Gorgeous Venice Italy

My husband has this sort of secretive list of places that he believes won't exist in another 20 years or so, and it's been his wish to see all of them as soon as possible.  We've seen glaciers in Alaska, the Egyptian pyramids, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  We also went on safari in Uganda and South Africa.  Unfortunately, some of the other places on his list he already saw, I haven't been to yet, so although I'd like to visit, it's unlikely we'd make a family trip together.
View of colorful Venice from the water taxi
He had been to Venice, Italy many years ago.  He said it was one of the most beautiful places he had ever been. Venice is being damaged in two different ways.  It has flooding nearly every day, and it's being swamped by thousands of tourists, especially by cruise ships.  I wanted to see if for myself, so when my daughter said she wanted to attend Milan's fashion week, we booked a day tour through the website Viator.  The benefit to doing that is it's an internationally acclaimed company that uses a variety of currencies so you won't have to pay foreign transaction fees, has reviews by users, and uses local guides.  It's simply the best of all worlds, in my humble opinion.

We boarded a bus at 7:00 am from Milan, and it was about a 3 hour ride to a major terminal where buses and cars park, and you catch a water ferry for the approximately 20 minute ride to a docking place close to the city center.  Venice is composed of a series of islands, connected by waterways and bridges.  There are narrow streets where you can walk, but the major mode of transportation is via water.  I wondered if just a day would be adequate to experience Venice, and actually I think it was.  You can get the flavor of the place anyway.  If you have enough money, alternatively, you could spend a few nights at one of the luxury hotels, like Hotel Danieli and see much more.
historic Hotel Danieli lobby

Hotel Danieli costs about 900 Euro per night- ultra luxurious
We had a bus tour guide who prepped us for the day.  Then we met another local Venetian tour guide who took us through Piazza San Marco and down many of the quaint picturesque alleyways, while talking about the history of the area and showed us some of the prominent buildings.  You can experience great art, churches, museums, and glass of all types.  There are shops selling fine silk ties & scarves, leather handbags, jewelry, and souvenirs.  Most of the products were about the same price or even cheaper than we had seen in Milan.  What we really enjoyed was just sitting in a pizza restaurant and watching the people go by.  It was also a fantastic adventure to wander through the alleyways and just get lost.  You can't really get lost.  You can see the church steeples or bell tower from nearly everywhere.  You can get a view of how the locals live once you get away from the touristic plazas where there are hordes of tourists.  I know it's crazy.  I was a tourist, but I didn't want to be surrounded by tourists.  Our guide let us loose for about 2 hours.  We wandered.  We shopped.  We had espresso and gelato.  It was heavenly!
At Piazza San Marco, flooding in front of Procuratie Vecchie, a normal occurrence
Every little street or canal is picturesque
We stumbled upon this incredibly unique book store that had a gondola in the center filled with old books.  There was also a bathtub.  Actually there were books on every surface imaginable.  I suppose these may be out of necessity because of the flooding that occurs frequently.  You can see photos of the Libreria Acqua Alta on their Facebook page.  Other books were stacked on their back patio to make an unusual stairway affording a lookout point down the canal.  It also is home to several friendly cats who often ask for attention.
Kind of a great way to use old encyclopedias
When in Venice, I had read you simply MUST do a gondola tour.  These are often quite expensive, but the tour operator negotiated a price of 20 Euro per person if you were willing to share a gondola.  Each could hold up to 6 passengers.  It was a half hour along the lesser used canals, whereas many of the other gondola operators take you on the Grand Canal.  It was fine for our purposes.  We enjoyed our gondolier, who spoke some English, and had lived in Venice for many years.  He had stories of famous people who had been in his gondola over the years (Michael Buble).  Although they don't usually sing, we asked, and he did sing one song.  He said it's not as common as it once was, because frankly it's a lot of work to navigate a boat, and manage to keep it moving with all the crowds...as well as croon.  He waited until we were on a deserted canal. I just kept thinking how much my mother would have loved that 5 minutes.  In fact, who wouldn't love the whole experience.  Venice should be on every bucket list.
Gondola parking


Our singing gondolier

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