After months of anticipation (mostly on my part because I have no patience), it was finally March 16th, the day we began our trip to Italia! Anthony had once been to Mexico when he was a kid and I travelled to Canada last year for work, but this was our first international trip together and our first time crossing the Atlantic! During this trip we were to visit Venezia (Venice), Firenze (Florence), and Roma (Rome) with my mother, Diane.
So, we kissed our animals goodbye, ordered an Uber, and headed out of Dallas Love Field at the ass-crack of dawn.
Thanks to Southwest’s fantastic pricing, we were able to save a bit of cash by flying from DAL to LGA, then taking a shuttle to JFK for our international flight. While Anthony and I were on our way to JFK, my mom texted me something along the lines of: “meet me at the big tongue, you’ll know what I mean when you see it”.
And boy was she right. I knew exactly what she meant as soon as I saw it… but I still don’t know why there was a tongue even though we spent a good deal of time right next to it.
After a few hours at JFK, we boarded our flight to Düsseldorf, Germany. Our Air Berlin flight was super comfortable, and they served great food (a special vegetarian meal for me, even). On this trip, my pelvic pain due to prolonged sitting resurfaced, which made for extra potty breaks so that I could stretch my legs. The good news was that we had the very last row in the back, right next to the bathrooms!
Also, on this flight I got the bright idea to take off my shoes and at one point jammed my “ring toe” into the seat in front of me, RIP half my toenail. I’m super klutzy so I’m proud to say this was my first and only injury during this trip, yay me!
Anthony was quite comfortable on his first cross-Atlantic flight. It turns out that the Nintendo Switch came out at just the right time as he spent many hours playing Zelda during this trip. Paired with a pillow and blanket compliments of Air Berlin, he was a decent travel companion.
We spent a very brief amount of time at the Düsseldorf airport, then onward to Venezia!
The views of the mountains (the Alps!) as we drew nearer to Venezia were spectacular. There were adorable towns and villages nestled between these massive snow-topped mountains that went on for forever, it was something I’d only ever seen in pictures before.
Finally, we arrived in Venice… a tad cranky, a tad smelly, and ready for a good nap. But we weren’t done yet – time for a Water Taxi ride to our hotel! There’s just one catch, the water taxi is a few blocks away and the pavement was less than ideal for our luggage.
After loads of huffing and puffing, we finally arrived at the water taxi and we even snapped a photo once we settled in, to commemorate our journey so far. About half an hour later we arrived at the nearest dock and were up for our next journey – the trek to our hotel. Thankfully there were only 2 small bridges involved and the pavement was not as harsh at this point.
We finally made it to Hotel Olimpia, checked into our rooms, and immediately dispersed to go freshen up.
We immediately noticed that the weather was gorgeous enough to leave our windows open, so we did this the entire time we were in Venice. Good thing too, considering the AC appeared to not be working (at least to our standards).
After our quick break to clean ourselves up, we headed downstairs and pillaged the small geletaria just down the block, yum! We found a cute little park nearby with street vendors and a few places to sit and relax for a bit.
Next, we turned our attention to the water bus situation – that’s how most Venetians get around when not traveling by foot. We purchased 2-day passes for each of us and boarded our first water bus. After several stops, we arrived at Piazza San Marco, so we could scope out the location before tomorrow’s activities.
We spent some time just taking in the night life of the area and then soon after returned to our rooms for the night. Anthony and I caught up with some TV and then drifted off to sleep with the windows open (we never do this at home!).
Breakfast came bright and early, but this time we were ready to greet the day!
I’m sorry to report that this is the only photo I took of my first Italian breakfast. The latte macchiato was certainly amazing, but this doesn’t do justice to the delicious pastries and fruits I devoured a bit too much of that morning. My favorite was a sort of soured apple that was soft enough to scoop with a spoon. I have no idea what it is called and can’t seem to find it online. 😭
Shortly after breakfast we hopped on the water bus, once again bound for Piazza San Marco.
It was time for some shopping, and we delighted in this shop – Sanzogno Gallery.
This chameleon is hand-sculpted glass! My mom offered to pay for half of it as a gift (it was about €75) and we just had to have it. I’m so pleased to see that it made it back to the states in one piece despite how fragile it looks.
When I saw this necklace I just knew I needed it in my life! This necklace is sort of like netting filled with pieces of local glass, it’s so shimmery that it caught my eye right away. Mom also loved this style jewelry, so she picked up a matching pair of earrings but in a different color.
After a bit of shopping, we turned our attention to the glassblowing demonstration we’d booked this morning. We were told to meet under the large clock in Piazza San Marco. Here are a few photos we snapped while waiting for our tour.
After meeting up with the group, we took a brisk walk to the studio where the demonstration would take place.
The demonstration itself ended up being pretty short, but afterwards the gentleman on the right (who spoke Italian, English, Japanese, and some French!) discussed with our group some of the different ways that colors are produced in glass, the reasons for the cost differences, how durable glass is vs crystal glassware, and more (all the while translating into other languages on the fly).
At the conclusion of the glassblowing showroom tour, the workers packed up a souvenir for each of us to take home. Although ours glass horse broke during travel (the tail snapped off, hence the ribbon), I still think it’s pretty cute and the whole experience was well worth the €10 per person that we paid.
As soon as we exited the glassblowing showroom, our stomachs began to growl, so we stopped at the first restaurant we spotted – Caffe Lavena in Piazza San Marco. This was a slight mistake in hindsight, considering our meal cost over €100 and it wasn’t that spectacular of a lunch. That said, the live music and ambiance was on point so it was worth it overall, I just wouldn’t do it again.
This day was packed full of fun as Anthony and I next had a “Gondola Serenade” on the agenda!
When you arrive in Venezia, it’s hard to miss the gondolas drifting by at all hours of the day and night. Oftentimes people are snapping away with selfies and many times they don’t even appear to be enjoying themselves! Well, thankfully we had a better experience, as usual we snapped a few photos/video and then put our devices aside to enjoy the experience.
A few minutes into the gondola ride, the serenade began, with one the most iconic Italian songs – “Volare”. After gliding through the Grand Canal, we headed for a smaller canal as the singer continued to serenade us. After a few minutes of turning through the canals, imagine our surprise when we saw this:
This photo is blurry because we just weren’t expecting to see my mom there off a random canal where she was killing time, talking on the phone. We had to say her name a few times before she realized it was us gliding by!
A nice couple that joined us on the gondola ride snapped this photo for us after we helped them take a photo together. One of the nicest things about our trip through Italia has to have been all of the nice people we encountered, many were tourists but even the locals were generally helpful and kind.
Anthony was exhausted from all the walking and activities for the day, so while he headed to go relax in the room, mom and I enjoyed some of the nightlife that Venezia has to offer.
We located a street vendor at Campo San Geremia that sells both crepes and beer. Mom picked up Peroni as one does in Italia, and I enjoyed a Nutella crepe because French food is good too! After enjoying our late night food and drink while people-watching, we headed back to our hotel to get a good night’s rest for our train ride in the morning.
Anthony and I have been on the metro and other trains before, but this was our first “high speed train” and it certainly won’t be our last. We traveled on Italo, and with speeds up to about 200 mph we made it to Firenze (Florence) in less than 2 hours.
The funniest part about this short ride from Venezia to Firenze is that the couple we sat right across from was from Plano, TX. They mentioned the streets they lived near and we are in that area all the time! What are the odds?