|March 3rd and 4th I went back to visit Venice again. This time we went with the API program for another one of their included excursions. We left Saturday morning and took a bus to Venice and then a water taxi to San Marco Piazza. When we arrived on site we were given a 2 hour walking tour. It was interesting because we were finally able to learn about all the sites we saw previously when we traveled to Venice for Carnival. During the tour we went into St. Mark's Basilica which lies in the San Marco Piazza. The inside is lined with gold everywhere which makes it gorgeous, but also very cold inside. Throughout the tour we saw more pigeons then I could count, as our tour guide put it, "Venice has more pigeons than people." We also learned that not many people actually live in Venice and about 1/4 of the people there are residents while the other 3/4 are always tourists passing through. Also, every time you cross a bridge there you are stepping onto a new island. It is confusing to get around in Venice due to the many bridges and the very narrow side streets. After the tour we were given some free time before going to our hotel. We decided to eat some lunch and do a little bit more exploring. Then Colleen, Linda, 2 of Linda's roommates: Ani and Sam, and I all went on a gondola ride! I was so excited to finally be able to do this. Linda who's obsessed with gondolas kept asking the gondolier questions about entering the business. We found out that you don't have to have family that were previously gondoliers to join, that it took him a few years to learn how to properly direct the boat, that he's been doing it for I believe 7 years already, and that there is only one women gondolier in Venice. We took so many pictures of each other and he even took a picture for us of our whole group and pictures with us. It is also legend that if you kiss on a gondola, at sunset, underneath the Bridge of Sighs that you and your partner will experience eternal love for each other. The gondola ride was definitely a lot of fun, but unfortunately I left my camera case on the gondola =( don't worry I had my camera in hand, thank god. After our amazing ride we went and got gelato while we waited for our water taxi to come. Then we took the water taxi to the bus and the bus to the hotel. The hotel we stayed in was definitely not up to the same standards as our Rome one or the one we originally were put in in Florence. The rooms were so hot that we had to keep the windows open the whole time. It was like a sauna in there and the showers were freezing. Not to mention it was in the middle of no where haha. We ended up walking around for about 10 minutes trying to find a restaurant to sit down at. When we finally found one we didn't notice that the sitting charge was an extra 6 euro on top of your meal. Oops, oh well it could be worse. Apparently Venice can charge up to 20 euros for a sitting fee ... absurd! But the food was great, as usual. I got spaghetti alla bolognese and Meggo got the spaghetti with pesto and we split them. We found this is a great way to experience more of the food that the places have to offer. We already knew that Venice didn't have too much night life to experience so we decided to stay in and watched Passport to Paris on our friend Ashley's computer.
The next day we took a water bus to Murano to see a glass blowing demonstration. It was amazing too see how it is done and how fast they have to move in order to keep the glass hot. The man made a dish and then a horse. The horse was literally done in a couple minutes and he mad it look so easy to make, just pulling parts of it out and stretching it into the shape. Each piece he made would be 500 degrees and to demonstrate this he would throw a piece of paper on it and it automatically caught fire. After he was done showing us he had one of the girls in our program try and after she blew a huge bubble he popped it and glass went all over the floor, real safe. Their gift shop was full of different pieces that they had created. It was gorgeous to see. The next stop on our water taxi tour was Burano. This Venetian Island is famous for its colorful houses. Each house is painted a different color and the shades another (sometimes they don't even go well together). The whole place literally looks like a page out of a coloring book. It is such a fun place to see, even though it was Sunday so not many people were outside. Burano is also famous for their lace products. A typical Burano lace doily is made with 7 different stitches each coming from a different seamstress and takes days to make. We went into one of the shops just too look around and the lace is absolutely beautiful. In Burano we were also given free samples of these delicious Italian cookies that are traditionally dipped in wine and eaten.
After many tours, pictures, and different foods, we were finally on our way back to Florence. Although Venice and the Venetian Islands are gorgeous places to visit, they are very pricey and do not contain much of a night life. It makes me appreciate studying abroad in Florence where I can go out at night and not have to pay a fortune for food and travel. However, Venice is still worth seeing and taking a gondola ride is a must!