Asking me to choose which European city we've visited so far has been my favorite is like asking a mother to choose her favorite child: impossible. However, as I look back at pictures and reflect on our time in Venice, I'm reminded of the magic and romance the city exudes. If I have to choose one favorite, Venice may just be at the tippy top of my list.
We departed from Lake Como and drove nearly 2 1/2 hours to Venice. Since the majority of the city is inaccessible by car, we dropped our rental off at the edge of the city and caught a boat towards our hotel. We stayed the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, a 5-star hotel located on its own private island in the lagoon. We were able to book our stay here with Marriott points as that's generally where Richie stays on his work trips, and after having struggled through spending much of our first year as newlyweds apart due to Richie's long and frequent work trips, it feels good to be finally reaping those rewards. Anyhow, the hotel was stunning, and after a day of driving and our boat ride to the island on day one, we decided to stay in and enjoy a relaxing evening at the hotel. We cracked a bottle of Italian wine we bought during our tastings in Bellagio and ate a lovely meal at the hotel's restaurant Sagra.
Day two was our first and only full day in Venice and the day of Richie's 35th birthday. With just two nights in the city and the forecast calling for thunderstorms and rain all weekend, we were pretty nervous about our chances at getting out and seeing the city. While we drove to the city on Friday in what felt like a monsoon, by day two Richie's birthday good juju magically cleared up the storms for a sunny, blue sky day for our full day in the city. We caught the hotel boat over and enjoyed a day that was both full and relaxing. The hotel boat dropped us off at St. Mark's Square where it was high tide and we were able to see the square flood as it does daily around this time. We quickly worked our way around the water to higher ground, and enjoyed a day full of walking through Venice's winding network of narrow footpaths.
Along the way we stopped in at two churches including the stunning Basilica dei Frari, a gothic style church dating back to the 14th century, and we also took a tour of Doge's Palace, a Venetian gothic style palace built as the residence of the Doge of Venice.
We had great food and beverage in Venice despite having heard Venetian cuisine isn't the city's strong suit. For this reason we opted out of trying any fine dining, and rather enjoyed all fairly casual, no fuss stops. We had a lovely breakfast at a snack bar, a fairly common Venetian restaurant concept that serves up quick and easy sandwiches, pizza for both lunch and dinner (it was Richie's birthday after all so I let him choose. He's taken to calling Italy "pizza land"), fried calamari and gelato snacks, and wine, beer and cocktails to our heart's content.
The absolute highpoint of our day was the obligatory Venetian gondola ride. We caught the boat on a small side street and were lead by a fabulous guide named Antonio who was a 9th generation gondolier. We drank a lovely bottle of rosé along the way, another Italian wine we purchased from our wine tastings in Bellagio, and soaked in all the history, beauty and romance the city's canals had to offer.
After a whirlwind week long trip to both Spain and Italy, Venice was the perfect place to cap off our trip and to celebrate Richard's 35th birthday, and honestly it turned out to be one of the best days of my life. I cannot begin to express the extent of gratitude I have for everything I've been able to see during our travels, and I'm beyond grateful to have shared in my travels with my best friend. It's hard to believe we're down to our last 2 1/2 weeks in Europe, and it's got me feeling all bittersweet. Next up I'll update you on my mother in law's visit to Hamburg and our travels together to Innsbruck and Bavaria. Starting today we have friends coming in town, and on deck are travels with them to Berlin, Prague and back to Amsterdam. For now, tschüss!