Five months. Is five months my new record for longest gap between blog posts? I legit feel like I just wrote that running post. This year has gone by in the blink of an eye. I can't believe I am sitting here drinking eggnog and planning Christmas market weekends. (Okay, in fairness, I'm probably doing both of those things unseasonably early.)
Anyway, highlights of the past few months include wine festing, countless toddler birthday parties, vacations that I'll slowly get around to recapping over the next seventeen months, and upgrading my Hulu account to enjoy commercial-free viewing.
So! Venice! It might be sinking, but it seemed fine when we were there.
We drove down from Germany, so we bookended our trip with a couple of nights in Milan and a couple of nights in Lake Como. Unfortunately, the weather for our two days in Lake Como was pretty terrible, but we got lucky with gorgeous weather that made Venice the sparkling jewel of our trip.
We stayed in a gorgeous apartment in Lido, and really enjoyed our leisurely morning and evening walks to the vaporetto station. As you are probably already well aware, Venice is traversed almost entirely by boat and foot. The canals are just watery roads that you have to be careful not to back up into as you're framing the perfect photo. Lido was gorgeous and peaceful, and made for a very restful recovery from the tourist crush that you can encounter elsewhere on the Venetian Lagoon. It's also particularly convenient if you are driving as you can drive from the ferry straight to your apartment or hotel and park there. In Venice you have the perk of being in the middle of the action, but you're going to be schlepping your bags over a lot of cobblestones and stairs.
Speaking of the stairs, almost all of the bridges over the canals are elevated by anywhere from 10-20 steps up one side and down another so that boats can more easily pass underneath. Though when the water is high, you'll still see many a gondolier crouching down so as not to lose their heads! Still, we managed just fine with our two umbrella strollers. They were light enough for one or two people to lift over the stairs, and the girls were contained so I didn't have to worry about them taking a less than hygienic bath in a canal.
It's downright impossible to take an ugly photo in Venice. You could trip over a cobblestone, land in a garbage boat, under a pile of left over spaghetti and calamari, and as your camera slipped out of your hand and you accidentally pressed the shutter button, you would still end up with a perfectly lit, artistically composed photo of the Doge's Palace. It's one of the most stunningly photogenic places I've ever seen. It helped that we booked an early morning photography tour with Getty Images photographer Marco Secchi, who brought us to some of the most picturesque settings. Being up at 5 am to beat the tourists was also fully worth it just to have a rare moment of peace and tranquility in Piazza San Marco.
My favorite stop that Marco brought us to was the famed and quirky book shop, Alta Acqua book shop. I honestly cannot think of a possible way for anyone to go into the shop with a plan and come out with the intended book, but if you are just in search of charm and zaniness, this is the place for you. Books are stacked haphazardly to the ceiling on every surface--including in bathtubs, gondolas and rowboats. There is a wall of books with book steps to the top where all smitten booknerds are invited to pose for a photo. It was crazy and delightful. And we bought a map.
After our photo tour we returned to Lido to pick up my dad who was babysitting the girls, then we had a lovely lunch before heading back into Venice for another round of sightseeing with Uncle Rick and wrapping up the evening with the inevitable gondola ride through the canals. As cheesy as these are, it really is a remarkable perspective of Venice. I loved seeing all of the algae covered walls and crumbling doors and ground floors up close.
The next day we headed in a different direction to visit the brightly colored island of Burano, famous for its intricate lacemaking. We had planned to possibly visit a couple of the other islands, but due to a wormhole or a collapse of the time space continuum, we ended up with time for only one stop. And I was actually very glad it was Burano. After the more muted grandiosity of Venice, the bold, searing colors of the buildings on Burano were a welcome shock to the senses.
For our last morning in Venice, my mom, Colby and I took a cooking class conveniently located a 10 minute walk from our apartment on Lido. The class was held in a gorgeous villa, and the kitchen was definitely the most stunning one I've ever had the pleasure of cooking in. With our classmates we made osso bucco, saffron risotto, artichokes, and of course tiramisu. Then we got to enjoy it at a gorgeously appointed table with bottles and bottles of wine.
Once we were well and truly full, we strolled back to our apartment to collect the rest of our team and headed back across the lagoon to Venice to squeeze in a little more sightseeing, and more importantly, buy our souvenirs! For our final event of the Venetian experience, we got on Waterbus #2 and did a selfguided tour of the Grand Canal. This had been thwarted initially by a massive crush of people with the same idea piling on to the #1. But super smart Colby determined the #2 also travelled along the Grand Canal and came with much fewer tourists and way more window seats!
I was really taken by surprise with how much I loved Venice. I think it helped that we were there in shoulder season, just before the hordes arrived and the weather, while pleasant, wasn't quite hot, so we didn't have to smell the garbage that is piled along many of the back alleys. It was just so astoundingly gorgeous. There were times I didn't even know where to look or point my camera, because it was all so overwhelmingly beautiful. Admittedly, the food was not the best we've ever had, but I had heard that Venice was known for that downfall, and it's just harder to search out the best places when you're traveling with two exhausted 2-year-olds. I'm certainly not breaking any news here by saying that Venice is a must-see in Italy, but really, it tends to get a bad rap that I'm not sure is entirely deserved. Especially if you're able to visit outside of May-August and just go a couple of streets over from Piazza San Marco. It's like stepping back in time to another world.