Italy (Part 06): From Porto Venere to our final stop, Venice!
Before making the trek from Liguria to Venice, we stopped in the town of Porto Venere. Though not technically in the Cinque Terre, the town is equally charming and offers similar striking sea views. The path along the water at the base of the village leads to the point of the peninsula, crowned by the 800-year-old Church of St. Peter. The church offers some breathtaking views as it is perched upon a small cliff and is surrounded on three sides by water. After taking in the views, we made our way deeper into the winding streets away from the coast.
Tired from all of the exploring, we eventually stopped for lunch at Artigianale al Gabbiano where we shared caprese and bruschetta, along with a much too large bottle of water. Our stomachs not quite satisfied, we stopped at a gelateria right off of Piazza Bastreri to indulge in some dessert as we had learned to do in every town we visited. After walking around some more, we decided to give in to some more food, closing out our visit to the town with some Nutella crepes from Il Gelato.
With our bellies finally full, we set off on our 4-hour journey to Mestre, just outside of Venice. The drive was not particularly noteworthy as most of it was through industrial parts of Northern Italy and the traffic was not ideal. That said, a pit stop at one of the many highway convenience stores provided Brittany her first taste of a legitimate Bueno bar!
We arrived in Mestre and parked our car at a lot just outside of the train station where we were catching a train to Venice. Shortly thereafter we pulled into Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia amid massive crowds of tourists and spent the next 20 minutes stumbling through the crowds and crooked walkways with our luggage in tow attempting to find our bed and breakfast. Even with detailed instructions from our host we got lost a few times, but finally made our way to her beautiful home situated at the end of a quiet alley overlooking an intersection of canals where we spent the next couple of nights.
Venice is such a unique city because of its canals and reputation as a romantic setting. We really enjoyed exploring its main sights like St. Mark’s Square and Basilica and the Rialto Bridge spanning the Grand Canal. However, what truly makes Venice unique and romantic is its back streets and pleasant surprises that await visitors there. One of our favorite memories is wandering around after dinner during sunset our second night while most of the day’s tourists were either gone or still at dinner. There is something special about having what seems like the whole town to yourself on a calm summer evening. We also discovered a small donut shop earlier in the day that provided delicious cream, raspberry, and chocolate pastries that we shared while sitting on the steps of a small pedestrian bridge nestled in an alley far off the beaten path.
One thing we certainly don’t regret doing is shelling out the 120 € for a 45-minute gondola ride through both the large and small canals, and we were able to share it with each other without any other passengers. The gondolier did a good job balancing his delivery of facts and stories about the city with allowing us to take everything in silence. We were impressed with the expertise the gondoliers have in their craft, skillfully kicking off buildings to guide the boat, verbally communicating to other gondoliers around blind corners, and generally having strong yet smooth control over such large vessels.
We were also lucky in that our visit coincided with a Manet exhibit in the Doge’s Palace. After appreciating some of his most famous pieces of Impressionism art, we continued on to tour some of the prison cells in the palace. We can only imagine the torture of being prisoner in such a beautiful city!
Unfortunately this marked the end of our trip, as we flew to Dublin the next morning on our way back to Boston.
Trip gelato count: 24