Venezia La Bella

Ciao tutti!

I’ve returned from my last overnight trip of the semester, which I guess is kind of sad because I won’t be travelling much, if at all, for my last few weeks.  However, travel takes a lot out of you, and I’ve been feeling that a lot so far this week.  I’m satisfied with my last big trip and I’m glad I won’t be having to deal with public transportation, hostels, and trying to pack the right clothes for the weekend anymore.

So with that being said I guess I should let you all know a bit about my weekend in the Veneto!  This is the northern region of Italy where Venice and Verona are located.  Jessica, Alea, Christina, and I booked our hostel/apartment in Venice for two nights and headed up north for my second time this semester.

Our transportation wasn’t nearly as difficult and filled with surprises as my trip to the Dolomites (we even got to ride a Freccia, one that we were actually supposed to be on).  The train to Venice goes over water, since Venice is made up of islands, which was pretty cool.  Stepping out of the train station we were greeted with our first view of the Grand Canal which runs through the city.  However, we didn’t have the best first impression of the city as it was cold and pouring rain. We made our way through the labyrinth of streets to find where we were supposed to be staying.  With soaked feet, cold hands, and tired legs, we finally settled into the guesthouse where we were staying with some groceries to make our dinner.  That was one of the best cups of tea I’ve ever had.

After our relaxing first night, we woke the next morning feeling mostly refreshed and ready to tackle a busy day.  We planned to take a two hour train ride to spend the morning in nearby Verona, pay a visit to the Juliet wall, and explore the city.  The town itself was beautiful with balconies, adorable children, ivy and flowers, and… Christmas decorations!! It seemed that the town was setting up some kind of Christmas village in one of the piazzas while we were there.  If you don’t already know, Christmastime is my absolute favorite time of year.  I’m one of those people who starts counting down and listening to Christmas music at the beginning of November.  I’m not ashamed.

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We also saw the famous house of Juliet.  Verona is the city where the famous Shakespearean play Romeo and Juliet was set.  A long time ago some person decided to help the city’s tourist industry by picking out one of the many houses with a balcony and dubbing it “Juliet’s house” where the balcony scene occurred in the play.

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Originally lover’s would try to write notes and put them on the wall, or write on the wall of the house itself.  Because of the popularity of the wall, a rule was created that tourists could not deface the building. So, being creative, the tourists found a way around the rule by sticking notes to the wall with chewing gum.  Today, it’s just a wall covered in wads of chewing gum, and there’s also a gate with bright pink locks (that I’m assuming works the same way as the Lover’s Bridge in Paris). Not as romantic as it seemed in Letters to Juliet, but cute nevertheless.

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After our quick trip to Verona, we headed back to Venice.  There are many islands surrounding Venice that all have unique characteristics.  We had heard about Burano, which is an island with very colorfully-painted houses and is famous for its lace.  Naturally, we still had plenty of energy and ambition to take the 40 minute water taxi ride there.  We arrived as the sun was setting, giving us a beautiful view of the colorful island at dusk.

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I was amazed at how varied all of the colors were, it was like walking through a rainbow.  The lace in all of the small stores was so delicate and we even got to watch a woman making it.  Since it was getting darker, there were very few tourists around which made for a very peaceful setting to explore the place.  I loved Burano so much, probably because of all of the colors.  Bright colors make me happy and brings a certain energy to a place.  We made it back to Venice in time to fit in a quick ride down the Grand Canal to see the city lights along the water.  It was a great way to end an eventful day.

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The last day was reserved for exploring Venice itself.  While it was very frustrating to follow poorly drawn maps, labrynthic streets, and being stopped from continuing on our way by the ever-present canals, Venice is one beautiful city.  I could feel a sense of tragic beauty throughout our time there.  This city was built on the bright blue water, where the streets are canals and bridges are necessary to cross over them, boats function as cars, and flooding is a somewhat usual occurrence.

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The brick buildings looked like they were off a postcard (they probably were). It just made me think a lot about the importance of my visit to this place, because people say that Venice is sinking.  In about 40 years, that lovely city won’t be able to be visited.  Who knows, maybe last weekend was the last time I will ever be able to see it?

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St. Mark’s square was flooded and planks were set up for tourists to walk on.  It was a tad stressful trying to maneuver around all of the people on the small walking area.  This was the largest amount of tourists we saw the entire weekend, and of course, where there are tourists, there are gondoliers.  Yes, we all wish we could’ve gone on a gondola, but they are very overpriced (80 euro for a ride) and unfortunately we are college students on a budget.  We settled for taking artsy pictures instead.

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Another thing that Venice is famous for other than it’s romantic gondola rides are its masks for Carnevale.  Carnevale is a Venetian holiday that dates way back, and was originally a day where people had the freedom to do whatever they wanted outside of the law.  Everyone wore masks to hide their identities, and no one could tell what socioeconomic class or family you were from.  This eventually turned into more of a symbolic thing and the masks were romanticized to the point of making Carnevale seem more like a masquerade ball.  As we walked along, we saw many many stands and shops selling Venetian masks.  However, most of the cheap ones were made of plastic and made in China.  We were on a constant hunt for inexpensive, legitimate masks that would be worth our precious euros.  Eventually we found some genuine, artisan-made masks sold by true artists.  With that goal completed, we were content to return back to our town of Perugia.

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So there’s the quick summary of my last busy weekend.  I now only have three weekends left of the semester. How the time has flown!  Jessica, Alea, and Christina were my travelling companions for my first big trip to Rome, and it was a great way to end my travelling experiences with the same great friends.

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I will say, at this point in the study abroad experience, my friends and I are becoming more and more eager to get home, especially as final papers and tests are starting to rear their ugly heads.  Also the lack of family and home cooking at Thanksgiving this year will make the holiday a little melancholy.  However, some of my friends are planning an attempt at an American Thanksgiving in Italy.  We’re not quite sure how we’re going to find and fit a turkey into these miniature Italian ovens, but we’ll find a way.  But the biggest, and best in my opinion, holiday is right around the corner as well and I’m so glad that I’ll be home to celebrate Christmas.

I am just so grateful for this semester and all of the things I’ve learned so far and continue to learn each day I’m here.  And I’m grateful for all the support and encouragement I’ve continued to receive from all of my family, my boyfriend Tom, all my friends at home and abroad, and the new friends I’ve made here.  Thanks to all of you for helping make this such a fulfilling experience and being there for me!

I hope to have at least one other post up before I head back to the States, so stay tuned.

Ciao!

Abby

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