Our pizza and wine infused evening resulted in a later than anticipated start to our only day in Venice. Thankfully the gracious B&B owner left the the breakfast open for us. The fresh fruit and drip coffee perked us up just in time for us to wait in line at bag drop.
Knowing we were short on time but long on activities we maintained a positive attitude and started to multitask by picking up the Venice Museum Pass and getting more cash. Kim had been talking up riding on a vaporetti or a gondola, without really knowing the distinction. Unfortunately, the strike motif of the trip reared its ugly head as the vaporetti workers were striking for higher wages.
While our planned walking tour required a vaporetti ride to get from the train station to the opposite side of the island, we quickly pivoted and decided to take a quick romantic gondola ride. This was pricey but completely worth it. The trip provides a unique perspective and allows for a slow moment on an otherwise packed island.
Venice appeared from my perspective to be a city frozen in time. The city rose to fame and fortune through trade and commerce all of which have moved off the swamp to other more centrally located ports or onto the mainland city of Venice. What remains on the island is a gigantic tourist theme park complete with gorgeous historic buildings and canals. Buildings which are mostly vacant except for the shops on main streets selling goods marketed only to the tourists. All of the native Venetians live on the mainland and commute to the island for work.
After our gondola ride, we made our way to two amazing museums, the City Art Museum and Peggy Guggenheim’s house. The former had some amazing works from Twombly and Raphael but the highlights all came at Peggy’s house. Laid out like a common house with living rooms and couches throughout, the house was laden with priceless works from Dali, Renoir, Monet and Chagall. All of them clearly following her positive outlook and attitude.
We continued to make our way east across the island toward San Marco Square. We had been eying a very specific homemade pasta shop which sold cups of pasta to go. After almost being turned off by a long line, we were rewarded with perfectly cooked fresh pasta in some classic Italian sauces. Unfortunately, Venice doesn’t really have any great spots to eat to-go meals, so we broke the rules of the city and risked a fine to eat on a bridge along with a few dozen other people all eating the same pasta. What rebels we are..
The closer we got to San Marco Square, the more crowded the streets became and the harder it was to stay together. Arriving to San Marco under overcast skies we took in the amazing views of the classic Venetian architecture around the square. We used our passes to skip a gigantic line to buy tickets into the Doge’s Palace. The highlight of the palace had to be the views overlooking the bay and the square. But the actual museum and artifacts were pedestrian and crowded.
I had really wanted to get to the highest point on the island of Venice, the Campanile of San Marco but we were immediately discouraged by the long wait in the rain. So we found cover in the famous Caffe Florian for a snack and cup of coffee (little did we know we were paying for the ensemble playing outside). With renewed vigor, we marched back towards the Rialto markets to find us probably three or four hours too late. Most of the shops close before lunch as all of the real buyers have made their purchases for the lunch and dinner services.
We had booked the last speed train out of Venice to Rome and after the wait to pick up our bags we were worried about having enough time. As normally happens, we ended up leaving ourselves too much time. Once we boarded the train, we were thankful that we had picked two window seats so we could both watch the countryside.
Once arriving in Rome we opted for a the cab line over an uber and got a nice car tour of Rome at night on the ride to our hotel. The hotel was one of the nicest since Paris, complete with nice tile floors throughout as my phone would discover at about 3 a.m. when I knocked it off the bed. For me, this was the most frustrated I had been the entire trip as I fell back asleep with my screen broken.