Venice

September 15-18

We spent just over a month in the Balkans and by the time we reached Rovinj we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We were ready for actually delicious food and good wine; ready for more familiar culture and language; ready to go to Italy.

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The ferry ride from Rovinj to Venice was a bit of a bumpy ride, and the boat was full of tour groups who were making the 4-hour trek for just a few hours of sight-seeing in the City of Bridges. We were happy to actually have a few days in town after waiting through the customs line at the port.

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We met up again with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend in Venice. I had been to Venice once before in 2008, but it was the first time in Venice for my brother and for Martin (I insisted he see the city while it’s still standing and above water), and my parents hadn’t been since their honeymoon in 1985.

My parents had booked a little apartment near the Academia and the six of us crammed in for three cozy nights. Some days were a bit grey, dreary, and damp but Venice was still charming and we soaked up the sun whenever we could.

Even though we were there at the tail end of tourist season, the city was still teeming with people: St. Mark’s Square was pretty much bumper-to-bumper people traffic. Venice is an incredibly picturesque and special place and all of the other tourists didn’t even detract from our experience of the city. Every corner you turn there is another lovely little bridge across a narrow canal. Instead of public buses, there are boats that can take you up and down the Grand Canal.

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We spent our time wandering along canals and getting lost in the little side streets, seeking out delicious treats and Aperol Spritzes, doing some overpriced window shopping, and checking out the sights. On our last morning in town we popped into the bakery around the corner and picked up some sfogliatelle (amazing, crispy, delicious shell-shaped pastries filled with sweetened ricotta) for a pre-train ride snack; Martin and I had had inferior versions of this pastry before but this experience finally inspired me to try making them at home!

Some of the highlights from our time in Venice were exploring St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace, and checking out the Venice Biennale art exhibition.

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The Biennale was really interesting and it was a lucky coincidence that it happened to be taking place while we were there as it is one of the world’s preeminent exhibitions  of contemporary art. Martin, my parents, and I spent the better part of a day wandering through the national pavilions at the Giardini public gardens (my brother and his girlfriend stayed back at the apartment because they weren’t feeling well 🙁). The event, which is concentrated in two main exhibit areas, is spread over the entire city with huge public art installations and lots of ancillary exhibitions in random buildings. We decided to limit ourselves to the Giardini where we saw the artists from the United States, French, Finnish, Japanese, Hungarian, Russian, and Israeli pavilions, among others. Not always a fan of contemporary art, I still had fun seeing some incredible craftsmanship and artistry; my dad and Martin were ready to leave long before my mom and I were. 😉

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The architecture in Venice is kind of a mixture of European Renaissance structures with some motifs that wouldn’t look out of place in Morocco. The Doge’s Palace was extravagant and beautiful, and St Mark’s Square was impressive and romantic. The art of the Biennale is spread all over the city and the outdoor installations provide an interesting juxtaposition to the medieval buildings.

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Our time in Venice wasn’t very long but we managed to see and do quite a bit. For lack of a less-cliché word, Venice is pretty magical and I’m glad we made it a point to spend some time there.

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Click here to see more photos from Venice!


Up next: Pasta, pasta, pasta!!! (In Bologna)

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