Italy blew my mind. I’m not going to lie about it, though, I was a little bit cynical. Like: Oh yeah, of course, you just turn this corner, and then through that stunning archway, the statue of David is just chilling there. OF COURSE the sunset is totally surreal from this cliff-top café where we’re having delicious wine from the vineyard next door, while overlooking some adorable colorful town and the ocean. Obviously when you come down from the top of the tower with its absolutely breath-taking view over all the quaint tiled rooftops in the city, the most delicious gelato shop ever is just 10 steps away. It was never enough! I kept thinking… Just stop, Italy, just stop. Give the other countries a chance! Give our cameras a break, just for a minute! It’s great. I hope to go back one day.
My first stop in Italy was probably the most romantic, gorgeous destination ever: Venezia! Venice. And I was there alone. I stayed in a tiny closet of a single room just off of Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). I had a great time exploring though. Venice is an absolute maze of tiny alleyways and arched bridges and shops and cute cafes and amazing architecture. I found being alone meant I had all the time I needed to take every inch of it in. I could be spontaneous and make a quick left down this alley and do a u-turn to get a second look in a window. I loved it! The colors in Venice are fantastic- the rich water tinged green, the faded neutrals of the stones, the aging walls of color on the houses, the fresh pops of plants growing in a window box or up the side of a wall, the jewel tones of the murals. I couldn’t get enough.
Of course in Venice THE most interesting unique thing is the canals- all 26 miles of them- and the iconic gondolas really finish the scene off perfectly. I decided the best place to see the gondolas was probably not from inside of them, so I didn’t take the romantic 38 euro ride alone. I was very intrigued by the gondoliers though so I used some of my spare time to observe them. I watched them rowing, singing, whistling, posing, resting, napping, eating, laughing, chatting with their fellow gondoliers… on and on! This isn’t as creepy as it sounds—the boatmen are everywhere! I loved their iconic outfits- the stripes and that super classic hat. What could be better? I liked their proud, sturdy stance too. They kept that even when they were off of the boats.
Every day, there would come a time in the afternoon, after walking around and trying to admire every little thing that I’d start to feel myself fading and I would think, “Gelato me!” Something about the sweet, smooth fruity (or creamy) flavors just perks any tourist right back up. I was also really motivated by the gluten free options available. I nearly cried when they brought out my spaghetti carbonara! AND a little gluten free roll? The part of Italy I never dreamed I could have was right there in front of me. It was every bit as delicious as I hoped it might be too. The gluten free pizza I had, on the other hand, was not exactly superb. I did enjoy speaking Chinese with the shop crew though… I guess that’s a fairly obvious lesson. When you want a really good, authentic pizza in Italy, get it from an Italian (no offense to anyone else). I did also enjoy a market full of sumptuous looking fruits and veggies. They make healthy eating look easy!
Venice by night was just as magical as Venice by day. In the evening, as the tide rose, water would flood St. Mark’s Square. Venice really is sinking! I was truly surprised.
I also had a mini getaway to islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. Murano is famous for its blown glass with intricate patterns. Burano is known for its brightly colored houses. Torcello has a nice old monastery and a calmer, more natural vibe. Overall, the outlying islands were less crowded with tourists, which was nice. Everyone wants to see Venice though. Can you blame them?