Verona was a tough act to follow, but I had high hopes as we got on the bus to Venice. There weren’t many places to stay that were in our price range, so we settled on a camp site right off the island where we were promised a “bungalow” for two.
We got up early, not needing to stay in our half still flooded dorm room any longer than necessary. Joseph, the Finnish guy, asked to tag along to Venice, so the three of us headed out to find breakfast and find the bus stop. I do have a gripe with Italy that is important to share: They do not know how to eat breakfast. To me, a semi-dry croissant and an espresso simply will not cut it. I’m not asking for eggs benedict here, but I am wondering what magical pill they all are taking to keep them from carbo-exploding. Anyway, the only breakfast we could find was a croissant (which they call a brioche), a cappuccino, and a glass of orange juice. I will give them points for the freshly squeezed OJ.
I looked down at my phone after taking the last sip of my cappuccino when I realized it was 9:45, and our bus left at 10:10. We were at least 10 if not 15 minutes away, plus we had no idea where it was. I could aldready feel the stress sweat starting as we threw our things together and booked it in the direction of the bus station. We must have looked like a small herd of professional speedwalkers with the arm movements and all. We finally got to the bus at 10:08, huffing and puffing and apologizing to the driver for being late. I found a seat next to a man who proceeded to fall asleep and rest his head only slightly touching me, like his hair was going to graze my shoulder if I wasn’t careful.
After the bus, we had to board a little train that took us over the water into Venice, then on to another bus that would bring us to our campsite. We were about 20 minutes from the city, but the bus was cheap and stopped right at the camp (minus the time we forgot to get off and had to walk an extra 10 minutes back from the next stop over). As we walked into the camp I felt like I was being thrown into a sort of combination between summercamp and those RV parks next to beaches. There were small storage container-turned-cabins, mobile homes, and a giant tent. We were given the key to a small storage container room and decided to embrace the wilderness. It actually was nice. Just the two of us, the sound of the rain at night, and some fresh air.
Our first afternoon in Venice was absolutely beautiful. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze, and the whole setting just takes your breath away. We sat for lunch at a little place before entering the main part of the city, we were starving and needing food asap. We shared a caprese salad and ordered a pizza that came with ham, mozzarella, artichokes, and tomatoes. I’m terrible and have no idea what this place was called, but don’t panic I have an even better recommendation coming up later.
We ventured out into the city, exploring all the little nooks and crannies of Venice, not having any clue where we were going. I will say this- don’t plan when you travel. Get out and explore, get lost, and try places off the path where you see everyone else going. Do always carry a map though, this place is a labyrinth.
We spent day one exploring the bigger squares of Venice, especially admiring Piazza San Marco and the walks all along the canals. We walked in big loops all over the city, and as it started to get dark we decided to find a spot for dinner.
We stumbled randomly upon Il Refolo, a restaurant and pizzeria with a bit of a pricier menu, but we were willing to pay the price for the items on the menu. They had a variety of pizzas, pastas, fancy main courses, and a long list of desserts. Everything looked fantastic, but gnocchi is one of my favorites so I settled on the gnocchi with broccoli sauce and sea scallops. Ashley had a deliciously cheesy stuffed pasta, and Joseph ordered penne with tomato sauce and smoked ricotta. Each dish was delicious in it’s own way, and each was very different. The broccoli sauce kept my gnocchi fresh and light, and they had the most beautiful silky texture. The scallops were small and more like a component of the sauce than the star of the dish but, being a New England girl, I guess I’m pretty spoiled when it comes to seafood expectations. We also watched the owner of the restaurant move between the kitchen and the outdoor seating area, making sure all her guests were enjoying their experience. I loved watching her in action, and she even brought me a blanket to cover my shoulders as it got colder out. It was excellent.
We slept soundly in our little tin can, comforted by the rain tapping on the roof and the cheap bottle of wine we purchased from the barren campsite market. Wanna hear something cute? We even woke up at the same time during the night to pee. (The bathroom was kind of far away so I probably wouldn’t have gone alone anyway, but it was still funny).
The next day, we got up, purchased our bus tickets and were on our way back into the city. I don’t have many specifics of what we saw or did because the day was just a blur of beautiful views, getting lost in endless streets following canals and crossing over bridges. At one point, we found ourselves in a sort of apartment complex, looking out of the water with no one else. It’s amazing when you can find your own little secret spot in a place with thousands of other people around.
We did do something a bit unsual though- as we wandered around looking for something light to grab to eat (it was about 11:30 am), we found a beautiful little restaurant with an outdoor seating area right on a canal. If you know anything about us by now you may be able to guess what they were serving. Yep, that’s right. We had Indian food, in Venice, for breakfast.
Now, before you get all crazy “what is she doing eating burgers and Indian food in Italy?!” the food was amazing and I regret nothing. We ordered the chicken korma and plain naan, and it was the perfect way to start the day. We even had a German couple sitting behind us, so it was a truly multicultural experience.
After a few waves and calls froom the gondoliers passing by, we finished our Indian brunch and headed off to get lost. We walked and walked and walked. We literally walked for six hours without stopping. Ashley’s phone tells us that we walked 12 miles, but it felt like 1000 by the time we were done. At around 6pm, the sun started to go down and we realized how hungry we were. At that point, we were lost, it was getting dark, and I could no longer feel my feet (leather booties are so cute and so stupid for backpacking).
We settled on a touristy restaurant where we got an ok plate of carbonara, a bottle of house wine, and an actually delicious starter of bruschetta which I am still not convinced on the right way to pronounce. Dreading the answer, we looked at the waiter and asked, “how far to the bus station?”
Looking at us like we were crazy, he pointed to our right and said, “right there!” There was never a more beautiful site than the sun setting over that hideous bus station. We were happy to get off the bus and climb into bed in our little tin can once more. I slept like a baby.
After Venice, we decided to head to Bologna for a couple days, to fill some space we had between Venice and our planned time in Florence. We had heard it was a cute city, so we booked our 1 Euro bus tickets (I can get down with 1 euro anything to be honest), and decided on a hostel.
The rain came pouring down as we boarded the bus, so I slipped my rain cover over my bag and we hoped for the best. Unfortunately, it continued to rain for our whole two days in Bologna, but we still got out a little to see the sites. Ashley ended up getting sick which was good timing with the rain, so we really got the most out of our hostel fees.
Some highlights of Bologna for me were the architecture, the cute shops, and the lack of American accents around us. Bologna is still touristy, but we barely heard other English speakers outside our hostel, which was both exciting and challenging. The architecture here is beautiful, with gorgeous arch covered sidewalks, massive wooden doors stretching twelve feet tall, a church in the center that we were lucky enough to be able to explore alone, and of course the two towers that Bologna is famous for.
Food wise, we had some pretty great food, but nothing that really knocked our socks off. My favorite dish was an antipasto rusico plate from a restaurant down the street. It was so simple so delicious. With the different cheeses, meats, roasted and grilled veggies, and the arancini (a fried rice ball), I was one happy girl. Sometimes all you need is a plate of meat and cheese to fix all your problems. Just in case we weren’t full enough, we ordered a pizza for dessert. It was called the Sorrentina and had fresh mozz, cherry tomatoes, and olive oil. It was definitely not bad.
The next night, we ate at a small restaurant called Cinque 50 that we actually found on Trip Advisor. It was small, with probably twelve tables and a menu that had just the right amount of options. We weren’t starving, so we went with two primi pasta dishes to share. You have to have Bolognese in Bologna, so we ordered it on top of creamy polenta for a change. It was rustic, hearty, and definitely warmed us right up.
The other was a bowl of fresh tagliatelle with an artichoke cream sauce. This was the lighter of the two, with little chunks of fresh artichoke throughout, really enforcing that earthy artichoke flavor. Both were fantastic, and we can see why the restaurant is so highly rated.
I am actually writing this from the common room of the hostel while everyone else sleeps. Why aren’t you sleeping, Shelby? You may be asking yourself. Well, we have a snorer folks and being the light sleeper I am, I cannot get my mind off her growling nostrils. Soon I will put on my big girl pants and go back in there, determined to sleep despite the earthquakes being caused by her nasal cavities, but I just don’t think I am ready quite yet. Let’s hope the wifi holds out long enough for me to get some Pintersting or something in. Wish me luck!
Update, approx. 1am: A German boy just walked over and offered me earplugs. He is my guardian angel. Goodnight everyone!