Due to the sweet, sweet combination of jet lag, daylight, cold air, boats on the canal, and excitement, we woke up around 0600. The original apartment we booked was under construction so our host had us stay in another apartment overlooking the Grand Canal.
Here’s a virtual tour of the Grand Canal from Venezia Autentica:
Before we left for the trip, Amanda and I discussed how we were going to pack, and instead of luggage, we both brought 60L backpacks in order to avoid dragging roller bags. Thus, we began the day with our first of many repacks. ( I use this bag from WANDRD). Our host allowed us to leave our luggage at the apartment during the day and we wanted to be able to just grab them on our way back to the train. I recommend clearing this with your hotel/Airbnb before in order to avoid extra charges. We ate protein bars for breakfast, slathered on the sunscreen, and set off to roam the streets of Venice before our first tour of the trip.
It is very easy to get lost in Venice because it’s made up of 121 islands weaved with a combination of bridges, winding, narrow streets, and dead ends. While beautiful, the water is filthy and the smell leaves a lot to be desired. We made our way to St. Mark’s Square stopping at the Rialto Bridge and at several other squares in between. Thanks to offline google maps and the Grand Canal, we were able to make it to the square by 0820. We had booked a tour of the Doge’s Palace through Avventure Bellissime for 0900 and needed to check in early.
Jetlag was on our side because when we arrived at the square it was practically empty. There were a few people roaming about near the square, but nothing compared to the shoulder to shoulder people we witnessed after exiting the Palace about two and a half hours later.
The Doge’s Palace was built as the home of the Doge or Duke of Venice but has been a museum since 1923. Although it was built as the home of the Doge, the palace also housed administrative offices and the political institutions of Venice. It is connected to the prison by the Bridge of Sighs. This tour allowed us to walk across the Bridge of Sighs in the same was the prisoners would have on their way to jail. It is said that the bridge got its name from the sighs of prisoners as they caught their last glimpses of Venice on the walk from sentencing at the Palace to their cells.
After the Doge’s Palace, we set off on a walking tour of Venice. This included the inside of Basilica San Marco (luckily it was not closed due to flooding), several of the famous squares of Venice all the way up to Cannaregio (near our Airbnb), and ended at the Rialto Bridge. Luckily, we had stopped earlier because the area was so crowded.
We raced back to our Airbnb, grabbed our bags, a snack and some water, and made the mile trek back to the train station. It was only 1430 and we had already walked about 16, 000 steps. We were able to catch the 1435 train and made it back to Florence by 1630. Please note: we have yet to eat any Italian food. *facepalm* It is hard to eat when you’re on the move.
Meeting the EF group
After arriving in Florence, and again using offline maps (this is a lifesaver…use this if you ever travel anywhere) we made our way to our first hotel, Hotel Palazzo Ricasoli. Another mile. Check. Amanda and I checked into our hotel, met the first member of our group (the rooms were booked in triples), showered and waited until orientation at 1800. The shower was made of glass doors surrounding a small dip in the floor, which I managed to flood. European
After the mixer, our tour director offered to give us an informal tour so that we could orient ourselves to the area. We walked to the Duomo at the Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Ponte Vecchio. We then stopped to get our first taste of “real” Italian gelato . . . well, the