All I can say that is it was an awesome feeling to step off the bus, which had been my prison for the past six hours, and into one of Italy’s most iconic cities. Here I was, in Venice!

We all collected our bags from the bowels of the bus, and began the trek as a USAC group to the Hotel Basilea, where we would be staying. As one can imagine, while we walked we gawked at the canals and ancient buildings in disbelief that we were actually there. Once we arrived at the inn, the program leaders gave us about thirty minutes before we had to head out for our tour.

I quickly dumped my luggage and grabbed whatever effects I thought I might need. I wanted to get outside and see the city, even if all that amounted to at the moment was standing by a canal and waiting to leave for the tour. Once everyone was ready, we once again stormed off as a USAC herd towards the Piazza San Marco; the main square in Venice. At times, we literally had to

The afore mentioned crowds

elbow our way through the crowd. It seemed so thick at that moment; little did we know just how bad the congestion would be in Piazza San Marco. At times you literally could not even move your hands out of your pockets it

was so thick. Nonetheless, we managed to meet our tour guides and begin the sightseeing process.

 

The tour was interesting, but not incredibly earthshattering. It was a nice orientation to Venice and we got to learn some of the history of the city and see a few sights while the guide ranted about life there. It was pretty funny how we had to essentially jump from clear spot to clear spot on side streets during the tour since we were instantly disbanded as soon as we entered the chaotically crowded main lanes.

After the tour, a small assemblage of us picked a direction and began walking. We wanted to find some dinner! However, none of us wanted to get sucked into a tourist trap, so we just started wandering into the city’s heart and away from the mayhem. It took us over an hour of trekking to find a suitable establishment, though none of us complained since we were lost in Venice. Who can be frustrated there?

We just looked for signs for the train station to keep our orientation. No map, no guidebook, just intuition and visceral reactions towards forks in the road. Eventually we found a trattoria that seemed authentic and didn’t threaten to

Me, on the Rialto Bridge

kill our pocketbooks. I had lasagna, and it was beyond delicious.

From here on out in this post, I will be merely mentioning different places I saw and not going into detail. This is partially for brevity’s sake, but mainly because I feel that it would not do these places justice to just lump them into one giant column. You will find shorter, more detailed, descriptions of each of these places in the following posts.

Sunday morning found me at the free breakfast buffet gorging myself on crème filled donuts and cappuccinos. I figured I’m only in Venice once so, my waistline be darned, I was going to eat an insane amount of pastries! This relaxed breakfast of donuts and watching gondolas pass by was in no way a good indicator of the rest of the day. After it we were running and gunning at a break neck pace all day long.

After purchasing our twenty-four hour tickets for the boat buses (called vaporetti), we hoped on the first one headed to Piazza San Marco. There, we climbed to the top of the Campinale bell tower to drink in some breathtaking sights of Venice. It was a little pricey, but worth every dime for the views. After this, we wandered the awe inspiring halls of the gargantuan San Marco Basilica. This ancient church is not only home to the bones of Saint Mark, but also the best preserved Byzantine mosaics outside of Istanbul. After managing to overcome the shock induced by the Basilica, we hopped on the next vaporetti out to the famous isle of Murano; the home of globally renowned Venetian glass. On this island glass is still made using ancient glass blowing techniques passed down from father to son. We then hopped over to the, less famous, lace making island of Burano. I still struggle to understand why Burano is so unkown as I found it to be one of the coolest places in Venice.

We ate a light supper in Burano and then headed back to the hotel. After less than an hour of relaxation we were back at it again. This time the plan was simple. We bought a bottle of Venetian Merlot, jumped on a vaporetti, and sipped it as we cruised the Grand Canal at night. We went to the far end of the island and slowly worked our way back to the hotel taking time to enjoy the sights and partake in Carnevale celebrations. I even bought myself one of the traditional masks one is supposed to wear during the festival.

One of my friends, Hunter, and I wanted to stop into “Harry’s Bar” since it was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite and we both greatly enjoy his works. However, the bar has realized their marketability, and was asking more money for one drink than I am willing to pay for a used car. We settled for a picture in front of it instead.

After some much needed sleep I woke up early on Monday. I once again capitalized on the free donuts and coffee before Brandon and I set out. We only had two hours to see a couple more places, but we made the most of it. We ran down to the Frari church, which may arguably be my favorite part of my time in Venizia. It’s the home of the tomb of Titian, one of my favorite artists, and also houses the works of two other important artists in their original venue. I found this to be very remarkable since so many pieces of art can only be observed in a sterile, white, and overly bright gallery. We then sprinted down to the Rialto Bridge to take some typical tourist photos before finally meeting the rest of the group at the hotel to leave for Verona.

All in all it was a fantastic trip. Now time for some details on the places I’ve mentioned.

 

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