We said our sad goodbyes to the amazing city of Rome and set off towards Venice, via Verona.
The name ‘Verona’ brings back some fond memories of Year 9 Drama class for me.
“Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love and I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”
Yeah, that’s right. Verona is famous for being the city in which Shakespeare’s play Romeo & Juliet is set in. In Verona you can go and visit Juliet’s balcony, which hangs off a 14th-century house called Casa di Giuletta and overlooks a small courtyard.
When you enter the courtyard you go through an alley-way where the walls are covered in messages to Juliet. People leave letters pinned to the walls of the house, addressed to the fictional character. While I think the sentiment is nice, I probably wouldn’t go asking a 14 year-old girl who stabbed herself (after she found out that her boyfriend poisoned himself because he thought she was dead) for romantic advice.
But if you’re into all that star-crossed lover business, then go for it.
You can also wander over to the far side of the courtyard and see the statue of Juliet. There’s a legend that if you rub her right-breast you will become lucky in love. The original statue actually had to be replaced because of the damage caused by people rubbing it. I stood in the crowded courtyard (it was absolutely packed with people) and watched people rubbing the statue’s boobs. To me it just looked kinda pervy, but, well… whatever.
Verona is a beautiful city and there’s quite a bit to see and do. There was a festival happening while we were there and there was a really vibrant atmosphere. We didn’t have a lot of time there, and then it was onwards to Venice.
We arrived in Venice at night, just in time for another amazing Italian meal. Seriously, if you don’t eat a LOT of pasta and pizza while you are in Italy, you are doing something very, very wrong and you will regret it for the rest of your life.
Our hotel was in Mestre, which is the most populated urban area of the mainland of Venice, so no canals or gondolas were spotted yet. However, we did get to go to a peanut bar.
You did read that correctly, we went to a peanut bar.
It was called BEFeD Mestre, and there were PEANUTS EVERYWHERE. As in, I almost fell over a couple of times because the peanut shells literally covered the floor and those things are slippery.
(Photo is courtesy of Google Images as for some reason I didn’t think I’d need to take my camera with me to a bar)
The next day it was time to explore Venice. Built on over 100 (slowly sinking) islands, Venice is truly a magical place to visit.
The canals were shrouded with fog and the arching bridges seemed to rise up out of nowhere. The buildings that lined the canals were bright colours like yellow and orange, but they seemed to vanish into the quiet of the fog. Boats floated on the edge of the canals, laden down with fresh fruit and souvenirs. The sound of the teal-coloured water lapping against the pathways was eerie but only added to the mystery that is the labyrinth of Venice.
We started off the morning with a walking tour. It was about minus 2 degrees celsius, and I’m pretty sure that’s the coldest I’ve ever been in my life and I think that’s why there aren’t too many photos from that morning, because I could hardly bring myself to take them.
Nonetheless, there are many things that you should do in Venice – no matter what the weather is like.
One of these is to see Basilica di San Marco, a building which dates back to the 9th century. The basilica is incredible, with Byzantine domes and 8500 square metres of stunningly detailed mosaics. Many of the mosaics are made with 24-carat gold leaf that is fused onto the back of the glass, creating an enchanting effect.
I was, of course, most excited for the traditional gondola ride. Yes, they’re incredibly touristy. And yes, they’re over-priced.
But who goes to Venice to NOT ride a gondola?
It felt really risky climbing aboard the gondolas because they were wobbling around quite a bit in the water. We switched seats a few times to find the perfect weight combination, and once we were all settled in Chrystle snapped a happy pic of us and we sailed off.
The gondola ride was super fun. We cuddled up under a blanket because it was freezing on the water, and our gondolier showed us around. Unfortunately, he didn’t serenade us but we passed another gondolier who was singing so to the young couple he had onboard, so that was cute.
After our gondola ride we went and got lunch at an appropriately named cafe; Cafe Venezia. No points for name-originality, but the food was great. I had a very traditional Spaghetti Bolognese that was AMAZING.
The price of the food was okay, but we got caught out with the drinks which were really expensive – the drink prices weren’t on the menu! We assumed that because the food was reasonably priced the drinks would be too, but they really sucked us in on that one!
That being said, we were all frozen to the bone and probably would have paid just about anything for a hot drink!
After lunch we had a look around St Mark’s Square. We saw lots of amazing Carnevale masks. The masks are a centuries-old Venetian tradition, and were typically worn during the annual Carnival of Venice. The masks gave people the freedom to interact with other people who were outside of their social class or outside of their everyday social circles.
Some of the masks are a bit freaky looking, but a lot of them are beautiful and really intricately made.
I also bought myself something which ended up being my favourite souvenir of the whole trip; a glass dib pen. Bortoletti glass is super famous and as an aspiring author I feel rather fancy and super chuffed to have my own glass pen and ink set. Now I just have to learn how to use it and improve my horrible handwriting.
We ran out of time to go inside places like Gallerie dell’Academia but had a fabulous time just wandering the streets and immersing ourselves in the culture. I’m also pretty sure that we spotted Johnny Depp walking his dogs at one point, but that remains a mystery.
Our day in Venice was a lot of fun; the fog really added to the atmosphere and made the whole day quite mysterious and enchanting. Venice is a beautiful city and if you’re going to Italy it really needs to be on your to-do list.
Have you been to Venice before? What were your favourite sights?
If you’re planning a trip to Venice, what would you most like to see?