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Venice/Torcello: Day 2 – Part 2

For the first part of our second day click here.

After a lovely lunch of pizza and wine, we left the picturesque setting of Burano, said goodbye to the brightly colored buildings to visit yet another island of the Venetian lagoon: Torcello.

Torcello is the oldest island of the lagoon and I’ll be honest with you, we watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain where he went to Torcello and he said it was a must-see. And so we saw. Thanks, Tony! It had such a different feel as soon as we stepped off the boat. Quiet. Still. Alone. And green! There was such a unique contrast between Venice, Burano, and Torcello. I’m so happy we got to see all three as they are all completely different and wonderful in their own ways. What an awesome way to experience Venice. Torcello is known as the mother of Venice and was once its biggest rival.

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This little brick structure greets you just as soon as you step off the boat. Welcome to Torcello!

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After walking a little ways down the sidewalk from the boat, you see a devil’s bridge which is an ancient arched bridge seen throughout Europe. Torcello’s is actually called Ponticello del Diavolo (devil’s little bridge) as it is much smaller than most other devil’s bridges. It really was… a bridge. That led to nowhere.

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A little green area and a restaurant in the middle of the island. We were literally 2 of maybe 15 other people on the island at the time. Including residents. As the island only has a population of ten people. Crazy. That’s almost as big as the population of my house.

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We then made our way further down the sidewalk (road?) to the main attraction of Torcello. A small palazzo surrounded by some very ancient buildings, ruins, columns, and statues.

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And when I say ancient, I mean ancient. On the right is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta built in 639 AD. It is the oldest religious structure in all of the Veneto and has the first mosaics in the Venice area. On the left is the Church of Santa Fosca. I don’t know a whole lot about either one, but this site does.

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What’s Italy without a little vineyard in the neighborhood?

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I had to share this picture of the dog. We saw this dog on Burano and then again he was on Torcello when we were there, too! Apparently he’s just a local dog (not sure if he even belongs to anybody or not) who takes the boats from island to island getting food, sun, and joy wherever he can. What a whimsical life. He should be in a children’s book. :)

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This is what the inside of the traghetto looked like. It wasn’t crazy busy until it stopped in Burano and Murano to pick everybody up. And it was a long trip back I remember; almost an hour due to how many stops it had to make on only a 1.5 mile trip!

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When we arrived back in Venice we did as the Italians do and refreshed ourselves with some yummy gelato. I have no idea what kind we got and the picture doesn’t really help refresh my memory! We then just walked around and enjoyed the fine details of Venice like the unique doors and textures that were everywhere we looked.

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Look, it’s a gondola with two suckers paying like $500 for a 40 minute ride! Something like that.

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We were then hungry for dinner. I don’t know what time it was but it was early for Italians as they usually eat dinner at around 10pm, so we were literally the only ones in this restaurant. Kind of nice, looking back on it. Alone for a romantic dinner on our last night in Venice.

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I love this guy. Forever my travel buddy. Here he was drinking a Spritz, the local drink specialty of Venice. It was actually really good and has me wanting to try to make one for ourselves here! And I will end this day with our meals. The Count tried seafood as we were in Venice where it is aplenty! I stuck with what I know and love. Pasta with cream sauce. Although I wasn’t prepared for how salty prisciutto was.

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I think I already said this, but if not… we loved Venice. It was one of the most memorable places of our entire trip and was my favorite city overall. I read scathing reviews and had people try to tell me before our trip that Venice was dirty and stinky and overhyped. They were so, so, very wrong. Venice was magic and I long for the day when I can go back.

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Venice/Burano: Day 2 – Part 1

For our first day in Venice, click herehere, and here.

On our second day in Venice, we decided to try and skip as many tourists as we could (though we were some of the biggest ourselves!) and head out into the Venetian Lagoon to explore a couple of the most popular islands. We skipped Murano, the most famous island known for its glass making, shops, and factories, dating back to 1291. We figured, we’d see enough glass throughout Venice and could spend more time where I really wanted: Burano. Known for its pastel painted fishermen’s houses and lace making, it was truly picturesque. And then we wanted to stop on the oldest island of the lagoon, Torcello, which was established in the 5th or 6th centuries. Talk about history. I have way too many pictures to share of this day, of course.

We started the morning off with a planned quick stop at Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, a minor basilica completed in 1396. It is one of 3 most famous churches in Venice. However, once we got there, we opted not to pay the $10/each to see it. Not that it wasn’t beautiful and most likely magnificent on the inside, but we were sort of churched out at that point and were trying to be more selective of our sights.

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However, it was meant to be because we ran into people we knew. Half way around the globe! Here was my coworker and his pretty lady which we had to snap a pic or nobody would have believed us!

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These were taken from the Rialto Bridge and the surrounding area.

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I could never get enough of this place.

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We headed for the Rialto Market, which in my opinion, is the saddest market in all of Europe. Well, saddest that we had seen. This place has nothing on Germany as far as markets are concerned! And then we stopped by the seafood market, which was not open on this day and instead was just an empty covered area.

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See? No reason to go to Murano — all the glass we needed to see is all over Venice!

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We then hopped on a vaporetto to Burano where we saw some of the more industrial buildings away from the main island and other little islands overrun by green. Can you imagine living here?

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Ahh, our introduction to Burano. And still more glass to purchase here. We did buy an ornament and a miniature carafe set for my mom’s dollhouse.

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And then the picture perfectness began. So, I won’t pretend that I’m some expert on Burano, but we did learn that the houses were painted brightly so that when the fishermen came home, they knew right where their house was. And most all of the shutters are green, I believe that is a requirement, but I can’t find anywhere online confirming what I heard.

I cannot get over the colors, the care that is taken with their front doors, which were sometimes no more than a sheet, their windows and accompanying flowers, and of course I will never get over seeing people’s laundry just blowing about. What a wonderful sight Burano was and filled me with such great awe and respect for this little island and the people who took such pride in their homes. Again, like in Venice, there were no cars, as the entire island can be walked in an hour — which we did. While there, we tried to decide what color house we would own if we lived here. I was partial to blue or yellow and Dan, green.

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That’s a bird cage hanging out of that window!

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Free water, much like many other places we visited in Europe, but Italy especially.

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As you can see from the above pictures, coming to Burano was really the right choice. We walked freely without other tourists or people running into us and could talk, imagine, and goof around without caring that others would see us. The center of the island where all the shopping is, was busy (below) but that was it and it still was nothing compared to Venice. It was a nice little break from the crowds of people.

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The Burano lace. I read that most of the lace for sale on the island is not handmade and is instead made in factories on Venice. If you do find handmade lace, it is distinguishable by how expensive it is. We didn’t buy any because I couldn’t for the life of me think of what I would do with it. Handmade or factory made, it was still beautiful.

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We stopped and had lunch at this little deli where they had maybe 4 tables outside and that was it. You can’t even go inside because it is just a kitchen. We had wine, warm cokes, and delicious pizza (much better than the hotdog pizza the day before!).

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This picture below of the purple houses and the laundry is one of my favorites that we took the entire trip. It just drew me in and I felt like I belonged there. On second thought, purple was definitely my top choice.

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Burano really was like a scene from a movie. Pure magic and one of the highlights of not only Venice, but Italy. There were many moments throughout our trip that we had to pinch ourselves to make sure we were really there and Burano was a big one.

From Burano, we visited Torcello, but that’s a post for another day. I must continue to nurse myself back to health for now as I try to kick my 4th sickness in 3 months.

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Venice: Day 1 – Part 3

For the first and second parts of our first day in Venice, click here and here.

The Grand Canal cruise was the most perfect and romantic end to the most epic first day in Venice ever. Seriously, thanks Rick Steves for recommending it (and a million other suggestions). We downloaded his audio tour and both put our headphones on and lost ourselves in Venice for about the 45 minutes that it took us to cruise the canal from the train station to past St. Mark’s Square. It was great and the €6.50 vaporetto (the local water taxi since as I said before, there are no cars in Venice!) ticket price sure beat the €200/hr gondola ride!

After our refreshing nap, we found some gelato to wet our palettes and then headed down to the train station to meet our travel buddies to begin the Grand Canal cruise. Please forgive me for all the cheesy grins but Venice turned out to be our favorite city and we couldn’t stop smiling the whole day and into the night. Venice was unbelievably picturesque during the day, but at night it was magical and enchanting. The way the lights hit the water and reflected back onto the buildings, I felt like I was in a movie or a book and none of it was real. But as the boat would rock and I looked at The Count, it was very very real; everything about it.

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I found this map from Rick Steve’s… I don’t know where, Pinterest somewhere, but it showed everything we saw on the cruise. Rick’s narration was awesome and I couldn’t recommend it more since I would have had no idea what I was seeing on my own!

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At the train station, waiting for our friends and so excited for our first cruise in the vaporetto down the famed Grand Canal of Venice.

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See – Rick Steves audio tour happening. Oh and the Rialto Bridge!

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Hello €200/hr gondola ride.

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The perfect view.

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One thing I loved about Venice was how the water was SO many different colors ALL the time.

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St. Mark’s Square at dusk.

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On a vaporetto stop waiting for another boat to take us back towards S. Margherita. It swayed and rocked with the big waves (caused by all the busy boats and vaporetti)!

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Memorable night. Total cheese.

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This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Venice: Day 1 – Part 2

For the first part of our Day 1, click here.

Our first day in Venice continued as we headed to Palazzo Ducal, or Doge’s Palace where the Doge’s of Venice ruled for over 1,000 years. This palace had been there since 1340 and it was massive and had an extensive prison with prisoners such as Casanova, who was locked up for being a freemason and spreading anti-religious messages. He’s also one of the few to have ever escaped. I would say that I think overall I’m glad to have said that I saw the palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and the prison, but looking back, I don’t remember much. You aren’t really allowed to take any pictures of all the famous art and architecture that makes it so famous (just the staircase as you walk in, and the prison) and so therefore, my memories of the place are vague and few. It was still beautiful. That staircase to the right (below) is the Giant Staircase.

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A “Lion’s Mouth” postbox for anonymous denunciations of Venice at the Doge’s Palace. Translation: “Secret denunciations against anyone who will conceal favors and services or will collude to hide the true revenue from them”. Very cool!

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The Golden Staircase leading to the Doge’s apartments. There weren’t many furnishings as Napoleon’s army made sure to plunder those.

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Views from inside the Palace. You can see the island of San Michele below.

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And on to the prison. One of the many prison cells, doors, one where Casanova was held and escaped from, a close up of the special hinges that closed them air-tight to prevent anyone from over hearing things from the corridor outside, and also the torture room.

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After the tour, which took a couple hours and was very, very hot with no real circulation except when we walked across the Bridge of Sighs and got a little cross breeze… we were tossed back out onto St. Mark’s Square where the even more throngs of tourists had congregated. Man, when they say to stay away from St. Mark’s, they aren’t kidding. That place was ridiculous. But we still had more to do. St. Mark’s Basilica and Giotto’s Campanile. St. Mark’s Basilica was beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. Gold, tile, paintings, frescoes everywhere. So basically, much like every basilica we saw in Europe. :P

See?

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And then onto the Campanile. We waited in the long line, but I don’t remember it being too horrendous, and happily paid the $9 or so to take the elevator to the top and see the Venice from the rooftops and the Venetian lagoon. Finally no stairs to climb!

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After a long day spent mostly in St. Mark’s we made our way back towards Campo S. Margarita to grab some lunch and to actually take a nap *gasp* since we were very exhausted from our very early train wake up call.

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We found a little restaurant right in our square outside our hotel and had some pizza and cokes. My pizza was great. Pepperoni. Dan’s was… well, interesting. It was supposed to be sausage, but ended up being… hotdogs. He still ate it… when in Europe!

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We went back to our cute little room with a view and had a very refreshing nap and shower to ready ourselves for our Grand Canal tour and to see Venice from the local transportation; the Vaporetto. That’s coming up next!

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This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!

Venice: Day 1 – Part 1

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Oh Venice how we loved you. Probably my favorite city. I loved Germany the most as far as countries go, but Venice was my favorite city. Just something so magical about walking through a city that had no streets or cars – that was definitely a one of a kind experience that I couldn’t get back home.

After a pretty awful night sleeping on the train (fought with one of my bunk mates on opening/shutting the window as the curtain slapped me in the face all night with it being open!) and I did not get very much sleep, I wasn’t a very happy camper that morning, but alas I was in Venice. We needed cash so we found a place that we could pull cash out (at an exorbitantly high rate mind you!) and then set out to find our hotel. We stayed in Campo Santa Margarita which is actually filled more with locals than with tourists as it’s a little off the beaten track and that was fine by us. It was really cool to come here and people watch; lots of students. In the morning (at 6:30am!) it was dead with nothing but the people sweeping the streets from the night before, but at night it is loud and rowdy. Very cool.

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After finally finding our temporary home in Venice we set out for our quick 2 days to see and do as much as possible. We found the Accademia Bridge, snapped a few pics of it and just started to become familiar with our surroundings for the next 2 days. Water, water, bridges, bricks, more water, boats, pigeons, alleyways, water again, beggars, and water. It was really surreal.

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I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of the actual bridge, but us being on it is better. Google has plenty of pictures. We then made our way towards St. Mark’s Square before the hordes of tourists and day trippers from the big cruise ships got there. That was sure a treat to see since we never got to see St. Mark’s (mostly) empty like that again!

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After our quick glimpse of St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica, Campanile, and the Palace, we set out down an alley and found a little cafe for breakfast as we were starved. Food was decent and met our requirements of feeding our bellies and getting coffee into those that needed it!

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We then went back to St. Mark’s Square where you can see the hordes of people wasted no time filling it up. We had our 10:45am Secret Itineraries tour at Doge’s Palace and spent some more time in the square enjoying the view and the water while we waited.

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So as not to overload you on pictures from our day, I’ll split this up into multiple parts and hopefully I can finish Venice before my dear friend Katie goes on her big trip to Europe next week!

Next up: Our tour of Doge’s Palace, Giotto’s Campanile, St. Mark’s Basilica and more!

This is a part of my ever persistent quest to finally blog about our month long trip to Europe in May of 2011. You can read about the rest of our days by clicking on “Travel” at the top!