EuroTrip 2013 | Italy Day 1: Venice, Piazza San Marco, Grand Canal

Racing a gondola in the Grand Canal

Racing a gondola in the Grand Canal

We woke up at the crack of dawn (actually 3:30 AM) to catch our early-morning flight from Berlin to Venice. Check-in took a bit longer than usual but we finally made it through, grabbed a quick breakfast at Burger King, and were seated on the plane in no time.

I proceeded to knock out before we took off and didn’t wake until after we landed. That nap was an absolute necessity because today was our main day and only full day in Venice. We arrived at our hostel, Camping Rialto, which was actually a really cool campsite with tents and cabins, located 10 minutes outside Venice.

Our mini-cabin had just enough space for a bunk bed and one separate bed, and the entire place was super clean and full of trees, a nice change of scenery compared to the industrial vibe of Kreuzberg in Berlin (which definitely had its own charm).

The weather was another nice change – it was suddenly hitting SoCal temperatures, and we didn’t have to pull out our jackets (and take them off in 5 minutes) for Berlin’s crazy sun/rain summer climate. Soon we were in the main city of Venice, and we did some quick exploring of the labyrinth system of alleyways with interesting boutique shops and little restaurants.

After a quick bite at a pizza stand for lunch, we finally found our way out of the maze and into the beautiful Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), a giant square surrounded by the Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Basilica, and many nice shops and restaurants.

Piazza San Marco, teeming with people

Piazza San Marco, teeming with people

The sun was shining down and the square was absolutely filled with life – kids feeding swarms of pigeons, older couples sitting in café patios enjoying coffee, tourists busily snapping pictures. We took some pictures of our own, but not before going on a trek to find the ever-elusive Gelato Fantasy, one of the highest-rated gelato shops in Venice.

After endlessly navigating through the maze of alleyways once again, we finally spotted it. I tried the pistachio and hazelnut gelatos (double scoop in a waffle cone), and it was the best gelato I had ever tasted. Hands down, it was the perfect mix of flavor, creaminess, and texture. But I’ll save that for one of my Food Spotlight posts.

Moving on, we walked inside St. Mark’s Basilica and went up to the viewing deck, where we caught some of the best views of the entire square and the Grand Canal behind it. By now, it was late afternoon and the temperature was getting unbearably hot, which didn’t mix well with our three-hours-of-sleep bodies.

Old buildings of Venice

Old buildings of Venice

We took a break and decided to take a water bus down the Grand Canal to see much of the historical buildings on the water. Fun fact: the buildings in Venice were built on wooden piles made from alder trees, which have water-resistant wood that don’t rot easily under water.

It was an awe-inspiring sight, watching those buildings, some which had foundations laid during the Middle Ages, sit right above the water line. It’s not hard imagining Venice in its former glory as one of the major centers of trade from the 13th to 17th centuries and originator of art movements such as Renaissance art.

The Grand Canal of modern times is filled with boats of many varieties, from private-party (and crazy expensive) gondolas to motor-powered water taxis to larger water busses. The bus we were on was part of an entire water bus system, and we stopped at mini “port” stations to pick up and drop off people during our hour-long journey through the heart of Venice. The sights and sounds were unforgettable, and we topped it all off with a pasta dinner sitting outside next to one of the smaller waterways in the city.

Amazing end to a crazy, tiring, awesome day!

Group shot with the waterway in the backdrop!

Group shot with the waterway in the backdrop!

Stay tuned and read about my other adventures in London, Paris, Berlin!

Steps taken: 17,825 | Miles walked: 5.90

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