THE FLOATING CITY

Originally written December 2, 2016

You might be wondering what “the floating city” actually is by the title. And my answer is that its the most magical, mystical, historical and interesting place you can visit in Italy…Venezia! Or better known by Americans as Venice. So when you picture Venice you probably picture gondolas (the banana shaped boats that you ride around in) and colorful buildings, but I’m here to tell you that Venice is so much more than that. First of all– if you’ve never been, you need to book a flight as soon as possible and experience this wonderful city because it is said that in about 50 years, the city will be underwater. So that is why it is called “the floating city.” I’ll give you a little history lesson on this wonderful place. So way back when, as in 400 A.D., Venice was built on the Venetian Lagoon by inhabitants that were seeking safety and trying to get away from the barbarians from northern Europe that were trying to conquer Italy after the fall of the Roman Empire. Venezia’s lagoons were the perfect refuge for the scared Italians that fled the mainland, and after awhile, they came to know Venice as a home rather than just a place to escape. Venetians were therefore separated from all political, economical and barbaric warfare that was taking over Italy at the time. The water was a barrier between them and everything they had escaped from, and therefore, they developed their own lifestyle type, enjoying the copious amounts of fish surrounding them and adding on to their small town.

Isn’t that pretty cool that a city that was built as an escape from war, is now considered one of the most beautiful and mystical cities in the world? I think it is pretty freaking cool. So when we got the chance to visit this amazing city, we were nothing short of ecstatic. When we got off of the train, we remembered that Venice is an island and that we had to take something called a “water taxi” or a “water bus” to get to the island from the mainland. The water bus was packed full of tourists, so once we stepped foot onto the island we were so relieved. And more than that…we were completely awestruck by the beauty of this city already. The island was packed with people (tons of tourists). Oh and in case you needed to know, GPS walking directions don’t work in Venice because the streets aren’t real street size; they are like three feet wide streets, some even smaller than that. So I would say it took us around forty minutes to find our hotel and it was probably only a few hundred feet away. Yeah, this city was going to be tricky to figure out, but we were up for the adventure.

Once we got to our hotel, we realized how ancient the town really is. It was like we were staying in a haunted ancient Venetian inn, but it was pretty cool I thought. So we settled in and figured out what we wanted to do, and after discussing for a little while, we just went for it. We had the whole day to explore this gem of a place. We took off to find something to eat, stopping at every glass store on the way because they were so fun to look through. Venice has everything you can imagine made out of glass and it is not cheap. I saw a small glass elephant that I knew I had to have, but I told myself I would come back by to bargain with the owner before the weekend was over. We finally found food..well, eventually. Tip: don’t expect delicious, amazing food in Venice because you will not find it. It is a complete tourist trap, as in, the food is not good and it is extremely expensive. So we ended up finding pepperoni pizza and just about died because the last place we saw pepperoni pizza was in Florence. Although it was probably 10 AM, me and a couple others grabbed some of that to hold us over. We continued to explore the city, every step we took bringing something new and interesting. I’m not really sure how we didn’t get sick of stepping into glass stores though…I swear we probably looked in about fifty of them. We went back to our hotel for a little bit after that, to change and look nice for the infamous gondola ride that you have to go on when in Venice, because when will you ever get to do that again? Unfortunately, when we got back to the hotel, it started raining and we were all in a tizzy trying to figure out what to do. Everything to do in Venice is obviously outside so we waited out the rain, hoping that it would just disappear and we could continue our journey.

Sure enough, after spraying a whole bottle of hairspray in my hair in hopes that it could block the effects of the rain, it stopped raining!!! We went on our merry way and found a place to try the “amazing spritz” that Venice is famous for and some light appetizers for “aperitivo”. Like I said, Venice is a tourist trap, so it doesn’t really matter which restaurant you go into…its probably not going to be very good. We just happened to step into one of the worse ones. It wasn’t even ran by Italians; it was ran by people of a different ethnicity. That can be one sign that you’re purposefully getting yourself caught in a tourist trap. The spritz was not what I expected at all. If you like olives and a strong blood orange flavor, then the spritz may be for you. But as for me, I had to hold my nose to get it down, and so did most of my friends. Maybe it was the place we chose…maybe the drink was just hyped up. Maybe Italians had an acquired taste for the drink. I’m not sure, but goodness it was nasty. After that, it was time to find a gondola to get ourselves into! We had eight people in our group, so we knew two of us would have to break off from the group…so Sarah and I volunteered. We found gondolas and Sarah and I rode with some super nice ladies visiting from Spain. Oh and we got the extremely attractive gondolier (gondola driver) and the others got the old man. So Sarah and I were pretty happy when we got to flirt with him the whole time, well attempt to flirt because I don’t flirt and he barely spoke any English at all. So I have to admit, it wasn’t too successful. But he was so sweet and funny, like most Italian men are to American girls. The thirty minutes flew by, and before we knew it we were hopping off of the gondola, smiling and yelling “ciao” to our gondolier. Yes, paying way too much to sit in a banana shaped boat and ride around is probably really dumb, but why wouldn’t you do it when you’re in Venice, Italy?!

The night brought some different plans. We didn’t know much about the nightlife in this city, but Alyssa texted a guy she knew that actually went to school in Venice for awhile and asked him where to go. He gave us the name of the spot, so once we got ourselves ready, we took off to check it out. Y’all, I have to say, I have never been so creeped out walking around at night. If we wouldn’t have been with guys, I probably would have freaked out. We walked forever trying to find this place, but like I said before, the GPS directions do not help in a town like this. It seemed like the streets kept getting darker and smaller the further we went and I was convinced that at one point, the streets would just get so small that they ended. Well, we finally found the area that the friend told us about. The scene was so strange though, especially after the first thing some guy came up and said to us was “look out for people around here…they’ll put stuff in your drinks.” So that was a little unsettling and I was pretty careful where I bought a drink from. After that, we found the one club in all of Venice down a different alley way that took us what seemed like hours to get to. Once we got there, we realized that once again, we should be super careful. I’m pretty sure the ceilings were about 7 feet tall and I personally could not breathe it was so hot in there. But, we danced for a little while and hung out, avoided some of the creepiest men I’ve ever come across, and then got ourselves home. Of course the walk back home was still creepy except now it was like 3 AM so even worse. Honestly though, things may have been strange, and Venice may not be known for its nightlife, but it was all part of the experience and I wouldn’t change it if I had the chance. Seeing how different parts of Italy are so diverse and have their own culture, like Venice, is so interesting and theres always a history that comes with why they’re like that which is pretty neat too.

The next day, we walked around the city some more, admiring the beautiful architecture in St. Mark’s square and the brilliance of the churches like the Basilica di San Marco and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. The second one we got to go inside of and it was definitely one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. Doge’s Palace was beautiful as well. Really, just all of the architecture in Venice is striking. It made me sad that the city will probably be underwater in the next fifty years or so because the history of the city is just so unique. We went into a really cool modern art museum after that, where different modern art was displayed in so many different rooms; some of it was even interactive art. I thought it was super cool that such an ancient city still invested in the modern day arts and that they were trying to incorporate millennial work into the city. After admiring all of those wonders, we did some souvenir shopping for family members. I bought my dad a really cool tie that has little gondolas and gondoliers on it and my mom a beautiful glass pendant. The pendants made for great gifts for friends back home so I bought a few smaller ones to give to my best friends. Of course, I had to make it back to the glass elephant that I saw on the first day, hoping it was still there. After we got completely turned around and couldn’t get back to that specific store, we finally found it. We made sure to get back to our hotel in time to grab our bags, say goodbye to this magical city where we made so many memories in such a short time, and hop on another water taxi to make it back to the train station.

After every weekend adventure, I was always happy to go back to our little apartment in Rome. This weekend in particular, I knew this would be the last time we went back to Rome after a weekend trip and I knew I would have to make the most of our last week in the city that truly felt like home to me. And of course I would never be able to forget the mystifying city of Venezia, Italia.

Ciao until next time!