Venice. I’ll never forget the first time I came to Venice in December seven years ago. At that time, I didn’t have any idea Venice is an island with famous canals known for being a pedestrian only city. So I was mesmerized every minute walking through its narrow streets and up and down each bridge. Returning to Venice seven years later I’m still in awe of its beauty. How was it possible to build such a city so long ago? I mean everything was transported by water. It amazes me that ambulances and taxis are boats and everything is still transported by water. It’s so easy to just start walking and get lost on the streets of Venice especially since many streets have no signs and maps don’t have the names of small alleys or bridges. But I think that’s the point. Just keep walking until your feet tell you to stop. We would walk across the same bridges and the same routes but would notice new sights each time. We really enjoyed not having an agenda and just exploring. One day near Plaza San Marco we walked in the narrow alleys in the direction of what we thought was the train station, but after over 30 minutes of walking, stepped right back into the area behind San Marco. We actually managed to go backwards!
It was pretty difficult to find an authentic Italian restaurant in Venice that was within our budget. We finally found a local lunch place open from noon to 2 pm off of one of the side streets in Venice. When we entered, I felt strange because I was the only woman in the restaurant besides the two waitresses. All the customers were men, and most were construction workers eating lunch. At least they were Italian! The food was amazing…our first plates were both pasta with red sauce, main dishes were fish (bacalao/cod) and chicken fillet, and sides of spinach and beans. Of course we also ate bread with olive oil and shared a small carafe of white wine. Yummy!
Losing the monkey was a sad day for Giovanni and I. We noticed that we lost it when we entered an art gallery with a giant colorful ant statue and we wanted to take a photo of the monkey with the ant. I looked inside my purse and we searched in our pockets, but the monkey was nowhere to be found. At least we had the camera! We looked at our last picture with the monkey and it was with our gelatos next to our hotel. We were determined to find the monkey so we retraced our steps all the way back to the hotel for like 45 mins, but we did not find it! We even were looking at the hands of little kids playing with toys to see if maybe they had found our monkey, so we could steal it back. But no such luck. We accepted defeat although we were pretty bummed the rest of the day.
My favorite string of words in Italian is: Murano, Burano, and Torcello [listen to it]. These are the islands we visited on a boat tour in the Venetian lagoon. Of these islands, Murano is known for glass blowing, Burano for lace, and Torcello for having a population of only 15 people. My favorite is Burano because it looks like a mini-Venice with even more colorful homes, plants in the windowsills, and very narrow canals.
The politics in Italy sadden me. Our hotel receptionist says she studied neuropsychology and is now working as a receptionist with no hope of ever finding a job in her field. She also said the government wants to keep the people stupid so college costs more than other European countries, students live at home and attend the closest university so there is no sense of college campus or unity amongst students, and that there are no jobs once you finish university. I guess they are afraid of Italian people actually realizing that the government is corrupt and the role of the Mafia. We were also surprised that many of the waiters in Venice are South Indian. And to this, she responded that immigrants are willing to work for low wages and long hours so they are replacing Italians in these positions. So Italy appears to be in a grim position in Europe along with Spain.
On another note, it was cold and drizzling outside so one night we ordered a huge family margherita pizza and devoured the whole thing between Giovanni and I in our hotel room. And oh was it delicious!