TJ and I have been married for one year (already! Which means InnLove is closing in on its first year of travel posts!!) and we decided to mark the occasion with a trip to Europe, a first for both of us. The hardest part was deciding where to go. We had so many opinions, some good, some bad. Finally, we decided – one week in Italy and one week in France. Let the planning begin!
After a few reads by Rick Steves I knew we had three goals – hike the Cinque Terre, eat a lot and don’t pack too much in. A wise man (my dad) once said, travel like you plan to return. So we did. Join us on our first stop… Venice, Italy.
After a very long day of planes, trains and auto… vaporettos, we finally made it to the island of Lido, where we checked in to our amazing hotel the Grand Hotel Ausonia & Hungaria. This place is like taking a fabulous step back in time. Lido is the beach vacation island of Venice, so had you been visiting this hotel in August, it would be packed with beach-goers. For us, it was quiet and perfect.
Our first day in Venice we went on a tour, but not just any tour… I was a not raised in a tour-goer family, so this was a little strange for me. I stumbled upon a company called Urban Adventures, which specializes in off-the-beaten-path “locals” tours. This particular one was ranked among the best of the best of tours around the world and we found out why. We joined our small group (very important) of fellow tourists and we set off, discovering Venice with the eyes of “locals” lead by our fearless guide, Claire. We rode a gondola, but the Venician kind – standing, packed in like sardines, crossing the canal. We tasted 6 glasses of wine, paired with 6 cicchetti (Italian tapas) at small tucked away locals pubs around the city. After our tour, Claire spent some time with us discussing what we wanted to do with the rest of our time in Venice, which I’m glad we did because she led us to one of my favorite parts of our entire trip…
The next day, TJ and I set off for Burano. No, no. Not Murano…where they make some of the worlds most beautiful glass. BURANO, Murano’s neighboring island. I cannot give this island justice through words. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. The colors of the buildings are enough, but that mixed with the little boats moored to the door steps, the hand made lace (the islands specialty) fluttering in the breeze out of windows and on store displays….it’s almost too much to handle. I could have spent my entire day there, despite the island being fairly small. Per Claire’s suggestion, we headed straight to the Gatto Nero to make a lunch reservation… another choice we couldn’t have been more thankful for. We eventually settled in for one of our favorite meals of the entire trip. ENTIRE trip, people. Venice is not known for its food. Keep in mind we were heading to Paris… Michelin territory. This little foodie oasis in Burano was the opposite of everything one might have expected. The service was on point, the wine affordable and delicious, but the seafood risotto… OUT OF THIS WORLD. Truly a meal that will never be forgotten.
We did a lot of touristy things in Venice too – went to Harry’s Bar (where the Bellini was invented), visited St. Mark’s Square, etc. but those things were not what made this trip one for which we would return to Venice. I’ll give myself credit for two things – finding our hotel (booked as a member of TravelZoo) and finding our tour with Claire. Everything else, I give Claire full credit for. And in the end, isn’t that more than a city could ask for? A local that impacts a tourist so much they want to return? And for all of you day dreamers and visual learners, don’t forget to check out the 2017 Visual Adventure Gallery, because combined we took 800 pictures… I narrowed them down for you, but there is so much more I couldn’t squeeze into this post.
Until next time, Venice…
“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck