Friday, February 3, 2012

The Canals

When folks found out I was going to visit Venice as part of this trip, I heard two things:

I didn't hear many thoughts that were in between the two. No "meh, Venice is ok", or "Venice is mediocre". Everyone who has visited had one of the two polar opposite opinions. Since Venice was on my bucket list, I was determine to go with an open mind.

My first impression of Venice (after being thrown off the Voyager of the Seas, our home for the last 6 nights) was Piazzale Roma. This is the only place cars, buses and such are allowed on the islands of Venice. If you're going to or from Venice in a motorized vehicle, then Piazzale Roma is as far as you're going. From here you can get the water taxi, a private taxi (boat) or walk.

Here's a tip for my fellow Americanos who may be contemplating going to Venice: pack light. Those bridges are no joke my friends.

This is the little canal that our B&B was on - we ate our european breakfast and drank our cappuccino
sitting along this canal. And that cappuccino? made me want to slap my Keurig and scream "that ain't real coffee!!". I still dream of the cappuccino (and the vino, and other things that end with "o").

I know. It's *exactly* how I dreamed it would be. Maybe even better.

The requisite gondola

Complete with the asshole-ish gondolier (he's pretty and he knew it)

Oh how I adored wandering along the canals. I pinched myself several times - was I really in Venice??

YES. Yes I was!

St Mark's Square

I loved this perspective:

The infamous pigeons

The winged lion (a symbol of Venice)

The Grand Canal & The Rialto Bridge

You could hire private water taxi to get around

Or enjoy a leisurely (and expensive) gondola ride

We chose to walk or use the public water taxis. 

Sunset in Venice on the Grand Canal 

The Grand Canal at Sunset - how about that lighting? 

If you haven't figured it out yet, I seriously loved Venice. It was more than I'd imagined. Old world charm, amazing architecture, the canals, the boats, the history - incredible. 

I have 2 more posts of Venice for you - one of the wandering/shopping day (wait til you see some of the Murano glass!!), and one just of the architecture. 

And yes, this makes 3 days of posting in a row. I'm on a roll, y'all!! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Finally: Venice! Vino!

We had a leisurely day at sea following our port call in Sicily. And when I say "leisurely", I mean the only reason I got out of bed was to eat. I was that sick/exhausted. I slept off and on most of the day, while mom read on the balcony (we kept the door open so the soothing sounds of the sea made it a PERFECT day to stay in bed!).

The sea day also meant that our lovely cruise of the Mediterranean was quickly coming to an end. Our disembarkation port was Venice. Luckily we planned 2 extra nights there to explore.

I loved Venice. Loved it. Every stair, every bridge, every winding little alley and canal.

Before we got to the canals and the architecture, we took a tour over to Trieste (the mainland) to visit a winery and do a little wine tasting.

Ok maybe it's more accurate to say we did a LOT of wine tasting.

The estate was amazing. It would be the perfect setting for a wedding - wait! There was one happening while we were visiting!

(yes people, when you're a bride-to-be, you're automatically wedding-obsessed. I'd just like to remind you that this took place LAST MAY. 2 months before I even became engaged. for the record.)


more wine.

and more wine.

have I mentioned yet just how PHENOMENAL the wine is in Italy? I don't care if you never drink wine at home - DRINK WINE IN ITALY. It must be a law somewhere.

I'll leave you with a few more pics from this amazing winery.

Vino. Good stuff.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Messina & Taormina Sicily

We weren't really sure what to expect of our day in Sicily. By this time I was sick with a cold, and really tired from the 3 previous intense port days.

As we sailed into port, we had a magnificent view of the island of Stromboli - an active volcano.

and all of the little fishing boats out on the water

We had a stunning view of a snow capped Mt Etna as we arrived too

We met up with our guide at the port, and he wished us off to a little town name Castelmola way, way up in the mountains.

We went to a little restaurant on the side of a hill for the most amazing lunch. Momma made it for us.

Spicy meat pizza

funghi pizza

meatballs (soooo good). and yes, we  were drinking wine out of those glasses.

spagetti carbonara

and our guides surprised us with a birthday cake for a couple of the people in our group

I gotta tell ya - this is one of the best meals we had on this trip. maybe ever. and yes, I do mean that.

from Castlemola we then experienced the harrowing ride back down the mountains in our mini-bus. suffice it to say it was awful. narrow roads, switchback/hairpin turns, 2" retaining walls...yeah. that was the least fun experience of the trip.

our guide bought us tickets to ride the "funivia" up another mountain to Taormina.

here's a view looking back down the hill

My favorite things about Taormina were the gorgeous flower boxes on the balconies

and the view

Sicily was incredible, and we really enjoyed our day there. If you ever have the chance to visit, take it!!!

Up next, the grand finale: Venice.

And I promise to finish this before the end of February.