I arrived in Venice late afternoon, and took the vaporetto to Hotel San Samuele, in Campo San Stefano. The vaporetto was quite full, and the porters wouldn’t allow me to stand with my suitcase, so I wound up missing my stop and having to schlep my luggage over half a dozen bridges. At that point, I was sweaty and hungry, but made a conscious choice: No matter how lost I got in Venice (spoiler alert: it was a lot), I wasn’t going to get frustrated. Rather, I would treat it as an adventure and delight in the places I found that I probably never would have seen, thanks to my “happy accident.”
I explored the narrow streets of San Marco, stopped in an art shop that sold wax seals, marveled that water is more expensive than wine, and watched kids playing soccer in the campo.
I had another delicious dinner of lasagna and white wine (natch), and listened to the sounds of children’s voices mixed with accordion music. I don’t get very emotional, but this Tweet pretty much says it all.
I checked into Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo, my home base for the first three nights of my tour. Prior to leaving the U.S., my friend Hillary put me in touch with Laura Maria, a college student from Venice, who’d lived with her family in Colorado. Laura Maria met me near the Piazzale Roma stop and gave me a tour of her favorite places in Venice, through the eyes of a local. We had gelato (because, of course) and she took me back to my hotel.
Our group met at 4 p.m. for introductions and an orientation walk to St. Mark’s Square, followed by our first group dinner at Anonimo Veneziano, where I had my first taste of limoncello. (It’s delightful, and I miss it so!) There were 28 people on our tour, not counting our guide Rozanne: mostly couples, a mother-daughter duo, a couple with their adult daughter, and two other single travelers. I wasn’t sure I’d have much in common with them, but my concerns soon dissipated as we started talking about what we were most looking forward to doing on the trip, where we were from, etc. (It was a great group, and I was surprised by how close we would become in such a short time.)
This morning we met our local guide, Catrin, who took us on a tour of the backstreets of Venice. We visited the place where Casanova lived, as well as Bellini’s studio. We ended at St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica. They only turn the lights on for one hour a day, and we were fortunate to be on the upper terrace when that happened.
We started the morning with a tour of the Accademia Gallery, followed by an afternoon boat trip to Torcello, the birthplace of Venice. I climbed the campanile (bell tower) and saw views of the island, as well as artichoke farms.
Upon our return, I made a beeline for the Libreria Acqua Alta, a bookstore famous for having stacks of books in a gondola and other preparations for when the water gets high. In the back of the store, there was a line to pose in front of the wall of books that had weathered many a flood. Teens, tourists, even a bride and groom posed for photos atop the books. Having broken my wrist the summer before, I chose to stay on the ground.