Thursday, November 05, 2009

“La Serenissima”: Venezia

As I mentioned in the previous post, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting many friends last month including my good friend from San Francisco who sat for the California Bar in July (fingers crossed!). Her reward: a much deserved post-bar trip to Europe with visits to London, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Barcelona. I promised her that I would travel with her on bar trip (or at least part of it), so after spending 5 days exploring different London neighborhoods and seeing her extended family who also lives in London, my friend and I hopped on a short flight to Venice to start our girls-only Italian adventure.

Venice is probably one of the most enchanting cities I have visited. It’s a magical, fairytale-like city built upon an intricate labyrinth of canals. No postcard, painting, or movie will do it justice – you simply have to see Venice for yourself.

We had no pre-planned itinerary for Venice. Part of the fun is getting lost in the narrow alleyways, enjoying the canal views from Venice’s numerous picturesque ponte (bridges), window-shop for beautiful handblown glass from the island of Murano, and getting a glimpse of the Venetian way of life. Note that there are only three bridges that cross the Grand Canal, which includes the famous Rialto Bridge, Accademia Bridge, and Ponte Scaizi. Of course for this carless city, your primary mode of transportation is walking or taking the vaporetto (water bus). Rialto Bridge affords you the grandest view of the Grand Canal – the perfect place to watch gondolas, water taxis, and boats move along the S-shaped canal.

Taking it leisurely, we spent the afternoon at a local wine bar called Cantina on Nova Strada in the neighborhood of Cannaregio and then spent the evening shopping near Rialto Bridge and San Polo. Our B&B recommended several restaurants in the Jewish Ghetto, as it is less touristy than San Marco. We had a fun dinner at a trattoria called Timon. It turned out to be a fun locals-type of place with good food, wine, and a very outgoing wait staff.

If you are traveling to Venice, be sure to book your hotel/B&B as soon as possible, otherwise, risk paying through the nose, or moving between hotels in the event there is no availability for two consecutive nights. Also, try to limit yourself to one small suitcase – it is not fun carrying your heavy suitcase up at least half a dozen bridges!

On our second day, we wondered around St. Mark’s Square to see St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Campanile which looks like Berkeley’s except it is red. St. Mark’s Basilica, built in a hodgepodge of Byzantine (hence, the dome) and Romanesque styles, is a reminder of Venice’s power and wealth as a major maritime power as well as an important city of commerce between the 13th and 18th centuries.

We then made a quick stop at the Rialto Market, followed by café break -- hot chocolate for my friend and red wine for me…what can I say…I’m in Italia!. Then, we headed across the Accademia Bridge to the intellectual quarter of Dorsoduro and home to Universita Ca’ Foscari di Venezia. Lunch was at a local bacaro (wine bar) for cicchetti (little tapas-like crostinis) and of course, more vino.

At night St. Mark’s Square comes alive with music – two live jazz bands competing against each other for our attention and patronage on the main square. It was the perfect way to end our time in Venice.

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