Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Our Family's Italian Odyssey

Part 1 - Venice, Murano, Burano and Torcello

Our Italian odyssey starts with Venice.
Sophisticated and elegant are just two of the simplest adjectives I can use to describe this popular tourist city.

It was my plan from the beginning - to soak ourselves in authentic Italian local atmosphere and not the touristy places! I am glad we stuck to my plan as Venice did not disappoint as we based ourselves in the town of Mestre!

Fishermen's house in Burano
I don't personally like the smell of the canals but the ambience is of uniquely Italian at its best, if you consider the array of historically significant buildings lining the city- especially in the main island of Venice.

Around it are the famous buildings and historic sights we've read about, like the Piazza San Marco, the Basilica, Rialto Bridge, the Doge's Palace and many more. While there we have been lucky enough to browse through a unique exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci's magnificent creations at the Church of Santa Barbara in Venice island.

We also rode on a vaporetto via a three islands tour of smaller Venetian islands particularly the famous Murano where we saw how those popular glass blown products are made (Of course I had to buy authentic jewelery of vibrant coloured glasses); Torcello, an ancient island which took us back in time and the colourful fishing village of Burano where we watched old ladies doing intricate lacework.

St. Marks Square in Venice
My family and I stayed in Venice for almost four days before taking our Mediterranean cruise and another cruise from Savona, Italy. Our travel odyssey experience has been an amazing trip of a lifetime especially for the kids, my youngest insisting on stuffing himself with lots of yummy delicate gelatto and thick Italian hot chocolate while we were there.

Authentic pizzas and pastas became our daily fare and no one complained of the food wherever we dined! Their baked breads especially their brioche were to die for! They certainly did not make them, like they did in Italy!

As earlier mentioned, we 've walked everywhere in Venice stationing ourselves in Mestre, a place where locals live, shop and dine.This has proven to be the best decision we've made as most locals work in the main tourist island of Venice and that place can really be so chaotic while Mestre does not have the tourist prices too.

Plaza where locals hangout in Mestre
As one of the main attractions of Venice are its canals, the best way to experience fully the canal scene is via a gondola ride through the maze of canals- big and small!

We walked a couple of hours from Piazzale Roma after riding a bus from our hotel using a prepaid daily ticket for the four of us before doing the gondola ride.

After the exhaustion from the heat of the Venetian sun we decided to ride the gondola- paid 100 euros for the privilege! This sounded a bit steep but we were really tired so we opted for this tour.

Our gondolier is a very charming and friendly Italian who has a lot of tales and facts about Venice itself.

He said Venice has more than 180 canals and he would to take us to some of the smaller ones before going through the main Grande Canal at the centre of the main island of Venice.

The canals are accessible by foot via its more than 400 bridges according to Matin our gondolier.

He said they were built for the nobility of Venice in the olden days and each gondola costs about 35,000 euros. The gondola was made also for the nobility- particularly the owners of the Doge Palace which was in the Grande Canal.

We sailed through various historical buildings- artistic, culturally and socially important part of Venetian society.
It is not to be missed. What's the point of going to canal-packed Venice if you will not try sailing through its waters?

More of our Italian odyssey next time! Cheers!


Author Bio: 
Marie is a Tasmania-based columnist whose writings appeared in journals and community newspapers in Australia. Her work "If I were a flower" won in a writing competition held in Melbourne. She is the founder of Global Citizens Care Movement helping needy children of her native country, the Philippines.