Thursday, February 12, 2015

#TBT: Venetian Magic

My final two days in Italy were spent in Venice. It's an old, majestic city where using a map is futile (as I learned the hard way), and it’s best to just wander the canals and streets with no destination in mind. I personally think the city is enchanted because the moment I stopped looking for a specific shop, it miraculously appeared in front of me. Repeatedly. I kid you not. 

Despite temperatures 20 degrees lower than Rome and Florence, gray skies, and drizzle, I still had an incredible time. While I enjoyed the touristy sites like Basilica San Marco, Rialto Bridge, and the Doge’s Palace, it was the many different artisans of the city that truly impressed me. The Venetian masks, the Burano lace, and the Murano glass were so skillfully and beautifully designed. 


If you want a real Venetian mask, be warned that a lot of the ones sold in the tourist shops are actually made in China, not Venice or even Italy.  I’d highly recommend visiting La Bottega dei Mascareri for the real deal. It’s a closet-sized shop, but don’t let that fool you. 

For booklovers like me, Libreria Acqua Alta is a must-see. It’s this cramped bookstore with gondolas, rowboats, and bathtubs filled with books inside, a stairway of books outside, and a picturesque reading area where you can look out onto one of Venice’s canals.

Gondola rides are another must when you’re in Venice but expensive. It costs €80 for a 30 minute ride. Fun fact though: no two gondolas are alike. They are personalized to reflect the gondolier’s style.

I found it easiest to navigate Venice by scraping the map and paying attention to the posted signs for landmarks like Rialto, San Marco, and San Giovanni. You can easily follow the signs to get to the landmarks themselves and they helped to keep my bearings as I explored.


I was fortunate to have booked a tour of some of the neighboring islands in the lagoon on my second day in Venice.  Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the tour itself (the one guide gave the tour in English, Italian, Spanish, and German but rushed through the four languages so that I hardly recognized English over the awful speakers), but the destinations were extraordinary.

Murano is renowned for its glass, which is crafted into works of art ranging from traditional glassware to chandeliers and decorative sculptures. We watched a glass-blowing demonstration and were left to wander around and shop afterwards. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the glasswork, but the level of detail and the rich colors of the glass blew my mind.

Of the islands that we visited on the tour, Burano was by far my favorite. The island is known for its lace and for its vibrantly colored houses. The legend is that fishermen painted their homes in bright colors so that they could spot the shore at night, and now it’s illegal to change the colors. The village is so cheerful, especially on a gray day.


After that, it was arrivederci to Italy the next morning. It was, as lame as it sounds, a trip of a lifetime, and I do hope to visit Italy again one day. There’s so much of the country that I still haven't seen! Plus, I’d love to spend more time in both Florence and Venice, unearthing some of their hidden gems and eating more of their delicious food. I really didn’t eat enough pasta while I was there--rookie mistake. I’ll do better next time!

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