We made our way to Venice via train. The train ride from Florence is only 2 and 1/2 hours. We ended up sitting next to an older New Jersey couple on their 30th wedding anniversary trip through Italy. It was nice to exchange conversations about our travels thus far.
After a pleasant ride we got off at the train station and set out to meet our Airbnb owner. We met Fabio near the train station and he walked us to his apartment. Fabio was born and raised in Venice and now rents out his room for Airbnb. Fabio is a smart man. He welcomed us into his home and had three huge stacks of business cards or brochures, divided by art, food, and sights! This was helpful for when we wanted to pick a restaurant or a museum less known.
After putting our stuff in the apartment, we set out to walk all over and get a lay of the land.
I saw a mime along the way ….
We walked to St. Marc’s Square and took the elevator – there are no stairs – to the top. The top of St. Marc’s Campanile (bell tower) are breathtaking views of the lagoon and surrounding city of Venice.
After the tower, we decided on the fly to take a gondola ride. We couldn’t have timed it more perfectly because the sunset was just about to begin! Our ride was about 20 minutes and the gondolier who took us out was an awesome one. His name was Carlo and he told us he was a fourth generation Gondolier. His great-great grandfather was a gondolier during tourist season and a fisherman during off-season. During his great grandfather’s time, only the wealth could afford a gondolier. This was because typically, the gondolier would be with the tourist the entire trip! They would get to know the tourist and take them everywhere. Nowadays, you can simply go for a 20 minutes-1 hour long ride. No need to hire a tour guide for three days 🙂
I wasn’t aware of was that the striped poles you see in front of the mansions in Venice actually mean something, there not just for looks. Back in the day, gondoliers hired by a family were the equivalent of that wealthy family’s chauffeur. The gondolier would wear a striped shirt that matched the pole – for example, if the pole in front of your family’s house was blue and red striped, your shirt would be blue and red striped. This way, other Venetians could identify where you lived/who you worked for.
Another thing that has changed is that Carlo went to school for two years to become a gondolier! During the two-year program you learn how to be a proper gondolier; safety, how to control the boat, and all the historical details of the city. This way, when you take tourists around you are able to tell them tons of details about any place they want to know more about. Carlo was full of helpful tips and historic facts and stories while we enjoyed our gondola ride.
After we got off the gondola ride we headed back to our apartment. We changed and headed out to dinner by taking one of the Vaparetto lines. Vaparettos are the way you can get around in Venice. They are like their version of the public metro – but in the water! We were looking for seafood – but we got much more.
Fabio had recommended a seafood place that not only had a tasty menu, but also, atmosphere. Trattoria Giorgione provides a unique dining out experience – specifically on the weekends. If you got on a Friday or Saturday night, you’re (almost) guaranteed to see the owner of the restaurant singing classic Italian songs on a karaoke machine right in the middle of the restaurant. Every guest is sitting in two long tables, family style. It’s a less formal place. Loud, authentic, and great seafood! If you’re looking for a quiet, romantic evening out I’d say this isn’t your place. But if you’re looking for a place with real character, a singing older Italian dude, and breaking bread with locals and tourists this is a great place to have a wonderful night in Venice.