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This beautiful city was historically an independent nation, and during the Middle Ages and Renaissance it was a major maritime power and center of commerce. It was also a major player during the time of the Byzantine Empire, trading extensively with the Muslim world, something still reflected in the city’s astounding and decidedly “moorish” architecture. The City of Lights, which it is often called, is cited as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Having been there, even though briefly, I can vouch for that. It is a labyrinth of canals, cobblestone streets and passageways, surrounded by the Adriatic Sea.

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The skyline is all domes and spires jutting up into the blue sky. Venice is literally built in the water of the lagoons that surround it. Making it a most interesting city in terms of its architecture, culture, and food, as all of these developed based on the city’s geography and status in the world for so many centuries.

We flew into Venice and stayed for just one night. We wanted to at least experience a little of what this mysterious city, shrouded in fog, has to offer. We took a public water taxi, the Vaporetto from the airport to the city. It was the cheapest way to get there, but it also offered us an extensive tour of the outskirts of Venice and the many islands out of the main city, like Murano. We stayed at a tiny hotel close to the Rialto Bridge. It was a great central location for us to explore the city’s main attraction – Piazza San Marco and the main tourist port where all the ferries and gondolas park.

We had taken an evening flight out of New York (after flying there from Orlando) and so by the time we got to Venice, it was about 10 AM local time. We had only gotten maybe 3 or 4 hours of very uncomfortable sleep on the plane, but I guess the adrenaline of being in such a beautiful place kept us going. After checking into the tiny hotel and having a much needed shower, we headed out in search of food. This was to be my first ever meal in Italy, and so we picked a nice outdoor cafe’ in a cute little square we found near our hotel. Since Venice is a seaside city, we both opted for seafood.

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I had an awesome salad with tuna, and Roberto got a mixed seafood plate with an assortment of cold seafood salads.

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Both were fantastic. We enjoyed it with a nice class of local wine and basked in the sunlight of the beautiful day. A good way to start our trip. After lunch we both had gelato on the brain. So we went in search of a place that looked really good. It didn’t take long to find one. Venice (as well as most Italian cities) are full of gelatarias.

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There were a lot of flavors to chose from and many that I had not seen before. So I was asking Roberto if he knew what they were. He didn’t so he asked the girl behind the counter for a taste. Well, apparently you are not allowed to taste gelato in Venice and apparently you are supposed to know this, because after this innocent question, the girl got very impatient with us. She couldn’t get us our gelato fast enough.

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She gave us our change on top of the gelato counter, and when Roberto slid the coins across, one fell through a little crack between the glass and a euro went into the chocolate gelato. This of course made the girl behind the counter really mad, and we just dashed out of there! But the gelato was worth it. Mine was full of hazelnuts and chocolate chunks. I am not sure what else was in it, but it was simply divine!

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Next stop – Piazza San Marco – St. Mark’s Square. This is the place to be in Venice. People just go to the piazza to sit and enjoy the sights, feed the many pigeons, watch the people from all over the world and kiss their sweethearts. Dominating the piazza is the Palazzo Ducale di Venezia which is the Doge’s palace, constructed from 1309 to 1424. It is a marvel to behold in person. Such intricate design and details. You could spend literally hours seeing all the parts of this building and looking in awe at this incredible building that was built before modern technology. The craftsmanship and artistry is just unparalleled.

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The piazza is also home to St. Mark’s Basilica and clock tower and from the piazza you have a straight view to the Grand Canal and there are several cafe’s.

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It really is the center of Venetian life, and is a bustling place, full of tourists, street vendors, and flower pushers (different from actual flower vendors), which out of all the people selling things are the most annoying and unfortunately made appearances in every Italian city we went to on our trip.

Wandering around the piazza we saw an advertisement for a Vivaldi concert that night in a little building right off the piazza. They were going to be featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Roberto and I are both huge fans of Vivaldi and his compositions, and since we were in the city of his birth, we decided this was something we needed to do in our lifetime. We got our tickets (which were VERY reasonable) and headed back to the hotel for a quick rest.

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Before the concert we made a stop at Harry’s Bar for a world famous Bellini (which were NOT very reasonable, however, the experience was great) and headed off to the show. It was a wonderful evening, and a great way to spend our one night in Venice.

The next day, we were headed to Tuscany, but not before enjoying a typical Italian morning. Roberto has been telling me about breakfast in Italy for years now – about going to your local bar (what they call cafe’s in Italy) to get a cornetto or tramezzino and an espresso drink of some kind. So we got up fairly early and found a bustling pasticceria full of Venetians on their way to work.

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Roberto gave me instructions, and I ordered myself a cornetto (like a croissant) filled with vanilla pastry cream and a cappuccino…in Italian! I was nervous, but it went fine, and I had an amazing breakfast! Roberto had a nutella filled cornetto and a succo di pera (pear juice). In Italy when you go to a bar for your breakfast, be prepared to stand at the counter and quickly eat your pastry and go. This is not a time for relaxing, people are in a hurry and on their way to work, and space is limited, so scarf it down and get moving!

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If you are still hungry, walk a few more steps and you will likely come to another bar, and you can get something else – this is also a very Italian thing to do, apparently. So that is what we did, we went a few steps down and enjoyed a tramezzino, which is basically a triangle sandwich with a savory filling. We got ham and artichoke heart with a nice smear of mayo. The ham was sliced so thin that it literally melted in your mouth.

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We spent the rest of the little time left we had in Venice walking the streets and taking photos of the canals, bridges and shops before the rest of the tourists got up. It was a wonderful way to see the real Venice and its people.