Visiting Venice

I left Switzerland and took a Flixbus bus from Interlaken to Venice Mestre station. It was a good eight hour bus ride, and I mostly watched movies the whole way. We were supposed to have internet, but according to the bus Flixbus staff, there was a law or something in Italy or a contract that they needed to use the wi-fi that we weren’t approved for – all I know is, I’m glad I downloaded Netflix movies and shows onto my phone!

I got to Venice (not the mainland, the northern part that connects to the rest of Italy, since Venice itself is mostly an island) and walked a short ways to my hostel. The area around the hostel wasn’t bad or anything but it was later in the evening and getting dark and seemed like more of an empty neighborhood with construction than a place real people lived.

The hostel I stayed at was AO Hostel Venice and it was pretty nice. It was huge – more like a hotel than a hostel. The staff were really friendly, though, and the facilities were clean and new. I went straight to my room, put my stuff down, and decided I was hungry. However, I knew I probably wouldn’t have time to go see the main part of Venice that day, since the sun had already set.

I decided just to go to a nearby pizza place. It was a short walk from the hostel and was packed with people – locals and tourists alike. I ended up ordering a calzone for take-out and it took about 40 minutes for them to serve everyone up to me and then get my order out. It was kind of fun, though, just watching the staff scramble around rolling out the dough, adding toppings, and throwing them into the ovens.

Calzone and Sprite in hand, I headed back to the hostel. I decided to eat it on the patio. The hostel was mostly full of big groups of people, so I didn’t meet anyone or talk to anyone there at all. It was a huge contrast to Mountain Hostel in Switzerland, where I basically felt like I was at summer camp with good friends.

I went upstairs, showered, and went to bed. I had two roommates but neither of them talked to me at all. One didn’t even come back until after I was asleep. It was kind of awkward, but fine, since our beds had lights and individual plugs for our chargers.

The next day, I got up pretty early and tried to get to the main part of Venice. I wandered around for a while and had to ask multiple people – first a ticket lady and then a lady at the front desk of a hotel – because I was totally clueless as to what to do. The hotel lady told me to take the ticket I had just bought from the other woman and ride the bus that came to the stop across the street. I had to validate the ticket on the bus, too. I’m used to the ease of Korean buses and trains, so the whole validation thing threw me off.

Finally, I was on the bus and heading into the maze that is Venice. I arrived in Santa Lucia and just started walking around. A lot of travel bloggers had warned that Venice is hard to navigate, and they weren’t wrong! Though, eventually, I figured out that there were signs everywhere pointing to San Marco’s square. I got to the square and was in awe.

It was so surreal – I was walking around, passing tiny canals, going over tiny footbridges, and then there I was in front of St. Mark’s Campanile – the huge bell tower that I climbed in Assassin’s Creed! (That’s a video game for those of you non-gamers.) There was also the Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark’s Basilica, which were huge and beautiful. The square was so spacious and it was fun seeing all the shops around it, as well as the artists and their paintings on sale near the docks.

Since it was a Sunday, I got lucky and got to attend Mass in the Basilica! I’d only attended a Catholic church a few times in my life, but I kind of knew what to expect. St. Mark’s Basilica is huge, with high ceilings and impressive Gothic architecture. Visitors must pay an entrance fee, but for those attending service, it’s free (although they frown upon/forbid taking pictures inside during service). It was nice – they had a choir and some of the programs were in English, as they know many tourists visit for Mass.

Later, I walked around the square and felt hungry so I used one of my guides to recommend me some €2 pizza! It took me a while to figure out the way there, through all the twisted streets, but it was really good pizza and I was happy to have found something so cheap. There were no seats, though, so I just stood outside the shop to eat it.

They also have a Disney store in Venice, and it was really cute. The outside had artwork of Mickey rowing a gondola down a canal! It was incredibly difficult to find a bathroom or a place with wi-fi. I couldn’t even really find many places to sit down, and it was a hot day and I was doing a lot of walking.

I ended up going to some of the museums in the square, which were all really cool! I had to ask one of the museum staff where the bathrooms were, so I asked in Italian (Dov’e il bagno?) and she understood me! It was such a relief to find a free bathroom, and they had a cafe in the museum with some wi-fi that I used for a little bit.

My favorite part of Venice, of course, were all the cute canals, the gentleness of the water lapping up against the buildings, and the occasional gondola floating by. It was pretty hot, though, and I took a lot of breaks from the heat when I could. I wanted to go to the Da Vinci museum, but I got there past the time they stopped selling tickets for the day, but I didn’t mind too much.

I got some tiramisu at I Tre Mercanti, a boutique famous for the Venetian dessert. They make different flavors every day, and that day I was able to get chocolate! I also got a tiny macaron. It was really good tiramisu, and I usually don’t like tiramisu because of the coffee flavor, so I was glad they had it in other flavors. They also had free wi-fi, so I used it for a while and was able to video chat with my husband and he thought Venice looked really cool!

I managed to find the Libreria Acqua Alta, the famous bookstore in Venice for having tons of old books and a unique-looking shop. They had a gondola inside filled with books! I also loved going in other little shops to look at Venetian masks, glass works, books, paper, etc. One shop had a cute little cat standing guard in the doorway!

For dinner, I was really craving some risotto, which is also a Venetian specialty. However, most places I came across only had seafood risotto (which makes sense, since Venice is an island and many Venetians eat seafood) but I’m not a seafood eater, so I kept looking. Eventually, I found a little place that had vegetarian risotto, so I went right in. The waiter was really nice and asked where I was from, etc. and made sure I liked my food. I even ordered some chocolate cake for dessert, even though it was a pricey restaurant. I decided to treat myself, since I’d been eating pretty cheaply up until then.

The next morning, I got up early again and had less trouble getting back to the main part of Venice. I decided to do a canal tour. I had Rick Steves’ audio guide, so I listened to him explain the history of all the buildings we passed on the boat, which went from Santa Lucia to St. Mark’s Square. It was really peaceful and I was able to get good pictures and lots of video of the ride.

Then I decided to go see Murano, since I’d done most of the main things in Venice the day before. I’d seen Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs, the Doge’s Palace museum, and the Museo Correr, as well as attended Mass in the cathedral. I was ready for a change of pace, so I hopped off my Grand Canal boat and almost immediately hopped onto a ferry to Murano.

Murano and Burano are two little mini-islands in Venice that many tourists visit, and I would have loved to see both, but Burano’s main shops were all closed on Mondays, so I went to Murano instead. Burano is known for it’s colorful buildings and lace-making shops, while, Murano is known for glass-making. It was much less crowded than the main parts of Venice, and it was fun to just stroll around aimlessly.

I stopped in a little shop and got a bite to eat and some water before walking in and out of all the little glass shops. There wasn’t much to do but take pictures and stroll, so eventually I got the next ferry back to the mainland.

Since I love Vivaldi and his music, I decided to get tickets to a string concert that night. I had a lot of time to kill, since the concert was at 9pm. I wandered around, looking for a place to sit down and get some wi-fi, but I couldn’t really, so I found a diner that had water and a place to sit. I read a book as I waited for evening to come.

The concert was really great – I was in line with two other Korean guys and struck up a conversation with them. They were surprised I spoke Korean and live in Korea and assumed I was European! Unfortunately, the concert wasn’t the Four Seasons but I enjoyed the music just as much. Afterwards, I took the train back to my hostel.

That night, my last night in Venice, I booked a bus through Flixbus to Florence and it was really cheap. I was excited to explore more of Italy, so I hit the hay and got ready for another day.

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