Verona had to be cut from our agenda since we got stuck in Prague longer than expected, so we headed to Venice. Ahhh… Venice (you’ll chuckle here only if you’re an Indiana Jones fan). Looking out upon the canals here where the only form of transportation is on water, the sound of cars and traffic long forgotten, ushers in a sense of quiet relaxation. You almost can’t help but let all of your muscles fall into a completely relaxed state. We were here once before for a day or two; long enough to know we wanted to come back.
Of course, before we could enjoy Venice, we had to get there. The bus from Prague took 17 hours overnight, and seemed to stop every two or three hours making continuous sleep a bit of a challenge. Elliott’s increasing frustration at the lack of free restrooms came to a head on this ride. The bus had a working WC (they let us use it once), but they kept it locked for the duration of the trip, preferring to make the passengers pay every time we stopped along the way. To add insult to injury, the driver would let himself into the onboard WC, and then lock it behind him when he was finished. We were each forced to sneak past the toilet attendants multiple times in order to relieve ourselves, as we had spent every Czech crown we had before we left Prague. When we finally made it to Austria and we were back on the Euro, we felt obligated to pay since we had Euros, so I carried out my revenge by relieving the WC of some extra toilet tissue.
But no worries; Venice made us forget all of our worries! Our first day was no picnic though. We arrived at 5:15am and our host could not accommodate us until 6pm. That meant paying 17 euros to store our luggage and heading out to explore on no sleep. We wandered through the narrow, early morning streets to Piazza San Marco and enjoyed touring St. Mark’s Basilica, including the famous altar made of gold, Pala d’Oro. Soon after we were too tired to continue and wished nothing more than to find a park with grass where we could lie down and fall asleep, but despite the abundant beauty in Venice, I don’t think any of it made up of grass! We looked at our map and found one spot of green and made a beeline for it! We weren’t allowed on the grass, but we found a bench to nap on and some beautiful flowers to photograph.
Once we woke up the skies were getting cloudy. We found a really nice spot to eat pizza outside along the water. We sat down and I was in heaven. By the time we ordered though, the first rain drops had started and the servers made us go inside. Ironically the rain didn’t really come down until we had asked for our check and it was the one day on this entire trip so far when we had not looked up the weather forecast, so we were completely unprepared for rain. We spent the next few hours trying to find our way back to a synagogue and bake shop we had seen earlier, now stopping every few minutes to look for a ledge to hide from the pouring rain!
Venice may have been slightly less idyllic on a tired, chilly, rainy day, but our next few days did not disappoint. Our host was located on the island of Murano, famous for its glass, particularly millefiore (thousand flowers). We spent our first full day there taking it slowly, ambling around and up and down the beautiful bridges, enjoying the now gorgeous weather, looking at all the glass shops had to offer. We sat on the edge of one of the canals and dangled our feet in the water while eating our picnic lunch. We found a little tiny alley leading to a glass worker who allows you to watch him work, and we found some enormous glass sculptures around the island on display for the public to enjoy.
Despite the rain the next day we planned to visit the island of Burano, renowned for its beauty. Our host recommended it highly over some of the other spots suggested in our tourist book. When we went to get our ferry, though, there was a half hour wait for the Burano ferry so we decided to hop on the first ferry that came along and go wherever it took us. We ended up on another small island, Lido, famous for its beach. Lido is different from the other islands we were on in that there are cars there, which we weren’t so partial to after the quiet of Venice and Murano. It appears to attract a lot of retirees. It took us a while to reach Lido and longer to find its beach using the “wandering around” method rather than “asking directions or finding a map” approach. At this point the rain had stopped and it was sunny and overly warm for wandering. Not too many people speak English on these smaller islands so we were lucky someone at least understood the word “beach” once we realized we were completely lost. Eventually we did reach the beach, and we found ourselves in an area that looked exclusive – cabanas and beach chairs everywhere. Not understanding a language has its benefits, as we could not tell if the signs told us to keep out, and so we claimed a cabana for our own. We stuck our toes in the water and enjoyed a picnic lunch in our hot cabana. I had no bathing suit due to the earlier rain and since we weren’t planning to be on Lido, so I enjoyed a lovely swim in my clothes while Elliott collected shells on the beach. Eventually we did get kicked out, coincidentally just as we were packing up our things to leave!
We made it to Burano later that afternoon. Burano is super tiny (you can walk around the entire island in less than half hour), super colorful, and super nice to look at. Originally, fishermen would paint their houses bright colors so they could spot them from the sea. Now the whole island is a riot of color (similar to Curacao). There is a church tower that looks like it is completely falling over – we’ll call it the New Leaning Tower of Burano. From walking around, we could tell there are not many occupations on this island. It is still a traditional fishing village; in addition to that, you could be a tourist shop owner, gelato shop owner, or maybe a plant store owner. Every little colorful house was adorned not in flowers necessarily, but in some sort of plant or cactus. It was an extremely photographic island, to the point where we walked around the entire island twice just for fun. It also has lots of tourist shops filled with handmade lace. We were amazed that the lace on Burano was even more intricate than that in Brussels and Bruge in Belgium, which is also famous for its lace. Here on Burano they not only make lace doilies and table runners but even lace clothing! Beautiful.
Venice and its surrounding islands can certainly not be spoiled by a little rain or sleep deprivation. It will remain one of our favorite places to just idly wander and explore.