Italy: A Tale of Two Cities (part 1)


Italy is our second new country (after Greece) this trip to explore as a family.  It is so fun to experience new places together!  We landed and had a minor issue of someone else taking one of our suitcases.  This has been our only flight issue so we cannot complain.  Luckily, the man who took our suitcase brought it back before we left the airport.

First stop in Italy is Venice so of course we took a water taxi.  We got off the Vaparetto (think bus but a boat) and walked straight into St. Mark’s Square; that was so cool!  All the streets are narrow walkways (when not in the water) as we got to our apartment.  It was a late night and hot!  One of the two portable air conditioners wasn’t working either so we had an even hotter night’s sleep.

On Saturday, we jumped in with both feet to sightseeing. St. Mark’s Square was a beautiful sight!  We took the lift up to the top of the bell tower (Campanile) and the view of Venice was breathtaking!  You could see the water way, all the boats, red roof buildings and all the people filling into the square.  St. Mark’s Basilica was next (with a €2 skip the line ticket) and again it was unbelievable!  The detailed architecture was unreal…all the different tile floor patterns and how well it had stayed in tact especially with the flooding Venice gets on too regular a basis.  The highlight was the angelic choir we heard and saw singing while in the church! After lunch, we took a gondola ride.  This was so picturesque!  Those gondoliers work really hard!  We walked through the Doge’s Palace, which was the center of government during the height of the Venetian empire. The courtyard was my favorite here.  Of course, Italy isn’t complete without some leather bag shopping.  We were also spoiled with a date night (thanks to Patty and G-Jan) walking around the town and our first Aperol Spritz (we tried them, but not a fan).  What a fun, packed day!

We enjoyed breakfast in the square at Cafe Quadrai on Sunday before taking a leisurely stroll to through the city.  It rained off and on today but we didn’t melt!  We took a water taxi to Peggy Guggenheim Collection to see her amazing artwork.  Teddy missed all of the art but we knew better than to let him sleep through supper.  One of our best meals was tonight at Vino Vino.

Side note: all Italian public transportation was scheduled to strike on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the next week and we had planned to train.  Instead we hired a car.  However, we got the pick up date wrong and rentals were being snatched up at a rapid pace so Cory went on a wild goose chase to finally get us transportation.  That’s how he spent Sunday afternoon and evening.

On Monday morning, we hired a porter to help get our luggage to the water taxi.  The porter definitely earned his money as there are plenty of bridges with stairs all over Venice.  One last water taxi ride before getting in our van.  As travel is always an adventure, there was so much traffic that our 3 hour drive turned into 6+!  Luckily, it was beautiful countryside to look at as we drove.  On to Milan…

After we arrived in Milan, Cory had to get to work so we were on our own for supper.  Yet another time we are so thankful to have my momma and aunt with us.  Bea also got an extra treat there being able to sleep in the room with her Patty and G-Jan.  Europe loves to have three people max in a room so Bea slept in the 3/4 bed already set up in the room.

Tuesday was our only day to sightsee in Milan so we bought the hop on hop off bus ticket.  First stop was Milan’s Duomo.  It is a beautiful gothic style cathedral with tons of marble, stone carvings and stain glass!  I wore shorts so I had to cover my knees with my raincoat.  This is pretty standard in all European cathedrals.  The highlight of this day for me was the La Scalia Opera House.  We watched rehearsal which must’ve been for a ballet which was a big hit for Bea especially.  We had a quaint lunch outside Giardini Pubblici before letting the kids run free and take a little train ride in the park.  Most afternoons in all of Italy, we needed gelato and today was no different.  For supper, I found a restaurant with amazing reviews but when the taxi pulled up in front, the garage door was down.  Agh, it was closed!  We went to supper too early (aka 5:45pm) which was typical all over (Greece and) Italy.  So we punted to a cafe; they’re always open.

Hump day was travel day!  Back in the van, we drove through lots of tunnels which are Teddy’s favorite.  Another one of our favorite restaurants was in a little beach town on the drive called La Speiza.  At Osteria del a Corte, we had an delicious cheese plate, pasta dishes and fish tartare; and, the kids were given cloth finger puppets.  Europeans love to give kids goodies and the kids certainly don’t mind!

Next stop, Pisa (then Rome)!

View of Venice from Campanile

St. Mark’s Square

Gondola riding: Rialto Bridge, large canal and small canal

Doge’s Palace (she obliged and he slept)

Peggy Guggenheim Collection 

Riding the water taxi

Thank goodness for the porter

Backseat riding in the van

Duomo in Milan

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