Venice had the most potential to go horribly wrong, but it was the smoothest part of our trip. There’s not much to do other than wander, and we had seen just about all of the art our little eyeballs could handle.
We got off the train and were relieved to see Maura waiting for us on the platform. We caught the shuttle train to the island, and then we had to master the art of vaporettos. Basically, Venice is a fish-shaped island that has a Grand Canal going down the middle of it. There are no cars on the island, so to get anywhere you either have to walk or catch a vaporetto—the public transportation boats. Thankfully, this segment of the journey went perfectly. We got off at the right stop, and our hostel was right on the water.
We checked in, had minor drama with some woman sleeping in my bed and her stuff sleeping in Annie’s, but luckily they had some beds to spare. After getting our things all settled, Annie and I went to the bar next door—the only place to get any food nearby. I had the best grilled ham and cheese of my entire life.
Moods drastically improved, we just lounged around the common area of the hostel, keeping Maura company while she tried to figure out her travel details for her Amsterdam trip. We sent our parents e-mails, assuring them of our continued existence, and then went to bed.
When Annie and I woke up around 8, Maura was already long gone for the airport. The two of us had breakfast and then snuck a vaporetto ride to the main part of the island… don’t tell anyone. St. Mark’s Square was practically deserted, save for a woman or two who insisted on using their bodies as pigeon feeders. Disgusting.
More under the jump.
We decided to tour the Doge’s Palace, which had some cool history and was immense and completely unfathomable as a dwelling place. After that, we just set off wandering. As I’ve mentioned several times before, Annie is a goddess with a map. We picked a random direction and took off. We each had items in mind we wanted to buy—I wanted nativity sets and Annie really wanted a knock-off bag. We started at the Rialto Bridge, which is a series of shops on, well, a bridge. That alone made us pretty hungry, and we somehow came across a cute little restaurant where we had amazing food for really cheap! My chicken sandwich almost made me feel like I was at Chick-fil-a… almost.
Then it was time to hunt for Annie’s bag.
We had barely seen any knock-off purse sellers, when we’d heard rumors that they’d just be lining the sidewalks. As we started walking along the canal, we saw two giant men laden with purses peering out at us from an alleyway. Our prolonged eye contact brought them out of hiding, and they held out their arms so we could see what they had to offer. Annie hemmed and hawed, and finally asked one if they had any Louis Vuitton purses that looked more legit.
One of the guys whips out his cell phone and motions for us to follow him at a distance. He’s screaming some African language into the phone without a breath, and then hangs up and assures us his friend is coming. He then makes another call and another, and his cronies come in droves. At this point we were standing on a bridge, and they were all around us. I was completely paranoid and kept looking around for cops or knock-off-purse patrolmen, convinced we were doing something illegal. Annie was brave, though, and she stuck to her guns. One guy held out a bag to her that looked exactly like a real Louis Vuitton. It had the LV logo, it had the leather tags—EVERYTHING.
“You like?” he asked her.
“Yes,” she said. “How much?”
“One-twenty euro,” he said, shifting his eyes around, probably on the same watch I was.
“I only have thirty euro,” she replied.
“Okay, okay, sixty!” he said, obviously too preoccupied with avoiding arrest to pay attention to her bartering skills.
“I only have thirty!” she said again.
“Okay, okay, fifty!” he said.
Annie opened her wallet. “Okay,” she said. “I have forty, and that’s IT. I don’t have any more money, and I’m leaving.”
“Fine, fine,” he said. He stuffed the bag into a plastic shopping sack, thrust it at Annie, and took her forty euro. The ringleader came back over and offered her a Coco Chanel knockoff for “only twenty,” but we threw up our hands, said we were broke, and took off.
Upon further inspection of the bag, it may be a factory reject, as it’s missing the lining. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure they nicked it.
After further shopping, we decided to make the trek to GROM, a gelato place recommended to us by multiple people. Including Rick. It took us forever to get there, but the gelato was unbelievable. I had chocolate and hazelnut, and I don’t think I’ll ever get to taste anything like that again in my life. Delicious. Absolutely.
More shopping, more wandering, more sight-seeing. I bought a sweet watch right off St. Mark’s Square, and I’ve worn it almost every day since. I feel like a snot, though, any time someone compliments it and I said, “Thanks! I got it in Venice.” Comes with the territory, I guess.
By 4:30 it was getting dark and we had completely run ourselves into the ground, so we went back to the hostel for a rest break. We picked a place for dinner, which didn’t turn out to exist, of course, but the place we wound up at was phenomenal. It was tucked way back in a corner of the island, and Annie once again worked her magic and got us there with only the rough Rick Steves map to guide us. We were the only two in the restaurant, and it was a little classier than our fleece jackets and my ripped jeans. I ordered some kind of pasta with some kind of crab sauce and it was perfect. Plus they gave us free bread. Perfect last supper in Italy.
The next morning we were awakened by some middle-aged, overweight foreign women with no sense of volume control. It wasn’t even 8am and they were talking and laughing at unbelievable levels. Annie “shh!”d them more than once, but it was lost in translation. So rude.
We packed up, ate breakfast, and hit the town with our backpacks. We did some more wandering and stumbled upon a fantastic square where we may have been the only non-Italians. We sat on a bench, soaking up the sunshine and people-watching, and we bought lunch at a little pizza shop—pizzettes for one euro! We sat in the square and ate one, then bought another to smuggle onto the plane. After that goodness, we decided the only way to say farewell to Italy would be to eat at Grom again. So we did. Even though it was so, so cold.
We got ourselves sorted and to the bus station, and I ended up paying forty-one euro to use a public toilet. Don’t ask. It’s still a sore subject. Rode the bus to the airport, got on a plane, got off a plane, got to a bus stop, and Annie discovered her camera was missing. Maura and I had been giving her crap all week for not having had made a big mistake like we had, and here it was. Right at the tail end. While I waited for our bus, Annie made a mad dash inside, but the people at the counter couldn’t get ahold of the people on the plane, so they told her she’d have to call the airline first thing in the morning. Problem was, she was leaving for America first thing in the morning.
When she returned to the bus stop, understandably upset, a bus labeled OXFORD pulled up. We got our things together and made our way to the bus, looking expectantly at the driver, who completely ignored us and continued chatting to a couple who’d just gotten off. Trying to be helpful, we put our bags underneath and stood by the door. When he FINALLY stopped talking, he smiled at us, shut the compartments on the side, and came towards us. We handed him our tickets and he frowned and started waving his hands. “I’m nah goin’ ta Oxforrrd!” he proclaimed.
“Are you serious?” I asked, gesturing towards the banner that clearly said OXFORD on the side of the bus.
“You got ta wrong bus.” He started climbing aboard.
“Well,” I said. “Our stuff is under the bus.”
He made an absolutely disgusted face at me and said, “Oh, smart move.” And stomped down the steps and flung open the undercarriage compartment. Annie forcibly grabbed her backpack from him, her face still tear-stained.
“What’s your problem?” he asked her, clearly a gentleman of the first order.
She spun around and said, “I just lost my camera!”
“Wot?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said curtly as I took my backpack.
“Well, it’s got nowwat to do wit’ me!” he said, backing towards the coach. “And as a gen’ral rule ya shouldn’ be puttin’ stuff unda the coach wit’out the driva knows!”
He really was a gem.
Thankfully, the right bus did come, we got home to Oxford, Annie eventually got her camera back, and our week-long Italian adventure came to an end.