Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Venice Part I: The Floating City

Our first trip with the fam was to Venice! We started our journey with a stop at Milano Centrale, the main station in Milan. Cole and I had been there before, but we didn't take much time to really look around. Wow! This really is a gorgeous train station! It's enormous and architecturally beautiful... check it out:

This picture really doesn't do it justice - but it gives you an idea of the size.
Obviously, there was more scenery to come on this trip! Undoubtedly the most beautiful and unique place we have visited so far has been Venice. Out of curiosity, I searched Wikipedia, and they said that Venice is a city made up of 118 islands linked by bridges over the various canals that separate the small islands. While we were there, I had no idea that Venice was made up of completely separate tiny islands, but it makes sense! It is really mind boggling how they could possibly build the city up out of the water!

I could add TONS of pictures just like this... it was an incredible city! 
Gondolas are actually built lopsided so the gondolier can steer from one side... who knew?!

We stayed at the hotel Ca' dei Doge, and our experience there was great! Their staff was friendly and attentive, and the hotel was in a perfect location, tucked just behind the Doge's palace, a very short walk from Piazza San Marco. We highly recommend it! If we have future guests wanting to visit Venice, we'll definitely try rebook rooms there! :) I was really nervous when we first approached the hotel - several turns down extremely narrow passageways, eek! We all agreed that it was a nice place to stay - with a fantastic made-to-order omelet breakfast to start our second day!

Cole is happy here... but he was NOT happy on the crowded ferry with a giant stroller!!!
Shortly after arriving, we realized that a stroller in Venice is a bad, bad idea. First, we were on the ferry from the train station to our hotel and the {not-so-nice} lady ferry worker was extremely... unpleasant. Each stop on the ferry switched sides of the canal, so wherever we went the stroller was in the way of people entering or exiting. Talk about a high-stress situation!!! Our friend the ferry worker kept barking orders in Italian and we kept telling her, "Io no capisco Italiano!!" Finally she switched to broken English. Basically - get out of the way. We were trying so hard to stay out of the way! Ugh. Also, each little bridge in Venice has stairs, and very few of those little bridges have ramps. So, we ditched the stroller at the hotel and took turns carrying Eva kangaroo-style for the entire stay. We probably should have figured that out sooner and left the stroller at home altogether... chalk that one up to a learning experience.

A nighttime picture of St. Mark's - unfortunately part was under construction, hence the screen.
Our first stop in Venice was around the corner from our hotel - St. Mark's Basilica. This church was packed with tourists, but it was free to enter. We waited for maybe 10-15 minutes and shared iPods with handy Rick Steve's audio guides during our walking tour. The guide was a little cheesy, but helpful as well. It pointed out the location where Mark's body is buried, drew our attention to many architectural details we might have otherwise overlooked and described the famous bronze horses from the fourth century B.C. We did pay a fee to climb to the top of St. Mark's and it was worth every cent - the view was incredible! Here are some more pictures taken in and around St. Mark's:

All of the gold and paintings are actually mosaics, made up of tiny chips glued to sheets and then placed on the walls!
I don't think I was supposed to take pictures inside, must have forgotten that rule... Oops!
Cole's favorite part of St. Mark's, the four bronze horses. They were originally made in the 4th century B.C. and changed hands between world leaders over several years - traveling throughout many countries. They were impressive! 
More to come about our trip to Venice...