" ids="765,767,766,768,769,771,770,772,773,774"]

We decided to do things a little different for this trip. First, we booked a place to stay weeks in advanced. And second we booked our train tickets using Italo, the fast train!! Last time we took a 12 hr overnight train from Napoli, which we only remember as being the longest and scariest night of our lives. Unfortunately, the day we left Rome this time-around, we checked the weather forecast for the weekend and Venice was suppose to be rainy the entire time. So we were a little disappointed to say the least. Anyways we hopped on our train and headed for Venice. Let me just say this, Italo was worth every penny! At one point Brad looked over at the speed monitor and it read 200 km/hr. It was pretty fantastic to arrive  in less than 4 hrs. Along with that the employees were the most helpful and genuinely nice people I have met that work on trains in Italy. Before we even got on the train one worker, walked right up to us and asked us our train car number and pointed us to the correct waiting area. So by around 1pm we were in Venice. There of course was a massive down pour going on for the first two hours, but after that it was sunny and nice for the duration of the trip. We certainly lucked out!

I would not describe Brad and myself as typical tourists. Although we like to see all the touristy sights at least once, when we are traveling we want to go where the locals go and immerse ourselves in that environment. So, one of the best discoveries we have found is airbnb, which connects travelers with locals who rent out vacation apartments, homes, etc. I really think it is a cool site and is the best way to travel. This time around we stayed quite close to the center of Venice in a small (4) bedroom flat. We were so close to the street we could hear the sounds of locals at a bar right beneath our room. It was really cool to look out our window, down a long,winding pedal-stoned street. As soon as we arrived we had to ask out host his favorite spot for dinner. Without any hesitation he replied, "Al Portega". He gave us a basic area where this spot was and then it was up to us to find it.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="775,776,777,778,779,780,814,815"]

So that night we made our way to "Al Portega". We immediately became lost, if you have ever been to Venice you know exactly what I mean. All of Venice, is basically a maze. In fact the neighborhood that we stayed in was purposely built within a labyrinth for protection during wartimes. We had basically given up and all of a sudden I looked up read "Al Portega" and we were there. "Al Portega" is almost the definition of a hidden local gem, I am certain most tourists would not find themselves here. Someone once told Brad and I that the way to tell a good restaurant is whether their menu is written on a board with chalk. And we walked in and that is exactly where we found the menu. We actually almost got sent away because we asked for two seats and the host said they were all full. Then she ran out the door and found us since a table that was just leaving. I could go on describing our whole meal, but I will just mention one thing that was pretty cool and also funny. I had ordered this mixtures of fried seafood items, (which by the way was massive) then at some point in our meal an Italian man walked up to us and just stood there admiring the plate. Then he left. A few minutes later he came back and said, "I was thinking of ordering that same plate". So I of course had to offer him a taste. And so he took a taste of my meal. To me it was so funny and fascinating that would never have happened in Chicago. I would have to say this meal was the highlight of the weekend.

The next day we took a long walk and basically got lost. We had all the intentions of going to the Guggenheim Museum in Venice, but as we kept getting lost and we ran out of time. Taking a gondola ride did cross our minds, but it really is not worth the cost of 100 euros to be in a long line of gondola riders. I am sure if we had been tourists in Venice 20 or 30 years ago, it might have been much different. But we did take the public boat transportation, which is really the fastest way to get around the city. It was like seeing the city from inside out, going past the old Venetian buildings and passing by the famous Rialto Bridge.  However, by far the most fascinating time I  had was walking along the small, dark street and getting lost. I cannot count how many times we took a street that ended at the dead end of the river.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="828,827,826,825,823,824,822,821,820,819,817,818,816,812,811,810,809,808,802,803,804,805,806,801,798,799,800,796,797,794,793,791,790,789,788,787,786,785,784,781,782,783"]

The third day was our last day in Venice. We had a mid-afternoon train ride back to Rome, so our plan was just to walk up, grab an espresso and head toward the train. Our thought was although it was morning still, we were going to get lost again, so we better leave enough time to make back to the train station. However, our wonderful host prepared us a surprise breakfast of two broiches, espresso, fruit cups and toast ( a typical Italian breakfast). We were a bit in awe by this gesture and it gave our weekend a blissful end.  After breakfast we made our way back to the train station, got lost again and went home to Rome.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="831,830,829"]

- E