Despite my initial hesitation about going to Italy, I’m thrilled that Jay convinced me to go. It’s a beautiful country and the cities we saw are lovely to wander around. We spent our trip meandering down city streets, drinking wine, and lingering over long meals. Read on for the highlights of Venice and our first day in Florence. In part two I’ll cover the rest of Florence and Verona!
Since Jay was technically traveling for work, his company paid for his flights. So, to save money, we booked a cheaper non-direct flight to Italy for me. Unfortunately, that meant traveling separately. Our planes were scheduled to land in Venice within two hours of each other. Luckily, despite a rather tight layover in Lisbon, all went smoothly and we easily found each other at the Venice airport (phew!).
I flew on Tap Portugal and actually had a better than expected experience. Although not exactly luxurious, the seat is fairly comfortable and there are a wide variety of TV shows and movies available to watch. They serve dinner (with drinks and dessert) followed by a morning snack. The staff wasn’t exactly what you’d call friendly, but they got the job done. For cheap flights to Europe, we’ll definitely consider Tap again in the future. I have to admit, my flight was more enjoyable than most since I ended up sitting next to three 7 year old girls. They were chatty and adorable and we had a blast playing Connect 4 on the video screens 🙂
From the Venice airport, our hotel provided free transportation to the hotel. I loved catching my first glimpse of Venice from a private speedboat 🙂 Our hotel is on the island of Murano, just north of Venice. Murano is known for their glass creations, so there are lots of beautiful shop windows to browse. We walked around for a bit before deciding on pizza for our first Italian meal (what a surprise!). I promise I tried to find the name of the restaurant because the pizza was delicious, but it doesn’t even exist on GoogleMaps.
As an FYI, in lieu of subway or bus transportation, the public transportation in Venice is boats! We paid $20 EUR each for a 24 hour pass and (after a slight mishap) made our way to the heart of Venice, San Marco Piazza. On a side note, our slight mishap resulted in a lovely boat ride around most of the island, so if you’re interested, the public transport is a great way to see the city from the water.
For the rest of the day, we walked around Venice. Once you get past the main tourist area, the island is just gorgeous. Shops and restaurants are scattered throughout the streets and bridges appear out of nowhere to cross over the canals. I did make sure we saw Ponte Rialto, which offers lovely views of a large canal in both directions. By the time we were ready for dinner, we made our way back to Murano. Unfortunately, NOTHING was open!! All of the restaurants close in the afternoon and don’t reopen for dinner until 7/7:30pm. So, be advised and stick to the touristy areas if you’re looking for an early dinner.
Luckily our hotel had a small cafe attached and our waiter (after teasing us for wanting to eat so early) let us order dinner at 6pm. This was my first experience with Italian pasta and sadly I wasn’t impressed. There was almost no sauce or cheese, so it tasted like dry pasta with a few veggies. Jay made a smarter choice of ravioli in a cream sauce that was much better.
That wraps up our first day in Italy. After very little sleep on our flights, we passed out around 7:30pm and slept for 13 hours haha.
The following morning, a quick two hour train ride brought us to Florence. In my opinion, trains are easily the best way to travel through Europe. No airports, no driving, just a smooth ride and lovely views of the countryside. Anyway, upon arrival we immediately set off for our first international AirBnb stay – right in the center of the city. The apartment is steps from the Duomo and the museum containing the David statue. It was a delight holding the key to one of the beautiful wooden doors along the street and walking up three flights to our room. Although small, the place was very comfortable and charming. A spiral staircase led up to the loft bedroom – it really doesn’t get any better than that : )
We took advantage of the sunshine on our first afternoon to walk across the river and up to Michelangelo Piazza. From there you have a breathtaking panoramic view of Florence. Trust me, all the steps are worth it! There’s also a decent gelato stand at the top if you need a quick reward. On our way back into the city, we walked past the unbelievable Duomo. It’s a massive, gorgeous church and probably worth a look inside (although we didn’t get a chance to enter).
That afternoon we joined in the Italian tradition of a glass of wine and snacks before dinner then continued to explore until we settled on a restaurant. I have no idea where it is located or what it is called (seems to be a trend), but Jay got a black truffle pasta dish that was divine. My carbonara pasta was not quite as good. 0/2 on the pasta for me. Apparently I’m terrible at ordering in Italy.
More adventures to come in Part 2!