Florence & Venice, Italy

We got up early and were on the road by 8am. We headed north towards Venice and stopped in Florence around 11am. It took awhile to find parking, city was packed, but we finally found a garage and walked to the city centre.

Our stop in Florence was mainly to see the Duomo Cathedral also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”) over the Arno river. Unfortunately there was a huge line to get into the Duomo we didn’t go in. We could only spend a few hours in Florence because tonight was our only time in Venice. This construction for this cathedral was started in 1296 and lasted 140 years. The outside is beautiful layered with black and white marble.

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Then we headed towards the River, the Ponte Vecchio bridge is famous for the shops lining the bridge which today are jewelry stores & high end souvenir shops, but they started as small merchants. This was the one of the only bridges in Florence not destroyed in WWII. The current bridge is the 3rd bridge said to be on this site after rebuilding rebuilding twice.

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We grabbed calzones & panini’s for “take-away” and ate them as we walked back to our parking garage. Parking was 5 EUR per hour and we needed to get on the road. It took us another 3 hours to get to Venice. We had expected to have to take a train over to the island, but our GPS took us over a large bridge, then lead us to a parking garage. Then we just walked over a small bridge to our hotel after a short conversation with a few locals to figure out where it was. The hotel was very small and being run by a neighboring hotel so not many people had heard of it. It wasn’t too fancy, all the hotels in Venice are old, but to just sleep it was fine.

We headed out for a stroll around town. We crossed the famous Rialto bridge (the bridge outside the Las Vegas Venetian hotel is modeled after this one). And it is the oldest of the 4 bridges crossing the grand canal. and stopped in a few shops along the way. Here is the Rialto (it’s sad there is graffiti on parts of it.

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Here are some fun pictures of the streets and bridges.
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We made it to the other side of the island at di piazza San Marco and saw the Basilica Di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica). It had closed just before we made it there, so we just took pictures from the outside.

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You could also see Isola (island) San Giorgio Maggiore from the square.

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As we strolled along the street, we came across street artists. We found some beautiful hand-painted canvas pieces that we bought for somewhere in our house. Besides shopping (which we don’t have much money for :), going to art museums, and walking around, there wasn’t too much to do but of course eat awesome Italian food We walked away from the crowd and popular square to find a more authentic restaurant. As we were walking we stopped to take a few fun pictures. We took a photography class at Cedarville last year about this time and enjoy taking photos (Josh and Sarah are probably tired of me and the photos at this point!) But we are trying to teach Josh some skills so we can have some good ones of us too. 🙂 Maybe before our next trip we’ll send him to a class, ha! Here are some of the pictures.

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Dustin wanted shrimp pasta for dinner of course, and Josh wanted mussels and we come across a restaurant that had both. Dustin enjoyed his dish although the shrimp came whole eyes and all….and it was more work to eat than expected. Sarah and I had a wonderful asparagus pasta dish, and Josh enjoyed his pasta with mussels. Here is a picture after dinner on the Rialto bridge.

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The resturant did have free wifi so we we were able to check email and look up directions back to our hotel. Josh has been to Venice a few times and everytime he gets lost, this time was no exception. The GPS on the iphone doesn’t work too well without wifi. We were about 3 km from our hotel and it had all kinds of turns. We did get lost a bit, the GPS signal would come in and out so once and awhile we could figure out where we were. We had a map too but the smaller streets weren’t on it. It was an adventure…we were all a little slap-happy at this point so it was fun! Here is a picture that Dustin took of us, apparently another lady took one too.

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We somehow ended up back at the parking garage and the boys grabbed their coats from the car. It got much colder tonight and we will be in jackets the rest of the trip. Our portions at dinner weren’t too large, so we were on the hunt for dessert, specifically chocolate cake. At this point in the evening we were all too cold to eat gelato. We ended up finding a cafeteria style place with chocolate cake and apple tarts. We were sold, a yummy end to the day.

We headed back to the hotel to sleep. We plan to leave for Veinna, Austria at 5am so we have plenty of time there. Our room was on the canal side of the building, and just after we fell asleep a man started playing the accordion right outside our window. I laid there for a bit and listened, it was a beautiful Italian tune, and then feel back asleep.

That’s the last of Italy for this trip. Such a beautiful country, excited for our next stop Austria!

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