Thursday, September 1, 2016

Italy Travels Volume 1: Three Days in Venice

Wow, well, I've been traveling and running around so much because of family and work stuff, and after being in Italy for just over two weeks, it's been hard getting back to my work routine-designing, photo shooting, blogging etc. I think they call this summer-itis or end-of-summer-itis or something. I've been trying to enjoy the rest of the nice weather while it lasts and though I love the fall season, there's something about summer. There's so much fun stuff to do like camping, being out doors, going to theme parks, traveling and more. So, the last few weeks I've been really focused on my mental health and overall health as this summer is coming to a close. In this post though (as part of a large volume series on Italy) I want to highlight my Italy travels I did this past July.

I traveled all throughout northern Italy and will be sharing all the details below! If you're going to Italy soon which I know many of you are, keep reading!

My family and I went first to Venice (visited 4 islands of Venice), then to Verona, Sirmione, Siena, Assisi, Florence, then back to Venice! We covered a lot of ground in Italy and I can't wait to share it all with you. First, I'll start with our three full days in Venice. Though I initially went to Italy for work with this awesome organization, my family and I made a vacation out of it. We are explorers, ya know?
In Venice, we arrived at Hotel Fontana, a highly recommended hotel by this author. Anywhere you go to in Europe, make sure you are following the recommendations of an expert, someone that's been all around where you're specifically going.

Hotel Fontana is a cute small hotel and what I liked about it, you could leave your key hanging up in the lobby. Definitely a Europe thing. I can't tell you how many hotel keys and cards I've lost in my lifetime, gosh. Anyways, inside the hotel, there was a little cafe' and bar area, which then led into a small dining room where they served breakfast.
The service and friendliness at Hotel Fontana made our stay enjoyable. We absolutely loved the concierge-very wonderful guy, directing us to the top places and sights to see (because we honestly didn't know where to start first). The moments after we settled into Hotel Fontana, we ate at the restaurant across the street, at the Pizzeria, and I crashed for a few hours shortly after. Jet-Lag was a bit unpleasant but I didn't get as sick with it as I did when I went to Ireland a couple of years ago. All I felt was overtired.

On our first full day, the places we were directed to were the islands of Venice. Our home base was in San Marco, where we explored around the Saint Mark's Cathedral Square or the Piazza San Marco (la piazza means "square"), the principal public square of Venice with a big stunning church and intricately produced sculptures along the church's upper parameters. The church itself was called the Basilica San MarcoIt's considered one of the top tourist attractions in the entire world and the top to visit in Venice!
The other thing I loved about Venice, people traveled by boat and not by car. We took several boat rides at several different times of the day and we got to see things during the day and the city sparkle during the night.
Venice really grew on me and I got use to the layout of the streets using landmarks to direct me where to go. We headed to the island, Murano and got to see glass-making artists at the Palazzo Giustinian. I think it use to be called stained glass, not sure if that's the same thing. I enjoyed watching the glass melt from the heat and changing shape, interesting to watch the process right in front of you.
Murano was the place for glass making, and a little piece of history: The Venetian Republic ordered glass makers to move their work to Murano in 1291 with the fear that buildings might burn down if they were elsewhere. Also, my neighbors (near my childhood home in Illinois) are jewelry designers and get a lot of their pendants from Murano. And, I bought a "family set" of these glass designs of ducks and some other cool stuff.
From watching the glass making, we then went upstairs to the big glass art exhibition at the Murano glass museum. Sadly, we couldn't take photographs of the original works due to copyright laws. However, if those works of art were mine, heck, I wouldn't want anyone taking photos of it either. No way. It's important to respect that.

For an early dinner or late lunch, we ate at the wonderful al canton restaurant, where I polished off the most scrumptious, almost mesmerizing pasta/tortellini dish. My family and I find the best restaurants off the beaten path and that's one of them. The tomato sauce must have been organic tomatoes or a homemade sauce because man, too sweet and good! By the time we got to the restaurant and got our food, I was too hungry to take photos of it. Sorry, but I'm sure you know what tortellini looks like. Afterword, we walked around Murano for a while and enjoyed pretty views.
We then headed for the docks and caught our next boat to Burano, Italy and I was impressed with this place! Colorful buildings, beautiful landscape, all kinds of things to check out and see.
Burano really was something to see. The colorful buildings and pretty narrow canal with water that looked almost green felt very out-of-worldly. Burano has officially become my happy place (maybe because of all of the pretty colors everywhere). I want to go back!
Also, it was great to get my hands on smoothies while in Italy and I had one in Burano that was too darn good. I forgot what was mixed in it but it's beneficial to consume as much whole foods and produce as you can while traveling. Doing so really helped my system get adjusted to everything.
My family and I then stumbled on this store that sold delicate silk linen table cloths, kids dresses and clothes, to home decor items. I got to witness some of them being sewn using an industrial Singer machine. I found the shops to be so creative and art-focused which I liked. This was a different shop below that showed very detailed art of all kinds, mostly home decor items as well as wearable items.
We also explored the island San Giorgio to see the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore, a stunning, sacred church. That for me was a highlight, very emotionally moving to witness the Last Supper painting displayed in the church. So much history, the story of Christ. Very profound.
And, the rest of the church, the architecture, the sculptures, and the decor all moved me to tears. I don't know why but I get a strong feeling when I am in such sacred places like that but can't describe in words. When you know the history so intimately well, how could you not get emotional?
Further through the church, down the hall and to the right (of the photo above), we took an elevator up (or it would have been 300 steps) to get a full view of Venice. One thing about the islands of Venice though, lots of bathrooms don't have toilet paper so um, not sure how to advise you with that, but take note. Up top though, it was cool to see a birds-eye view of Venice.
The photos above I felt didn't need to be Photoshopped. Really, Venice is beautiful enough and I use a professional camera that truly captures the beauty and details of everything. Other sights we saw in Venice later on, we went to Rialto Bridge (another boat ride) and walked around the lovely tourist area. We went all the way on the opposite side of Venice and covered a lot of good ground.

One restaurant we ate at, I wanted to highlight called the Ristorante Princepessa (San Marco in Venice), I had the most delectable pasta dish mixed with seafood in my entire existence. Shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops-a combination of my favorite seafood assortments dressed with a yummy sweet pasta sauce. I want to try to remake this dish, let me tell ya! (But, I know re-making it the same way will NEVER happen). I am a sucker for sea food and I use to hate it as a kid, or fear it rather, until my partner made me try a variety of it. He was right about me liking it, but I love seafood now! My mom was like, when have you ever eaten mussels, clams and all of that? She was shocked to see me drooling over the dish. Plus, the waiters I think were both amused and a bit disturbed that I ate the entire dish (a big, huge serving by the way). That was the best restaurant I've ever eaten at.

Leaving Venice, I was inspired! If you are going to Italy, Venice is a must visit place. Even in three days, we really saw a good amount of attractions. We must have walked seven to ten miles each day, non stop from sunrise pretty much to sunset. So, I'll leave you with stunning photos I captured of Venice that you won't see anywhere else.

Have you been to Venice? If so, what did you love about it? If you are going, did you find this post helpful? Feel free to comment and let me know. Make sure to subscribe to this blog because a lot more is coming! Up next will be Sirmione, Siena, Assisi, and Florence! Keep checking back for more!

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