Blue lagoon water filled with gondoliers rowing their passengers through winding island canal ways is both the picture perfect and realistic representation of Venice, Italy.
After waking up at 7 AM, Melissa, and I along with our friends Anna, Francesca, Grace and Hollie boarded a bus for our three and a half hour long ride to Venice. We passed through the northern region of Italy, which had trees and mountains covered in crystal white snow before arriving on the mainland of Venice, where no snow was in sight and the sun was shining. We left behind the coach bus, for a more Venetian mode of transportation—a water taxi. Even though the 100 other people, who were also on the trip as we did it through a student travel company, barely fit on the small boat, we safely arrived on the island.
We walked with the group to Piazza San Marco, before heading to a Venetian Glass Blowing demonstration. While I’ve seen a glass blowing demonstration before, it was still just as mind-blowing the second time around. The skills the maestro acquired were passed down to him from his father, and took him 20 years to perfect in order to earn the title of maestro. We watched him make a vase from hand, before heading into the store’s showroom and marveling at the chandeliers, mirrors and knickknacks for sale. While they were ridiculously out of any college students price range, clearly we don’t have 200 euro to drop on a glass cup, it was fun to ohh and ahh at the handmade intricacy of the pieces; some of which took 3 days to make.
From there, Melissa and I went off to explore the streets, which make even less sense than Florence. In a way, Venice feels like a walled city. The buildings are tall and when contrasted with the short streets, it is impossible to know where you’re going or set landmarks for yourself. Regardless, even without a sense of direction or destination, it’s almost guaranteed that after a few turns you’ll come upon a beautiful bridge with gondolas passing underneath it. A special addition was the fact that this weekend was the opening weekend of Carnevale. This meant that besides the everyday charm of Venice, we were also greeted with the people dressed in elegant, colorful costumes reminiscent of the Medieval Times.
The traditional dress includes wearing a mask, so all of the stores and street vendors were selling their own unique pieces for the event. Melissa and I searched in and around the streets for ones that fit our personality. Obviously, the one I chose was pink and sparkly with a feather and flower, because how could I get a mask without a flower.
After walking around for a bit and exploring on our own, we met back up with the group for our gondola ride. The five girls I came with and myself hopped in our gondola and as soon as our gondolier Michael started singing Happy by Pharrell when we sat down, I knew it was going to be a memorable experience. We glided through the teal colored water of the hidden passageways before emerging onto the Grand Canal.
Lucky enough for us, we were on the Grand Canal right at sunset, which made the experience even more magical. I took a few seconds to soak up the view and take in just how beautiful the people, places, and views I was experiencing truly were. What really made the moment though, was not only being able to experience it with my friends, but that Michael started singing Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran and I’m pretty sure all of us fell in love with him at that moment. After rowing back into the dock at which we began, we took a group pic with Michael and headed to find a quick bite to eat.
On our way walked over the Rialto Bridge, which is the most famous bridge in Venice. It was dusk by the time we reached it, but the views of the open waterway were still beautiful. We stopped at a coffee shop before meeting the group in Campo San Giacomo, walking back to the bus, and making the trek back home.
Venice beat out the Cliffs of Moher by a skinch for being the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. The pictures may do it some justice, but there’s nothing like sitting in a gondola while you’re gondolier sings to you and simultaneously rows past St. Mark’s Basilica.
Ciao for now,
All Photography by Emily Houston