I’ve been a wanderin’ all around the Italian countryside for the past two weekends. Here’s the rundown from last weekend:
We took a bus here on Friday, February 5th. I honestly don’t remember how long the bus ride was, but it was long enough for me to wish there was an in-transit food service. We got to Venice, parked the bus, and went with our group to the ferries/water buses to get to the main square. It was a chilly day with the breeze, but it was sunny, so we warmed up nicely. Going through the main canals between islands was lovely on this huge boat. I kept my eyes peeled for the library Indiana Jones goes to in the third movie, but I had no such luck finding it. Sadly. We disembarked the bus, and walked to San Marco’s square. At this point, my friends and I started freaking out at the sights because Carnevale was in full swing. People were dressed up in extravagant, detailed costumes posing for pictures with tourists. Confetti and masks were being sold from every vendor, and despite the chill, we felt warm and happy to be a part of this day.
We found lunch at a hole-in-the-wall pasta shop with our tour group. The shop gave us a container of pasta (whichever kind we wanted) and a drink for 6€. I bought a dense alfredo fusilli that caused my fork to break as I was digging out the noodles. A worthy sacrifice. So tasty. We then followed our group to a glass blowing demonstration. I marveled. I oo’d and ahh’d and couldn’t afford a single thing in the storeroom. But by golly, I can say I touched real Murano glass. Everything for sale was truly beautiful though. The intricacies of each piece were astounding and I marveled that someone made every detail by hand. I was impressed, to say the least.
We were free for the rest of the time to do what we wanted, so my group spent time finding masks to purchase and then taking fun pictures throwing confetti. Our day was made when multiple photographers started taking our pictures, too. We felt famous, so we grinned even wider and giggled even louder. One even took a polaroid of us and let us keep it. I now follow him on Facebook. Our group took a side trail to San Marco’s as well. Entering the church was an experience. Truly, I felt the presence of the Lord and I cried when I was in there because I was so overwhelmed with the splendor. I remained quiet and wandered over to an alcove where I prayed and gave to the offering so I could light a candle, although I’m not even Catholic.
After this, we went to dinner (which wasn’t that great, but Margherita pizza is hard to mess up), and continued to wander the city. At night, Venice is much calmer, and I enjoyed walking along the narrow, winding streets over bridges, past old buildings and through alleyways. This city is vibrant and unique. It didn’t feel like a real city, rather something Hollywood created. All these different islands are connected, and I was impressed I didn’t get lost. It was a unique day and I appreciate the time I spent in this one-of-a-kind floating city. We left late in the evening and got back to our apartment in Florence around 1 am where we fell blissfully asleep and decided to not leave until late the next day.
We slept in on Saturday. No way were we getting up early after our day in Venice. On our own, we went to the train station and figured out how to buy our tickets. I am proud to say that I can now travel by train through Italy. The train ride to Pisa was about an hour long, so we were there in no time. We disembarked and worked out way towards the Leaning Tower. Since we’re poor college students, we decided to not climb the tower and instead took classic tourist pictures. I’m not even sorry about them.
My roommate has a friend in Pisa, so he met us at the tower and took us to lunch. We ate sandwiches with bread made from fried, salty dough. Wow, those were tasty. Again, it was a hole-in-the-wall place known to locals. I was thankful for him, too, because he helped translate for us. Generally, pointing works well, but having a bridge between languages is better for more in depth communication. He gave us a free dessert sandwich with nutella and marzipan. I spilled a part of it on my jacket. Oops.
Honestly, there’s not much to say about Pisa. The Leaning Tower is obviously a huge draw to the city, but besides that, it is a sleepy, Tuscan town. Again, in all honesty, I loved it. The fact it was quiet and small made me content. It felt homey. I was pleased to wander around this city without the stress of tourists everywhere. At the tower, there were plenty of visitors, but it wasn’t crowded. Also, I could see sky and the roads were wider, so I felt less claustrophobic than I did in Venice.
I commented to my friends that this is a city to raise a family in. It is sweet, small, and sleepy, but does have a draw to it for some reason or another. It is my kind of place and I felt at home.
All in all, it was a good, first weekend of travel. I’m glad I can say I experienced each city and look forward to visiting many others. I’m loving every bit of what Italy has to offer!