Italian Getaway, First Stop: Venezia

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“The world is a country which nobody ever yet knew by description; one must travel through it one’s self to be acquainted with it.”
-Lord Chesterfield

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Italy: land of redwhite&green, pasta, gelato, talking with hand gestures, canals, ancient ruins, more pasta and gelato, tourism, and more.

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Six of my friends and I had been planning our November vacation to Italy since the beginning of the semester.  I’m pretty sure we had the longest Facebook group message thread in the website’s history.  We spent weeks going back and forth discussing flights, hostels, trains, and tickets for certain sights.
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We decided we couldn’t choose between Venice, Florence, and Rome, so we would just have to go to all three.  In order to do so, we had to make use of a public holiday that fell on a Wednesday and skip classes on Thursday to create our own extended weekend.  I’m usually not a proponent for missing class, partly because it’s a waste of a couple hundred dollars when tuition is as high as it is at Syracuse, however, Italy is a worthy excuse.

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We flew out of Madrid Wednesday morning into Venice.  The above picture was taken through the airplane window soon after take off.  The flat cloud looked cool, but best of all, snowcapped mountains in Spain!  Seriously wish I could go snowboarding.

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We arrived in Venice and took a bus/walked through town to our hostel.  Within the first five minutes, I knew Venice may become one of my favorite cities in Europe.

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Our arduous hostel research paid off.  We had rooms with private bathrooms and no random strangers.  Plus, this was the view outside our window.

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It was after 2 p.m., so we were all ready for lunch.  Apparently Italians are on an earlier eating schedule than Spaniards, so only two restaurants were open on the street the receptionist at the hostel had recommended.  I got a toasty prosciutto panini.  Thus, begins the Italian food fest.

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Venice consists of 117 small islands separated by skinny canals and connected by bridges.  The city is laid out like a labyrinth, so navigating with a map is nearly impossible.  It was a day of adventure.

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Apparently, Venetians really like dogs…

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and dressing them.  This dog was one of many we saw wearing clothes.  I even saw one with a onesie that stretched around its hind legs.

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As we walked toward San Marco Square, we made a few sweet pit stops.

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My friend Kayla looking like a kid in a candy store.

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We didn’t buy any candy, but gelato is a different story.

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As a lactose-intolerant, I had zero expectation to be able to eat gelato in Italy.  I figured I could save the calories and eat more pasta.  Well I was completely wrong.  This dark chocolate gelato was dairy free and oh so delicious.

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Another thing I was surprised to find in Venice were an overwhelminggg amount of masks.  They were seriously everywhere and if Ryanair wasn’t so strict on baggage, I would’ve bought one.  I’ve always wanted to go to a masquerade!

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After weaving our way through dizzying side streets, we arrived in San Marco Square.

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St. Mark’s Basilica

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One of my favorite buildings I’ve seen to date because of the gold decor.

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Town squares are popular all over Europe.  Why can’t we have anything like this in the U.S.?!

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We could’ve climbed up this tower, but we decided to save the money for something else to be discussed later.

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The square is a famous spot for pigeon chasing.

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A nice man gave my friend Eric and I a piece of bread to feed the birds ourselves.

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It was fun, but I didn’t want them actually flying onto me, yuck!

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The sun sets sooner in Northern Italy than in Madrid, so we constantly felt like it was later than it was.  This photo was taken at 4:30.

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Finally, it was the moment we had all been waiting for. THE GONDOLA RIDE!

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We glided through the canals with our awesome 20-year-old gondolalier Marco.  He wouldn’t sing to us, but thankfully he didn’t mind me singing “On Top of Spaghetti”.

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THE Marco Polo’s old house!  Apparently, the swimming pool game isn’t as well-known in Italy as in the U.S. because Marco was very confused when I asked him about it.

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The gondola ride was everything I hoped and dreamed of.

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We wandered around and did a bit of shopping.  Italian Murano glass is famous, so I bought a cute ring with a white and pink heart-shaped Murano glass bead.

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We walked into a small shop and ended up befriending the owner.  He and his employees make all of the products by hand.

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The friendly shop owner recommended a restaurant close by for dinner.  Even the packaged breadsticks were good!

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Spaghetti with clams and spinach.  First pasta dish in Italy, check!

We had an interesting time finding our way back to the hostel that night, but we had fun with it. Finally, we were back in the hostel and headed to bed because the next morning we would already be saying goodbye to Venice and hello to another Italian city.

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