Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
348Trip End Ongoing
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We caught an early morning flight from Istanbul and, thanks to the time difference, were in Italy before 10am. Since we'd had such luck in the past buying city cards for discounted activities, we had looked into doing the same in Venice. However, my research beforehand had made me a bit dubious about whether or not it was worth the money. When we landed at Marco Polo (yep, they named it after the famed Venetian explorer), we were still unsure, so decided to take one more look at it before heading into the city.
Indecisiveness is one of our biggest problems; after standing at the counter for several minutes discussing it, we opted to buy the 39.90 euro Venice Cards as well as the 42 euro 72-hour transit pass. In hindsight, neither was probably worth the money: we walked nearly everywhere, the authorities never checked the transit tickets, and the Venice Cards didn't actually include free or reduced entry to as many interesting places as we thought they did. However, at that point we didn't realize that and were just excited to be back in Italy; we grabbed the number 5 bus and settled in for the ride to Piazzale Roma on the island of Venice.
Two months before our trip, we had reserved and made a deposit on an apartment in Piazza San Marco. On Tuesday, a mere four days before we were due to arrive, I received an email from the rental company saying that there was a problem with the flat and offering us another for 100 euros more -- a substantial increase for just two nights. I spent the next three days emailing and calling to try and get the new flat for the original price, something I felt was extremely reasonable given the situation. They repeatedly refused my requests, but in the end (not until Thursday night, when we were very close to canceling the trip because everything was obscenely expensive by then), they finally agreed and we breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Unfortunately, we couldn't check in until 2:30pm, which meant that we had nearly four hours before we could offload our luggage. We thought we might visit a museum and leave the bags in the lobby, but the weather was absolutely perfect and storms were predicted for Sunday, so since we wanted to maximize our outside sunshine time, we decided to just walk with the packs. We walked over our first canal after disembarking and strolled through the crowded main drag in Cannaregio before branching off to the quieter streets of the Jewish Ghetto.
To say we were immediately in love with Venice would be a fair statement. It is so picturesque, so relaxed, so beautiful, and so interesting that I think it would be impossible not to be enthralled. And, on top of all that beauty, there was the food, of course. Eventually we got hungry and needed to take a break from carrying the packs, so let our wanderings lead us to lunch.
We were wary about not dining at restaurants that we'd read about or been recommended because we had heard horror stories of awful food, outrageous hidden costs, and other tricks to get tourists to pay exorbitant bills. Fortunately, a couple of different friends had recommended a few spots to check out around town. We were close to one Jen had raved about, so sat ourselves at an outdoor table at Osteria L'Orto dei Mori and gave our legs and backs a break. Before we even got to the food, we ordered our first glasses of Prosecco, a drink I fell immediately head over heels for and wonder how it took me until the age of 34 to discover (as well as why it isn't automatically the drink of choice the world over). The food arrived promptly and was tasty, proving vegetarians can enjoy Northern Italian food too.
Our lunch was quite leisurely and by the time we'd finished off the last of the Prosecco, it was nearly time to meet the woman who was showing us to the apartment, so we begrudgingly put our packs back on and began the walk to Piazza San Marco. Once there we didn't have to wait long for the housing agent (who, by some small wonder identified the two of us in a crowd of thousands, despite never having seen a picture of us or having any idea what we looked like whatsoever). She led us the short distance to our new abode, got us settled in, and then left us to it. It wasn't a bad apartment by any means, but it wasn't particularly nice, and given the fact that they wanted to charge us 330 euros for two nights there, we felt it didn't really live up to the pictures or our expectations. Fortunately, Venice had plenty to keep us busy, so we wouldn't be spending much time there anyhow.
The weather was still stunningly gorgeous, so rather than head to any of the indoor points of interest, we opted to stick to the pavement and continue our tour of the island. Our amblings took us across countless bridges over canals clogged with gondolas and people out for weekend boat rides with their families (though, to be fair, there were many, many canals that were empty as well). We used our Venice Cards and popped into a few churches along our route, appreciating the fact that Italians love to decorate their houses of worship, ensuring that they are ornate, interesting, and beautiful.
As usual, our feet took us far from our apartment, so rather than stop in and refresh before heading out for the night, we just headed straight to dinner. Every table at our destination restaurant was full, so we opted for our second choice, Ae Oche, a pizzeria with a few locations in and around the city. Venice is apparently not well known for its pizza, to the extent that it has been claimed to be the worst pizza in the country (but, come on -- even the worst pizza in Italy is probably some of the best you've ever had, right?). This place, however, was specifically a pizzeria, so we hoped it would pan out (ha ha ha - that's the sort of pun Konrad tells). In fact, it did: the 'za was delicious, the Prosecco was as tasty as the one from lunch, and the atmosphere was one that we could only find in Italy.
As we meandered our way home, we stopped to admire the city all aglow. If possible, it seemed even more magical, marking the end to an incredibly perfect first day in Venice. It probably goes without saying, but we were enamored with the city and looking forward to spending the next two days exploring it.