Venice is such a magical city. Where else can you be in a city with no streets and no cars, just canals and boats? It was quite the opposite of the crazy, loud streets of Vietnam we wandered many months ago. From the moment we got on our water taxi from the airport to the return trip, we felt like we were in another world. By the way, taking an old school wooden boat from a dock at the airport for the 25 minute ride into Venice could be the coolest mode of transportation we have taken on this trip. We felt like movie stars.
We stayed in Venice for a week, which some might think is too long, but we loved it. We really got a chance to explore the narrow streets and shops. We didn’t even do all the big tourist attractions, we just enjoyed ourselves. We were fortunate to have beautiful weather and used the time to explore the city by foot.
We rented a great apartment in the Dorsoduro neighborhood, which was perfect. We were so happy not to be near St. Mark’s Square or the Retiro Bridge where it was a sea of people on their Easter holiday. Our area was quaint and right along a canal.
We didn’t venture out too much for food since we had a grocery store nearby, but we were lucky enough to have the best restaurant right across a bridge that you could see from our window – Osteria Alsquero. This was a little place with few tables inside and mobs of people every day all day eating out on the ledge overlooking the canal and the boat yard where they repair gondolas.
Along with their Italian tapas that were served, you can order a prosecco or wine spritzer. I didn’t care too much for those – they didn’t compare to the tinto de verano in Spain – I miss those. We ate at Alsquero almost every day for a quick lunch or lite dinner. And of course the girls had their fair share of gelato now that we were in Italy.
We were fortunate enough to meet a friend while we were there. Dave happened to call our Santa Clara classmate Tom Green back home and Tom mentioned that his brother Christian and his family just got into Venice the night before! So of course we met up with Christian, his wife Mia, and their daughter Maggie for drinks! Small world.
The few things we did do while we were in Venice, we loved and would highly recommend.
The Peggy Guggenheim Museum was fantastic. This might be one of my all time favorite museums. The collection was in the palazzo where she lived. There were paintings by Picasso, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Ernst (her husband) and Pollack. Plus Alexander Calder sculptures and mobiles. We all had our favorites. Dave had been there before when he was studying abroad in Vienna and ran into his favorite Picasso (On the Beach) in the foyer 20 plus years later. The girls didn’t think many of the pieces were that hard to make – maybe we have some future artists in our midst.
Glass blowing – we didn’t make it to Murano, but we found a great little store where the people we so friendly. We watched him blow glass for at least an hour. Such an amazing talent. The girls were fascinated to see what he could create.
Gondola ride – A trip to Venice isn’t complete without a gondola ride through the canals. Crazy to think that there were once close to 10,000 gondolas on the canals, now there are only about 400. It wasn’t as romantic when you have 3 kids arguing over using the camera, but it was still cool to see the back canals of the city. Some of the hotels had docks that lead you into the lobby-crazy. At least no one got thrown overboard. When traveling with young kids you need to have your expectations properly calibrated.
Mask making – If you’ve ever been to Venice, you have seen all of the beautiful masks all around town. Why did the Venetians wear masks? As young men being trained to be future merchants, Venetians usually set off at age 15 or so to travel and learn their trade. After being a traveling bachelor in foreign lands for several years, being back in relatively small Venice could be quite…confining. So men wore white masks when they were out on the town to have a good time without anyone noticing them. Women also wore masks at some point as well.
I read about a place named Ca Macana, where we could learn about the history of the Venetian masks and paint our very own. This is the place that made masks for Stanley Kubrick’s movie Eyes Wide Shut. All of the masks they have for sale or for you to paint are hand made. We learned the process for making the masks, as well as different techniques to paint them. Then we set out to decorate our masks. We got to choose from a variety of plain masks and put our own twist on them. The girls loved this!! They each made two masks and took great pride in how they painted them. Another great art lesson on the road.
Our stay was fantastic! Arrivederci, Venice!