After a somewhat rocky start getting to Italy, things progressed nicely on day 2 with our plane leaving at 2 PM Friday, only 1 hour later than scheduled :) We arrived in Amsterdam at 6 AM local time with a 9 hour layover. Anticipating plenty of time to take a short tour of the city, we were disappointed when we found that it was 38 degrees and raining. Hopeful that it would clear later in the morning, we grabbed a cart for our carryon luggage and set out to explore the airport. Note: carts are free at the Amsterdam Airport-nice!
We found no lack of shopping or food :)
We found 99% of all signage in the Amsterdam airport to be in English only. Quite surprising to us.
The weather did not improve as the day progressed so we decided to stay dry and spent the afternoon reading and trying to stay awake :)
Our flight to Venice left on time at 3 PM, arriving at 5 PM. From there we bought 2 bus tickets, boarded the #15 bus and arrived in Mestre, just outside Venice, 30 minutes later. We had rented an apartment, rather than a hotel room and it turned out to be a wonderful decision. We were joined, that evening, by daughter Nicole and the next morning by sister, Sheila and BIL, Vern. Plenty of room for everyone!
Sunday afternoon, after all had arrived, we headed into Venice to explore. We wandered from one square to another, down alleyways that twisted and turned and gave the impression of a maze. In fact, if flying over in an airplane, I imagine we looked much like a bunch of rats trying to find our way out :)
Eventually we arrived at the ultimate destination, St. Mark’s Square. We arrived just as they were turning on the lights and the bells began to toll. Because it was a Sunday, the square was less crowded than other days of the week which, for us, was a good thing.
We found a little restaurant a short distance from the square and enjoyed our first authentic Italian meal. It was probably a good thing we had spent hours walking before eating. We worked up quite an appetite and walked off some calories in anticipation! :)
It was 10:30 when we made it back to the apartment and everyone headed straight for bed.
We were a bit slower moving Monday morning and didn’t head out until noon-ish. We took the bus back to Venice to explore some more. The main stop of this afternoon was the Venetian Ghetto area where the Jews were forced to live under the Venetian Republic in the 16th century. It is from the Italian “ghetto” that the English word “ghetto” is derived. The museum had much information on the history of the Jews in Venice. If you’re interested in that history, you can do some reading here.
It was after 3 PM before we stopped for lunch and then made our way back to the apartment. Nicole was catching a train out that evening to go back to Florence and the rest of us sat around visiting, planning and eating cheese, Italian bread and drinking wine :) Not a bad way to end the day.
We took a water taxi to Murano Island on our last day in Venice (Tuesday) to visit some of the Murano glass studios. There are many and they do beautiful work. Even some of the city squares boasted Murano Glass sculptures. Much was way above our budget and there was some cheap knockoff glass being sold for pennies, but if you looked carefully you can find beautiful, affordable pieces to purchase as a souvenir or gift.
We topped off this day with a wonderful, authentic meal at a neighborhood restaurant just down the street from the apartment, Dai Fioi. We were treated like family and the owner spent much time with us explaining each course and even Googling certain foods so he could tell us what they were in English! Unfortunately, we were having such a wonderful time, I totally forgot to pull the camera out of my pocket :(
Today, Wednesday, we are currently on a train travelling at 300 km/hr to Florence. The ride is so smooth that you don’t even notice you’re going at breakneck speeds :) This is a brand new train and it’s beautiful. I thought I’d put the 2 hours to good use and work on the blog. Tonight, I will try to add the photos and get this posted. We’ll be in the Florence area for the next 5 days. I’m sure I’ll have more to report from there :)