On the boat.
View from the boat.
We landed on a dock along the beautiful Grand Canal. Then came a challenge fit for an Olympic champion. We had to drag all of our luggage over bridges, through crowds, and down tiny side streets in order to get to our hotel. And the gold medal goes to..... (drumroll) the Siena Study Abroad 2012. We did it! We made it to the hotel. Our hotel turned out to be absolutely adorable! At this point I was high on love for Venice. It was gorgeous and our hotel was nice! Life was good.
Just a side canal
The Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge
After checking into our hotel we ventured out to find lunch. That was when I realized that food in Venice was costly and touristy and not that good. But hey, it was still Italian food so it was still pretty darn good. After lunch we met up in St. Mark's Piazza and headed to the Doges' Palace. It is the building that used to house the government of Venice. It was SO beautiful. I have been in a lot of beautiful buildings in Italy, but normally they are filled with art so you don't really appreciate the architecture and design, but this building focused on it. It was a lot of fun, even if the security guards were very strict. When I attempted to dance in one of the assembly halls I was told that it was not a room for dance. I wasn't doing any harm! In the Doges' Palace we also got to go over the famed Bridge of Sighs. The Bridge of Sighs connects to the prison and was the prisoners' last view of freedom. Fortunately I was allowed out. In the armory Anne and I picked our weapons of choice and planned out our new lives as a lady knight and squire. I'm the knight of course (sorry Anne).
In the courtyard at the Doges' Palace
The Bridge of Sighs is the one in the back.
Then came the really exciting part of our day. We went on a gondola ride!!! So cool. We went at dusk and were accompanied by a boat with musicians. It was seriously SO cool. There is just nothing like riding in a boat down small canals and listening to O Sole Mio. How did my life ever get that cool? Also, I may or may not have freaked everyone out by mentioning that the boats could tip. Or maybe I just freaked myself out. I don't know. Luckily we made it and I'll never get to swim in the less than clean waters running through Venice.
On a gondola!
The final activity of our day was a group dinner. Some of the girls were heading out that night so it was our last time together as a group. Gah! I miss those girls. The food was pretty good and it was nice to spend one last meal all together.
The next day was Sunday and we had planned to go to church in the local branch. However, we learned that it was a long boat ride away on the mainland and so we decided to go to mass instead. We went to mass in St. Mark's Basilica. Well I'd say that was a pretty great place to go for my first mass. I actually really liked mass. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I understood. We spent the rest of the day just wandering around Venice and sitting in our room talking and enjoying each others' company. That night we went out for dinner at a restaurant recommended by Rick Steve. I had a full round pizza for the first time since Rome and it was SO good. I guess that was my last pizza as well. Sad day. After dinner we headed out in search of Grom and some hot chocolate. We never found it, but we did learn about how sketchy Venice is at night. The streets are almost completely abandoned and it's spooky. I think that might be because the streets are so small that they all feel like alleys and there are absolutely no cars. Quiet and empty. Not my favorite.
Grand Canal at night
Anne and I
The next day was my last full day in Italy :( Take me back! We started the day by feeding pigeons in front of St. Mark's. Now when I say feeding I don't mean throwing the food to them. I mean putting it out in our hands and having pigeons land all over us. Some of us were really enthusiastic (Anne and Libby). Actually, I am pretty sure that was the happiest Anne has ever been. Others were a little hesitant (Jenessa and me). And one was totally freaked out (Janelle). Janelle actually batted all of the pigeons away from her with an umbrella.
My initial reaction
It got better
We then went shopping! Are you really surprised? I bought some glass earrings and new shoes... Yeah... I probably shouldn't have, but they're SO pretty. On this shopping trip we also went to Grom where I ate my last gelato (there are far too many lasts in this post). It tasted so good and life will be a little bit harder without it. That night we went out for dinner again. We sat around and told each other all about our favorite memories.
With my earrings
The last gelato!!
The last dinner :(
After getting back to the hotel we started our goodbyes and then headed up to our room. We had a compliment circle and shared our memories. Then I had to say good bye to those girls. Then the next morning I had to say goodbye to Anne. That was definitely the hardest goodbye. I had so much fun with Anne. We were pretty much inseparable. We were literally always together. We never spent a night in Italy apart. Anne, you'll always be my Italian sister.
And then I had to say goodbye to Italia. My experience in Italy was one of the best (if not THE best) experiences of my life. I grew so much, saw so much, ate TOO much, and made so many new friends that are so special to me. I will never forget it. Italy has made me who I am now and Italy will always have a very special place in my heart. Italy, thanks for teaching me the important things in the dolce vita.
Ci Vediamo, Italia.