Our Last Day: Wandering Around Venice

Our Last Day: Wandering Around Venice

Day 92, 3 months, 13 weeks, any way you put it, it was the last day of our trip; a day I had not been looking forward to. Our plane was to leave at 9pm that night so we had one day left. We ensured our bags were packed before we headed out that morning to just explore and roam throughout Venice, something we hadn’t had a chance to do since we were here all those 92 days ago. With no real direction or desire we stopped to have a photo taken on the Rialto once again to help bring our trip full circle. We wandered over the bridge to Mercato de Rialto which is home to a fresh food market and the famous fish market. We continued walking away from the touristic areas taking lefts and rights to get us off the beaten trail. Often we found beautiful ways that opened to the Grand Canal and on occasion we ended up walking into dead ends but it was a lot of fun. We just wandered and it was great. We crossed over Ponte dell’Accademia a large wooden bridge near the Istituto Veneto di Scienze to visit the Peggy Guggenheim collection and Santa Maria delle Salute. We ended up taking a traghetto cross the Grand Canal. A traghetto is an empty gondola used to ferry passengers back and forth across the canal. While it wasn’t as romantic as a typical gondola ride, it was much cheaper and we still got a great view of the Canal from on the water.

It was a beautiful day, sunny, and warm and everywhere we turned it was picturesque. To be honest it was a day I didn’t want to end. It was decided that we should eat before heading to the airport so we opted to walk over to the Castello district to dine outdoors along Via Giuseppe Garibaldi away from the hoards of tourists. We sat and enjoyed a traditional meal of pasta, salad, and a side of fried calamari with of course a few Spritz. We walked back to the apartment at a leisurely pace while enjoying the view of the waterfront one last time.

Our day in Venice ended when we board our boat for the relatively short ride from the Rialto to the airport. As the boat navigated the Grand Canal and finally headed out into open water. Passing by the surrounding islands all I could think was how perfect today had been and how beautiful Venice is.


Climbing Pinaocallo & Ice Cold Prosecco by the Rialto

Climbing Pinaocallo & Ice Cold Prosecco by the Rilato

I woke up Sunday morning with one thought in my head, “I hate Brock”. We woke around 5 am. We had a train to catch to Pordenone for 7 and wanted to give ourselves more than enough time to get to the station, especially after the debacle that was yesterday. I knew what awaited us once we reached Pordenone, a short drive to Pianacavallo, then a hike up the mountain, I wasn’t overly excited for the grueling physical activity that lay before us.

We stepped out our front door and were absolutely astonished. The city that is Venice, which is usually a buzz with tourists and vendors was silent. There was no one. The streets were empty. I had never seen Venice like this ever before. We walked up the Rialto and looked over a city that was still asleep, no boats going back and forth, no hordes of people, it was beautiful, and peaceful. That was the exact second I fell in love with Venice. I had always liked Venice but I hadn’t loved it. We took our time walking to the station enjoying the space and taking some truly rare photos of the empty streets.

Rebecca and I both napped on the train ensuring we were both awake for our big day. As we stepped off the train in Pordenone for a second day in a row we saw a familiar face. After embracing with Brock we headed to his car to start the day’s adventure. On the drive we caught up and all agreed it didn’t feel like 3 months since the last time we had all seen each other. The drive to Pianacavallo is a true driver’s drive. Up a mountain, with a tarmac trapped like a spaghetti noodle.

We got to the base of the mountain before it had gotten too hot and started our climb up. Truly one of the hardest things I have ever done. You begin climbing through a forest which is almost straight up, for about 45 minutes before you level off. It was tough to say the least. After that we climbed over rocks and lose marbles for about an hour and a half before we reached the summit. Once we reached the top it was all worth it as the view overlooks Largo di Barcis and beyond that you see more of the Alps. I had done a similar hike on my own in ’09 but only along the ski hill. I never reached this height or view. We sat for awhile taking a ton of photos and chatting before heading back down. Brock was a good enough sport to bring a Canada t-shirt up which I had given him 3 months prior to adorn in a few photos.

Going down was almost harder than going up because the rocks would give away and you would have to react quickly. It is mentally straining as you must anticipate your next two or three steps ensuring you don’t whip out and fall to an untimely death. All three of us had little falls all of which were manageable and not overly dangerous. In the end we made it back down in one piece, but not without our fair share of anxiety.

Once at the bottom we grabbed beers and relaxed, sitting and just enjoying each other’s company at a small bar next to the ski hill. The sun was out and we soaked up the beer and some fresh sandwiches.

Brock dropped us off at the station and we said our goodbyes, Brock was very torn up about seeing us off but we ensured him we would be back soon. While we waited for our train we walked around Pordenone grabbing some aqua. Our train ride was nice and I couldn’t help but think how much I loved Brock for taking us on such an amazing adventure this day.

Once back in Venice we picked up some takeout pizza and headed up to the apartment to change so we could go out and enjoy Venice at night. We picked up a bottle of prosecco while out and head down to the Rialto to drink it. We found a great spot on a dock used for the delivery boats but being as it was 10pm they were no longer in use. We sat on the edge of the dock watching the buses coming and going and the taxis going around all along as the gondolas navigated their way in the dark. We concluded our evening in front of San Apostoli, a 7th century Roman Catholic Church, one of the oldest churches in the city. We sat quietly in the moonlight enjoying one of our last gelatos.

Lunch in Cimpello with Family

Lunch in Cimpello with Family

Saturday morning we headed north from Venice to Cimpello to have lunch with my family. We walked from our apartment to the station stopping a few times to take photos and to grab a few little gifts for the family. We gave ourselves a little less than an hour to reach the station which was just enough time as the walk was a little further than we had anticipated.

Our train took us an hour and we ensured we had a valid ticket this time around. When we arrived in Pordenone we were greeted by my mom’s cousin Marisa and her daughter Roberta. We talked for a bit before walking to the car and heading to Cimpello to my great aunt’s house where we were to have lunch.

Upon arriving at Zia’s house such a familiar sight was before me. Zio Sergio was barbequing in the driveway while his brother in law Zio Levio sat and watched while smoking a cigarette. We were still waiting on Marisa’s husband Franco so I asked Zio Levio to give Rebecca a tour around his farm and show her all the fresh fruit trees, an experience I was fortunate enough to have myself the first time I visited the farm 6 years ago. There is something I love about watching my uncle walk around his property pointing out the fruit, then using his large hands to pull a piece down and either saying “bono” as in “good you can eat” or “no bono” meaning “not good” and tossing it to the ground. I find something very romantic about his farm and the way he lives. After an extensive tour of the farm, he showed Rebecca where he stores the wine before bottling, where he stores his car and his old tractor before taking us inside and showing her his wine cellar where he let us drink his wine right from the large vat.

As the tour was coming to an end I saw a familiar face walking along the path towards my uncle’s house, Franco. With a large smile on his face he walked up and we embraced.

As we headed inside for lunch I was excited to have a home cooked meal. The lunch was massive. It started with a spaghetti dish, followed by melanzane, and stuffed peppers. Next was the meat course. There were ribs, steak, chicken, and sausage. I was in heaven. The table was adorned with red wine, persecco, polenta, bread, salad, fresh tomatoes, and all around great company.

We all sat out in the sun after lunch talking and enjoying the classic Italian countryside before we said our good byes and headed back to Venice. Reflecting back on our short time with them I still love that Italy more than anything.

Back in Venice we were beyond full making the walk back to the apartment difficult. We opted not to eat that evening and went to bed early as we were due to be up at 5am the next day…something I was not excited to endure.

Island Hoping Around Venice

Island Hoping Around Venice

I hate hate hate traveling days. On this Friday we had to travel from Milan to Venice, which worked out to be about 2 hours and 30 minutes, although you need to look into that number. We rode on a fast train, for 9 euro, and at about 280km/hr. North America is no where near as sophisticated with their public transit as that. We rode the train in peace as I wrote and Rebecca read.

Upon arriving in Venezia Mestre we boarded a train to hop, skip and jump to Venezia St. Lucia, the train station on the Venice Island. We, however, had one small problem. We didn’t have a ticket. We had our ticket that took us to Venezia Mestre and in our opinion decided that for the 10 minute trip there wasn’t much point in rushing to grab a ticket. We thought we were better to board the train and if we had to, buy a ticket on route, but we figured there was little chance a guy would come around checking tickets. We were sadly very wrong on that one. We gambled and we lost, and boy did we loose big. My original idea of pretending I thought my ticket took me to the island didn’t work then he gave us a price for the ticket we were blown away. The train was to cost 2 euro but for us it was 35 because of a penalty/violation. That didn’t make me very happy. After trying to have a reasonable conversation with him it turned into a fight and which point he wrote me up and Rebecca faired better and was able to pay her ticket on the spot while I am now forced to go to a post office to pay my ticket. My only issue with the Italian train system is that when they check tickets if they find one person without one they stop caring about anyone else. You become the only person on the train while the other six guys slipping from car to car get away scot free. Either way, it put a damper on our day but we soldiered on.

Once we left the train station with our luggage we headed to the main station of the Vaporetto, or water bus, to get a ticket so we could make our way to the Rialto Bridge, where our apartment was located. The way the bus works is that you buy a ticket which is good for a specified amount of time, the cheapest you can buy as a tourist is 7 euro for an hour. If you live in the city its a fraction of that. I stand by the statement that Venice is the most expensive place in Italy, however it is justified. It is beautiful. I however wasn’t fully prepared for how busy Venice was going to be this time around. It was packed. The boats were packed, the streets were packed, it was incredible, and I wasn’t ready for it. After our short but expensive bus ride, we had planned to meet up with Niko, the gentleman who was renting the apartment. All that went smoothly and he took us on a deeply confusing route away from, the busy streets to the apartment in the Salizzada San Lio neighbourhood, just a three-minute walk from the Rialto Bridge. We climbed the 4 stories to the apartment, which I will be honest, did suck, but that’s Venice. Venice is stairs. The apartment was very lovely. Our room had a great view over the city. The bell tower at St. Mark’s square in the distance along with the roof tops adorned with the clay shingles was breathtaking.

We quickly settled into the apartment because we had a full day. First off we headed through the confusing streets to make our way to the bus stop Fondamenta Nove as we were heading to the San Michele cemetery. I had never been there before but had heard great things about it and that it is a hidden gem. The cemetery is low on space and years ago they started to stack the graves on top of one another. What this has created is a very cute scene of elderly Italian ladies wheeling these large ladders around to be able to put flowers on the grave. We walked for a short period of time making a stop to find Ezra Pound’s final resting place, it wasn’t until later I found out that beyond being a talented writer Ezra Pound was also a Nazi supporter.

Upon returning to the island we headed on a scenic route towards St Marks square where we were due to meet up with a travel company to take us on a tour of 3 surrounding islands, Murano, Burano, and Torcello, each famous for their own reasons. Murano for its glass factories, Burano for its lace making and fisherman cottages and finally Torcello for being once a large city but now only having a population of 14 people. I had done a similar tour in December with my grandmother and found it to be very interesting so we opted to do it again. We boarded the boat and took a nice ride to the first island, Murano where we had the opportunity to visit a glass blowing factory and watch a master glass blower form two different pieces, a vase and a horse. Watching him work the glass is very very cool. Sadly it’s a short demonstration then they usher you into the gift shop and try and get you to buy overpriced pieces of work.

Next up was Burano which is famous for its lace and we had the chance to watch a old lace maker work but again then slightly pressured to purchase things. We opted to use the little time we had there to find cold water and wonder around them fisherman cottages, all multi coloured.

Finally, we headed to Torcello, where you are given free time and just instructed to return to the boat before it departs. We walked halfway to the centre before deciding we weren’t overly interested in seeing an old church and instead stopped in at the same restaurant where Granny and I stopped for a glass of wine only a few months prior and sat and relaxed and admired the beautiful garden. We spent a little too much time there and had to hustle back to the dock to ensure we didn’t become the next two residents of the island. Our boat ride back took us along a few smaller islands with pleasure boats moored with people swimming off the boats and into the beach.

Once we docked back at Venice instead of walking right back to the apartment we headed towards the park and street in the other end where the tourists rarely travel to and we took in a chance to walk through small outdoor bars and markets. I sat for a while on a bridge where I was able to pick up some free WIFI watching little power boats dock and the people jumping out and grabbing a drink. I wondered to myself how neat it is to boat to a bar and just sit by the water. Rebecca finally caught up with me as she was looking through things for her parents. We walked back through St. Marks back to the apartment as it was late and we found a restaurant which was not a great but still expensive, such is Venice. We enjoyed a pizza and spent the rest of our evening walking around enjoying a gelato on a bridge.

I fell asleep that night to the sound of an old man singing below our window. It was really something else.