Ah, Venice! This gem requires time to reveal its magic!

John, Alice and me getting in that group selfie at St. Mark's Square with the stunning basilica behind us in Venice, Italy. April 28, 2017

Ah, Venice! Alice, John and I left our Rick Steves “Best of Sicily” tour group in Catania and the gorgeous country of Sicily on Wednesday to move onto the next part of our adventure, Venice, Italy.

I’m sure Alice and John are tired of hearing me say: “We’re in Venice!” Even though its rainy and cloudy, being in Venice is magical. And, today, instead of seeing the very touristy areas of Venice, we did the Free Venice Walking Tour, with Anna as our guide, which took us into the non-touristy areas of Venice, including the area we’re staying in until Monday. Although we’ll be hanging out in the touristy areas in the next few days, its nice to see the back streets of Venice.

I’m still just at the beginning stages of my Italian invasion, but I sailed through the enchanting Sicily, during my Rick Steves “Best of Sicily” tour for 11 days. And, now, I’m in Venice with Alice and John until Monday. After that, John heads back home to Washington state while Alice and I join another Rick Steves tour, “Village Italy,” for 14 days which begins in Padua and ends in Lake Orta. From there, Alice and I say our good-byes and I head to Milan, Sorrento and Rome on my own for almost three weeks before my good friend Bonnie joins me in Rome. Bonnie and I will hang out in Rome for a few days before heading to Malta for a week, Florence for a day, back to Rome and then home to Dallas on June 14. All that in a little more than two months.

Even though its overcast skies and rain, it’s Venice baby! And, there’s more to come! Enjoy!

Alice, John and I arrived in Venice on Wednesday to cloudy skies and a smattering of rain, but who cares, we’re in Venice, Italy, hanging out on the Rialto Bridge. April 26, 2017
View of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy. April 26, 2017
Gondolas parked at a canal in Venice, Italy. April 26, 2017
Gondolas doing their thing in a canal in Venice, Italy. April 26, 2017
Ah, Venice! April 26, 2017
So how much gelato can one eat? As much as one can consume, as John and I will attest to as we sample the gelato of Venice, Italy. April 26, 2017
Alice, John and I took a Free Venice Walking Tour today and just enjoyed the residential, back lanes and zero cruise ship crowd of Venice, Italy. We’re staying in a two bedroom apartment we rented through Airbnb. April 27, 2017
Venice is 124 islands with 423 bridges. This bridge is a private bridge. Can you imagine having your own private bridge to your own private home in Venice? All I can say to that is, lovely. April 27, 2017
It’s cloudy overhead but this is Venice! April 27, 2017
Ah, Venice! April 27, 2017
A restaurant, with my name attached to it, in the Cannaregio district of Venice, Italy. Cannaregio is the northernmost of the six historic districts of Venice. April 27, 2017
Ah, Venice! April 27, 2017
Another back street canal in Venice, Italy. April 27, 2017
The Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy. April 26, 2017
The views of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy. April 26, 2017
The gondolas and speed boats making their way through the grand canal by the Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy. April 26, 2017
Good night for now from Venice, Italy! April 27, 2017

Venice is a piece of historical art that’s also filled with historical art. The beauty of Venice is literally everywhere you look. But that’s not how I felt or what I thought about Venice when I came here for the first time more than 10 years ago. At first glance, it was crowded and I felt overwhelmed by the tacky touristy shops. Thankfully, I spent the night and woke the next day to the Venice of my dreams. The key was to get up early, get away from the touristy hot spots and just wander. Even through cloudy skies, rain, a chilly breeze and the occasional break through of the sun, Venice still enchants.

It turned out to be a busy day with the morning devoted to the Doge Palace…and that’s no small task…considering the palace was the residence of the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice. It is a mass of rooms from the imposing stately ones to the barren prison cells. And, the ceiling to floor masterpieces by the likes of Giovanni Bellini to Tintoretto are a true feast for the artistic soul.

And, after a lunch of cicchetti, small side dishes or in our case a variety of delicious tasties on small pieces of bread, and an aperitif to wash it down, we were off to the Gallerie dell’Accademia to indulge in more great Venetian art.

Tomorrow, I island hop to Murano, Burbank and Torcello.

 

John, Alice and I doing our group selfie inside the courtyard of the Doge Palace in Venice, Italy, as we wait to take the tour of the ‘secret’ rooms, which mainly consisted of the prison cells including the one that held Casanova himself. And, then to the extravagant ballroom-sized rooms filled with glorious artworks in every direction of the palace. April 28, 2017
Courtyard of the Doge’s Palace, facing Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. April 28, 2017
Yes, that’s me standing by what use to be the entrance of honor at the Doge Palace in Venice. The “Stairway of the Giants” was first designed by Antonio Rizzo between 1483 and 1485. The two statues of Mars and Neptune, sculpted by Jacobo Sansovino in 1565, symbolize the power of Venice over land and sea. April 28, 2017
The Hall of the Great Council in the Doge Palace has exquisite art on the ceilings and walls. April 28, 2017
Tintoretto’ s massive oil painting, “Paradise,” adorns the Hall of the Great Council inside the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Tintoretto was an Italian painter who was born in Venice in 1518. This gigantic canvas—one of the world’s largest paintings, almost 82 ft long—was painted in sections between 1588 and 1592. April 28, 2017
This is the view of Venice from inside the Bridge of Sighs. So, why is it called the Bridge of Sighs because supposedly prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. The Bridge of Sighs connects the prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. April 28, 2017
The exterior of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy. The bridge connects the prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. April 28, 2017
The stunning St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. April 28, 2017
John, Alice and me getting in that group selfie at St. Mark’s Square with the stunning basilica behind us in Venice, Italy. April 28, 2017
The pigeons of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy. April 28, 2017
I just can’t get enough of the gondolas cruising down the canals in Venice, Italy. April 28, 2017
The Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. April 28, 2017
A view of San Giorgio Maggiore, one of the islands of Venice, Italy. April 28, 2017

I walked so much today that even my toes ache. But Murano, Burano and Torcello, all considered a part of Venice, were calling my name and I wanted to explore these islands and see what its like to island hop. As it turns out, getting from one island to another is rather easy…just go to the waterbus stop and hop on the waterbus…or vaporetto as it is known by here in Venice.

But for how each stop went, well each picture has a story.

My one and only selfie of the day here in Murano in front of a bell tower and the “Comet Glass Star.” This glass work was made by the master glass maker, Simone Cenedese for Christmas 2007 in Murano. April 29, 2017
While my travel mates Alice and John spent the day in Padua, Italy, I island hopped. For what amounts to a day transportation pass, I bought a 20 euro boat pass that basically allowed me to ride the waterboats or vaporetti to this island of Murano and to the two other islands I wanted to see today, Burano and Torcello. Murano is famous for its glass making, which can be seen in just about every shop on the island. April 29, 2017
Any store you walk by in Murano has some form of glass products in their windows. And, although most of the merchants have no photo signs in their windows, this one did not. April 29, 2017
It was a lovely day for a stroll and I did just that on this glass-making island of Murano. April 29, 2017
More of Murano. April 29, 2017
I bought a cute pair of glass earrings in this Murano shop which was filled with all kinds of glass products. April 29, 2017
This art piece is actually made up of little pieces of glass. I saw it just hanging in an alleyway by a glass shop in Murano. April 29, 2017
Since Murano was my first stop on my day of island hopping, I was actually looking for the Murano Faro taxi boat station…so I could get to my next island…when I came across this unusual looking church, the Basilica Dei Santi Maria E Donato and decided to go in and check it out. What I discovered inside was truly amazing! The stunning mosaic floors. April 29, 2017
The inside of the Basilica Dei Santi Maria E Donato in Murano. The church is one of the oldest in the Venetian lagoon. It was originally built in the 7th century and is known to have been rebuilt in the 9th century, in 1040 AD and possibly other times. April 29, 2017
The inside of the Basilica Dei Santi Maria E Donato in Murano. The church is one of the oldest in the Venetian lagoon. It was originally built in the 7th century and is known to have been rebuilt in the 9th century, in 1040 AD and possibly other times. April 29, 2017
A sample of the stunning mosaic floors inside the Basilica Dei Santi Maria E Donato in Murano. There was no charge to enter this church. There was only a donation request, so I definitely donated. Plus there were no signs that said photographs were not allowed, so as you can see, I took photos. I absolutely fell in love with this church and its mosaic floors. April 29, 2017
More of the stunning mosaic floors inside the Basilica Dei Santi Maria E Donato in Murano. April 29, 2017
My feet and I standing on the mosaic floors of the Basilica Dei Santi Maria E Donato in Murano. Do feet shots count as selfies? April 29, 2017
And, since I’m on Murano, the island known for its glass blowing history, I thought I’d see a demonstration. So, I followed a sign to a glass blowing demonstration only to be told that it costs 7 euros…about $7.62 in U.S. dollars. So, I said “No, thank you,” and left. April 29, 2017
Still in my effort to find the Murano Faro boat station where I could catch the boat for Burbano, I came across this quaint little glass-maker’s shop. So, I meandered in and saw these adorable cut red glass beads that I could make into a necklace, so I bought them. And, this sweet man, Andrea Giubelli, allowed me to watch him work, didn’t charge me for it (like the first place I went into) and let me take his picture. Graze! April 29, 2017
Torcello isn’t known for its glass-blowing, lace-making or any other purchasable item. Instead, it is known for its history, which includes this Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which was founded in 639, and its 11th and 12th century Byzantine work, including its mosaics. Torcello is also considered the birthplace of Venice but today it’s the least-developed island. This church is the main reason I came to Torcello. April 29, 2017
Like the church in Murano, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Torcello has these amazing floor mosaics. This church required a 5 euro entrance fee and photos were prohibited. But like the good Catholic girl that I’m not, I took pictures anyway. April 29, 2017
This 12th century Byzantine mosaic inside the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Torcello is called the “Last Judgement.” April 29, 2017
The altar and mosaic inside the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Torcello. April 29, 2017
A closed off courtyard, across from the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, with various statues in Torcello. April 29, 2017
Once you get off the boat in Burano you have to walk through this alleyway, which I will just call the gauntlet of shops, before you can even enter the hub of the island. And, even though it was late in the day, Burano was packed with people like me, wanting to see this lace-making, colorful island. April 29, 2017
Burano rose in importance only in the 16th century, when women on the island began making lace with needles. Although I doubt these dresses were hand made, lace items of all kinds can be seen in the various shops. April 29, 2017
The delicate and beautiful lace scarfs of Burano. April 29, 2017
Burano is also known for its small, brightly painted houses which must follow a specific system by requesting government permission to see what colors are permissible. April 29, 2017
I did buy a laced scarf in Burano from this very sweet woman, who also convinced me that I needed a small hand laced doily…so I did. April 29, 2017
Alice, John and I found this wonderful family friendly, neighborhood restaurant, La Colonna, away from the maddening Venice tourists, to have a very delicious, quiet and pleasant dinner. This is what I’ve enjoyed about staying in Venice, the neighborhoods away from the tourist spots. April 29, 2017
Alice and I showing off the remainder of our grub at the La Colonna restaurant in Venice, Italy. Alice had squid spaghetti and I had shrimp and spaghetti. It was all delicious. April 29, 2017
My very delicious plate of spaghetti and shrimp at La Colonna in Venice, Italy. April 29, 2017
A beautiful evening glimpse of Venice during an after dinner walk. April 29, 2017

If you haven’t seen Venice without the crowds, then you haven’t seen Venice. Some friends said all you need is one day in Venice. Well, more than 10 years ago, I had my one day in Venice and it wasn’t enough. This time, I’ve had five days and no, it’s still not enough. I hope to come back. Venice must be savored, not rushed. If all you do is walk the shop-lined streets to the Rialto Bridge and to Saint Mark’s Square then you have barely touched the surface of what Venice has to offer. Relax and Venice will seduce you.

This morning Alice, John and I enjoyed mass, in Italian, at Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice. I never entered the basilica during my one day Venice visit years ago so this was an incredible treat. This overwhelming structure is graced with an extensive mosaic collection that is said to date back to as early as 1071. And, when your head gets tired of looking up at all the intricate wall mosaics then just look down because the ancient marble floors are carpeted with different geometrics shapes. Then afterwards Alice and I climbed the steep staircase to the basilica’s rooftop and museum for the views and for the relics.

So, not only do I say good-bye to Venice, but Alice and I also say good-bye to John who heads back home tomorrow to Washington state. Alice and I continue to explore Italy during our Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour which begins tomorrow in Padua, Italy. Arrivederci John!

Alice, John and I enjoyed mass this morning at the Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. The basilica, throughout its centuries of history, has seen many modifications. April 30, 2017
On the exterior of Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice is this 13th century mosaic called the transfer of St. Mark in procession to the Basilica. April 30, 2017
Here’s a close-up of the 13th century mosaic called the transfer of St. Mark in procession to the Basilica baring his name in Venice, Italy. That’s St. Mark in the upper right hand corner. April 30, 2017
Saint Mark giving his blessing while being venerated by six incense bearing angels, can be seen gracing the central exterior portion of the basilica named in his honor in Venice, Italy. The winged lion’s (just below St. Mark) open book states “Peace be unto you, Mark, my evangelist.” April 30, 2017
The interior of Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. The photos don’t do these mosaics justice. This is the view of the main nave towards the front of the basilica where the priest conducts the mass. April 30, 2017
A close up of the main nave…or front of the basilica where the priest conducts mass…the statues going across are the 12 apostles with the Virgin Mary and St. Mark. And, the large mosaic in the center is Christ Pantocrator, Lord of the Universe. April 30, 2017
Alice and I with our foot selfies…or should I say, thanks to Amy, “footsies” in Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. April 30, 2017
More of the beautiful geometric designed floors inside Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. April 30, 2017
More of the beautiful geometric designed floors inside Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. April 30, 2017
More of the beautiful geometric designed floors inside Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. April 30, 2017
This steep step climb to the Saint Mark Basilica’s rooftop and museum in Venice, Italy, is a two-way street. To enter you stay to the left, while the people exiting are coming down these stairs to your right. April 30, 2017
The view into Saint Mark’s Square from the rooftop of Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. April 30, 2017
My view of the Piazzetta San Marco from the rooftop of Saint Mark’s Basilica, in Venice, Italy. This Piazzetta connects the outside of the Saint Mark Square to the waterway of the lagoon. The Piazzetta lies between the Doge’s Palace to the left and the Jacopo Sansovino’s Biblioteca to the right. April 30, 2017
The Horses of Saint Mark have a long story to them including that they were displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople but in 1204 were sent back to Venice only to be taken to Paris by Napoleon in 1797 and returned to Venice in 1815. After a long restoration, in the 1970s, these originals have been kept in the Saint Mark’s Basilica museum and the horses now on the front of the cathedral are bronze replicas. April 30, 2017
Connecting with the Grand Canal for the last time…at least during this trip…in Venice, Italy.
My last look…at least for this trip…at the cute bridges that stitch the little islands together that make up Venice, Italy. April 30, 2017
And, my last stroll in Saint Mark’s Square as the sun sets on the basilica and the bell tower in Venice, Italy. April 30, 2017
Though Alice and I move on to Padua, Italy, for our Rick Steves “Village Italy,” tour, her life mate and my travel mate these past few weeks will be heading back home. Until next time, John…enjoyed exploring Sicily and Venice with you…safe travels my friend. (And, as a side note, we ate a late lunch today at this little local pizza joint, LaPerla Pizzeria. We were told by our local guide Anna, during our Free Venice Walking Tour, that wherever you see the gondoliers…in their striped shirts…eating, then that’s the place to go.) April 30, 2017
Until next time…so for now…buona notte, Venice! April 30, 2017