03 May 2009
Right before boarding the night train from Lyon to Venice I was feeling a bit stressed about my quick vacation to Italy. Venice is a big city and I had slacked on researching where to go and what to see. When I arrived at Santa Lucia train station in Venice the next morning, all my nerves disappeared. There was something about this beautiful city that made me feel very relaxed. I didn't even worry when I took out the directions to my hostel which gave no street names or building numbers. I soon realized that Venice is very unique. You do not use an address to find something, but a number of canals to cross and direction or a campo (square) for orientation. I bid farewell to my map, I knew it was useless here. I was welcomed at my hostel by a friendly Italian man who flattered my beauty and displayed typical Italian hospitality. I met numerous other solo travelers who were friendly and always suggesting one thing or another to do in Venice. I ended up spending the whole day with my new friend Maria from Vienna, Austria who shared my love of photography and travel. We walked from one end of the island to the other and loved every moment of it. The next day, when Jon arrived, we ate a lovely homemade pasta dish at the hostel, complements of Pepe, the buff Italian cook. Exploring the city with Jon the next day was magical. It happened to be April 25, a national holiday for San Marco, the patron saint of Venice. Gondola races began early and the colorful teams raced passed us as strolled over the canals toward the big campo. We took advantage of free Venetian wine samples and tried to maintain our composure while dodging the famous pigeons of San Marco Square. We marveled at the sea and the intricate gondolas then scoped out a restaurant for our first Italian pizza. Pizza and gelato was the combination of the weekend. We tried to taste a new combinations of the creamy delight each time we passed a shop. We would often sit there in silence for about 5 to 10 minutes as we indulged in amazing flavors that words could not describe. In short, the food is even better than they say it is in Italy. Take my word for it.
We headed to the small secluded island of San Erasmo for a less touristy experience of Venice. We arrived just in time for a breathtaking sunset over Venice. The hostel was beautiful and, as it's happened in other hostels, we ended up there with a bunch of Germans! It always is fun for Jon so he can show off his German skills. The island is mostly vineyards and old farm homes. The hostel owner offered us bikes that we rode around the entire island on the the one gravel road. There was an old fort along the way that was recently renovated into an art gallery. It was a treat to see the island in pastels and watercolors with adoration from a local brush.
We explored more of the San Erasmo, Venice and Merano Islands in awe for the rest of the weekend until catching a train through the rolling hills of Tuscany to Florence....