Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.
– Truman Capote, American writer
I woke up Tuesday morning before 6am thinking to myself, this is our last day in Italy. The sun was up already and I wanted to go out with a bang – live as fully as I could and make the most of this final day.
We took the vaparetto to Murano Island and spent a leisurely morning walking the quiet – thankfully, no tourist groups – streets of the famous place where beautiful glass works are made. The sun was very hot by late morning, but we had a nice snack of croissants, or cornetti, by the waterfront.
I had a personal mission to find a necklace that wasn’t like all the necklaces we had seen in Venezia and Murano – the glass balls or overly ornate, heavy pieces. I saw two that were distinctive, but when it came time to choose one, I couldn’t find the other store (it was likely closed for the siesta hours) and settled upon a lariat-style necklace that was unique. We made a return trip to Venezia via the vaparetto and took a little siesta before heading back out for more meanderings on the streets and canals of the city.
Internet access was spotty once again; such was the case in all three hotels. The afternoon hotel desk clerk was apologetic and kind enough to give us the private network and password, but it could only be used on the main floor. While we sat in the lounge area next to the breakfast room and caught up on emails and or putting up a blog post, our hotel desk clerk had turned up the volume so that Pink Floyd blared from the speakers. Another staffer, upon seeing us, promptly scolded him for his indiscretion, but as we left to return to our room, David let him know that we like Pink Floyd. He smiled and enthusiastically thanked us. Pink Floyd clearly puts a spring in his step.
The anecdote about our hotel clerk made me remember another story of the ticket seller at the front desk of the Museo Correr. As we completed the transaction, he was listening to music and completely engrossed in singing along. He reminded me of the Italian actor Roberto Benigni but with Tourette Syndrome, the way that he was thrumming his fingers on the counter and spontaneously spouting off to himself, so full of energy. He told us that he loved the song that was playing in the main hall, which was called You Belong to Me. And then added that he asked his wife to sing the song with him, but she refused because she said she did not belong to him or to anybody else for that matter. With a mock pained expression, he shrugged his shoulders to David and said women were so difficult. Then he looked me in the eye and announced that at the same time, men could not live without women. He glanced at me when he made the latter pronouncement, as if to include me in on the grand truth.
After taking our siesta, we sprung from our tiny hotel room in search of the Rialto Bridge, which spans the Grand Canal, but along the way, we spied a gondolier tucked away on a quiet canal, looking for riders. It was midday and I figured we might as well take advantage of the ride now, something the kids wanted to do while in Venezia. Part of me was afraid that if we didn’t do it now, we might very well get sidetracked, lose sense of time, which is easy to do with the maze of streets and canals, and then wind up running out of time on our last day. We thought it was too expensive to take a gondola ride 18 years ago, but, despite it being a touristy thing to do, I was all (sans the accordion playing and singing, however, which would have cost a total of 120 euros). I wanted to give the kids a memorable time through the canals of Venezia. It was such a pleasure to hear them say that they enjoyed the ride, and Isabella confided to me that Venezia was her favorite city on our trip, which I had predicted would be the case leading up to our vacation.
We learned some interesting things from our gondolier. Venezia comprises 117 small islands. There are 409 bridges, but only three cross the Grand Canal. Only Venetians can be gondoliers, which number some 430 in all. Gondoliers have to go through training, not unlike driving school, and they own their own boats, which they can decorate as they choose but also abide by strict codes. They traverse some 150 canals throughout the city. Our guide pointed out various churches and famous buildings where poets and other notables lived. I lost track of how long the ride was, but we opted for the day ride instead of the evening ride, which I think will be on the next must-do list of things upon our return to this city.
After the gondola ride, we finally found, after much zigzagging and meeting dead ends to steps leading into the green waters of the canals, the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal. Of course, as fate would have it, the bridge was in restoration, although the shops along the bridge were open for business. I’ve come to conclude that in Italy many famous structures will be in various states of restoration, so I got over the disappointment by telling myself that I’ll return to see in its full glory whatever was covered up before. Such will be the case with this famous bridge. We hung over the bridge and watched gondolas and vaporettos glide and motor by, respectively.
We continued our walk aimlessly around the city, poking in and out of mask and glass shops, not quite finding anything that really spoke to us. We did find Vespa t-shirts, which was on my list of what I’d like to get if I came across them again. By late afternoon, we decided to rely on Rick Steves to guide us to our final meal in Venezia and, indeed, our final meal in Italy. We were the first patrons of Trattoria da Bepi (Cannaregio, 1372), which didn’t open until 7pm. (We wandered around the charming neighborhood of Campo Santo Apostolic on Salizada Pistor the kill time.) But within an hour of our arrival, British tourists and locals alike filled the place up.
The seafood was amazing – simple, with butter and herbs. The appetizer, local small scallops, was tasty, as was our tagliatelle and clam sauce. We did not find adequate gelato, which I figured as much, given the abundance of tourists, so we indulged in the dolci – a lava cake for Isabella, biscotti and sweet wine for David, and an almond-chocolate cake and sweet wine for me. The meal was molto buono, and we let our appreciative server know.
After dinner, we wandered around city streets again, something I’m quite fond of doing in any city but particularly Venezia because you never know what you’ll find (without a map, of course) – blind alley, opening to quiet residential streets or bustling shops or piazza, or a drop-off to the canal. That’s what makes strolling the city so enchanting. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped by Piazza San Marco for serenades under the near full moon.
We had to get up early Wednesday morning to catch our flight – a water taxi straight from our hotel to the Marco Polo airport at 7:15am. David got dressed earlier and took to the streets with his camera for a last rendezvous of Piazza San Marco. All was quiet except for street cleaners and Asian brides and grooms posing for portrait photographers. David caught a fisherman casting off in San Marco Basin and docked, covered gondolas being swayed by the waters of the Adriatic Sea.
As we watched the city skyline recede from our view as the water taxi whisked us away, we told the kids we’d be back again. Sooner than 18 years, but just not sure when. While I’ll admit I got only a few days of a full night’s sleep, this vacation was just what I needed. It was alternately invigorating and restful when I needed it to be.
While she had a great time during the entire trip, Isabella has been anxious to get back to her rabbits and Rex. Jacob was genuinely sad for our holiday to end. While I have my novel to return to finish off with its impending August publish date as well as numerous responsibilities to attend to, I’m sad, too. I’ll admit to being tired of living out of a suitcase and I’m also anxious to return to family and friends, Rex and rabbits, the garden, and the routine of El Cerrito life, but I’m sad for this family and friends time to come to a close. It was truly a wonderful vacation that brought me back to places I’d missed and new adventures that I could never have imagined. I’m reinvigorated and understand how time is short and we must live life to its fullest, whether it be on vacation or in everyday life. But no matter where, life is around us to enjoy and celebrate. Arrivederci Venezia and Italia! I look forward to adventures at home as well as plans for our next vacation.