Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Adventure Wednesday in Venice!

Bon giorno!  I'm back with the second in my (now three-part) series reflecting on my honeymoon.  I loved hearing all of your responses to last week's adventure in Capri, and I'm excited to share with you another of my favorite cities, the beautiful Venice!  While there I was amused to discover that my go-to brand of jeans is named after the Venice's true Italian name, Venezia.

We took a one-way flight, departing in the morning from (horrible) Naples.  Why is Naples horrible?  We didn't see all of it, or the right parts, so perhaps I shouldn't judge. But compared to everywhere else we went, the people weren't as nice, the buildings weren't as nice, the panhandlers were extremely aggressive, and as a city it boasted, bar-none, the worst driving we've seen anywhere.  Not to mention the fact that it is the auto theft capital of the world.  We were warned by our guidebooks that a car stolen in Naples would likely be completely disassembled and across Europe within a day.  We were also warned by our hotel in Capri that the outcropping near Marina Piccola was not safe, because "a pickpocket from Naples hides here."  Literally, the hotel amenities book included a map and that warning.  Perhaps there's some anti-Napoli grudges, but all in all, I think we'll stick to other Italian cities.

We landed in Venice that afternoon.  So, OK, I knew that Venice was connected by canals.   Of course I knew that.  But what I didn't expect was that there really was no other way around the city.  On foot, sure, along the canals and over the bridges, etc.  But your bus in Venice is a water bus, and that's just how we arrived in the city.

Marco Polo water bus!

A guide met us at the nearest water bus dock, and thank goodness he did, because there is no way we'd have found it ourselves.  So, OK, I had heard that Venice was confusing to traverse.  I'd seen Don't Look Now (which is excellent and scary and you should watch if you like thrillers and are curious about Venice.)  I knew we were in for a spot of tricky navigation.  But I didn't realize just how tricky it was going to be - just how much was unmarked and how truly labyrinthine those little side alleys are.  Finally, we arrived at our hotel, which was one of our favorites of the whole trip.

It was spacious and comfortable.

And it included a private terrace. From which we could see the rooftops of Venice.

View from said terrace. Romantic!

 We spent our first afternoon and evening wandering around (carefully, so as to not get lost or be killed by anyone in a red cape; again, see Don't Look Now).  We had dinner at a small but lovely family-run restaurant.  And now is probably as good a time as any to recommend the book that made our honeymoon a truly exquisite culinary adventure.

If ever you go to Italy... or Paris, or anywhere else profiled by Sandra Gustafson... BRING HER BOOKS WITH YOU.  The one we relied upon was called Great Eats Italy, and it was amazing.  She recommends all kinds of restaurants - from the tiny, homey, inexpensive family places to the extravagant, posh and pricey.  But she really only recommends ones that she likes - and she's clear about whether something is really worth the financial splurge.  She's equally glowing about a mom-and-pop place with character and great food as she is about a Michelin-star-rated one.  We found that every single place we went to that she recommended, be it osteria, bar, trattoria, gelateria... was phenomenal.  This woman knows food.  And the food was so good we mostly forgot to take pictures of it.  We just... enjoyed it.

Seriously, get ahold of this book.

The next morning, we headed out early to the Venetian island of Murano.  Even if you haven't been to Venice, you've probably heard of Venetian glass.  Venetian glass is really Murano glass.  Since 1291, all of the glassblowers in Venice have been confined to this island.  (The goal was to prevent glassblowers' fires from spreading to the city itself.) 

I'm a big fan of glass art and glass work.  (When asked to think of "imaginary lives" for myself, glassblower or mosaic artist are frequently on the list.)  So I was thrilled to visit a whole island devoted to it.

We watched a glassblower in action (which was too fascinating to watch through a camera lens.)
Here is his studio, with some of his wares.

There are SO many stores nearby, filled with incredible glass products.
My heart is still a little broken because we bought one of these blue/green vases
as our one big honeymoon souvenir. And we lost the bag after our last flight home. 
(It also had our accounts of all food we ate. <sob>)

The enormous variety in the glass art boggled my mind.
Check out this blown glass jellyfish, encased in solid glass.

The island has a glass-decorated church (which includes a life-size blown glass crucifix, and a floor-to-ceiling mosaic which is said to include the ribcage of the dragon slain by Saint George. We thought it looked a lot like whale bones.)  Nearby is the Glass Museum, which was also fascinating.

Mosaic work on display in the Glass Museum.  The color! The detail!

We spent the late afternoon and evening wandering around, looking at shop windows, snapping photos of the city, shopping at an open-air vegetable market for our dinner, and seeking out a pasticceria (bakery) that Gustafson highly recommended.  We also watched The Simpsons in German, which was oddly comforting.

The bridge nearest our hotel

A beautiful poster for an upcoming Vivaldi concert. Wish we could have gone!

Beautiful art masks at a shop we walked past on the way to and from our hotel.


The farmer's market - we bought some fresh tomatoes and basil, plus bread from the bakery and cheese from the grocer.

Beautiful bakery!

Our spoils from said bakery. If you can't indulge on your honeymoon, when can you indulge?
My favorite was the apricot puff in the bottom left. Italians and apricot - a winning combination.

Our very favorite cheerful food product - which we sought out again on our second trip to Italy.
"I may look like a delicious pretzel, but don't eat me, I am your SNACK FRIEND!"

 We crashed pretty hard after German Simpsons (and maybe after the sugar rush.)  So we didn't head out again that night.

The next morning, we headed over to Piazza San Marco to check out the cathedral.  It's clad in Venetian glass tiles, and it is STUNNING.  No photos allowed inside, alas.

All that colorful art?  Mosaics.

After exploring the cathedral, I was strangely drawn in by the little old woman selling seed for the voluminous flocks of pigeons.  (She was practically singing "Feed the Birds.")  So I bought some seed.  And madness ensued.  Tom calls this sequence "The Saga of Heidi and the Birds."

Hello, birds, would you like some seed?

Oh!  Um, hello there.

Nice to meet you, pirate pigeon!

I'm... kind of like justice, but with pigeons!

Whoa, buddy, I didn't say you could cop a feel.


Next we headed over to another museum, where I promptly spent a lot of time washing my hands.

Tom, outside of the museum. The ceiling arch looks like it's painted on, but it's actually three-dimensional.

We had a lovely lunch out, and took a leisurely stroll toward the hotel, by way of the most famous bridge in Venice, the Ponte Rialto.

Spotted on our way to the bridge, this must be the Venetian equivalent of a dog hanging his head out the window.

View of the bridge from below.

Tom and I at the top of Ponte Rialto.

The outside edge of the bridge is a stairway, but the inside is a series of shops - including a famous leather bookmaker.  We stopped to buy a few gifts.

Me with the master bookbinder and his wife.

I was fascinated by the vegetable delivery.  By boat - of course - but, cool!

We stopped at one of the most famous Venetian mask shops on the way back.
Love the mix of traditional commedia dell'arte and other looks -
especialy those cubist Picasso-inspired ones.


Tom posing with in front of the street on the way to the hotel.  Yes, this street is barely wider than Tom.

Back at the hotel, we got all dressed up for our romantic evening out.

Me, posing with our hotel elevator. Yes, it is barely as wide as me!

We took a gondola ride at sunset.

View from the gondola.

The sun sets on our time in Venice.

 Venice is amazing.  You must go at least once in your lifetime.  And I can't wait to visit again, whenever that will be.  Little blue-and-green fused glass vase, I am coming for you.

I hope that Part 2 of our honeymoon journey has given you some itchy feet.  (Of the need-to-travel variety, not of the athletes-foot variety!)  I really believe that taking care of yourself involves transplanting yourself to someplace new, and exploring it.  Seeing what you learn from it, how it changes you.  What are you waiting for?  Take care of you with an adventure of your own!

Part 3 - the final chapter - will be coming your way with photos from Florence and Rome next Adventure Wednesday, and then I'll be back to sharing adventures that aren't four years old, heh.  And tomorrow, I have a recipe for you that was influenced by a particular ingredient that I enjoyed both times I visited Italy.  Until then, bambinos, take care of you!


  1. Lovely, yes thank you, I think Brendan and I do need to go to Venice! "there is a bird on my head" LOL great photo!

  2. Ah, you're taking me back to my own trip to Italy about 15 year ago. Venice is a favorite, as is Capri. Your photos are amazing.

  3. All I can say is - YAY! I love Italy flashbacks!

  4. I love your Adventure Wednesday series and the recount of your honeymoon is amazing. I hope to make it to Europe some day. The bird pictures cracked me up. Reminds me of a trip to Disney World with a former beau, who was chased by a bird for a good 15 minutes.

  5. I'm going to cry. So beautiful. Le sigh, I'm at this moment seeing my chances of seeing Venice in my lifetime crumble before my teary eyes - so now we're even in making each other cry inadvertently via your blog! ;-)

  6. Thank you, everyone!

    @Cynthia, yes, it's so necessary - you will both love it.

    @Bella, what cities did you visit on your trip?

    @Jennie - I know, I can't believe I run out next week! Maybe I'll have to do some Australia 1995 or Paris 2009 flashbacks sometime soon.

    @135by2012 I am so glad you're enjoying! You should definitely visit Europe as soon as you're able. It's such an amazing sensory experience.

    Z - Nooo! I did not mean to make you cry any more than you me. I don't know what's going on to make you feel crumble-y, but your chances of Venice are still there no matter what. If I have to kidnap you there myself.

  7. I love Europe, and I would love to go back at some point fairly soon! The photos of Venice are phenomenal, and it's on my list (because I haven't been there yet.)


  8. Ooo, I love the Venice pics. I've always wanted to go to Europe, but always been too broke, so I'm living vicariously through you. Venice looks like such a gorgeous place. And as a collector of abstract Murano glass, I'm absolutely swooning over the Italian glass pics. Gorgeous!