Be warned. This is a two in one LLLLLONG ONE.
Today we had the photoshoot in Croatia, but I’m behind in my blogging…so we are back to Italy. VENICE!!
Edith and I fell in love with the small town in which we stayed that I mentioned, Monte Marcello. We only have photos of us there at the spa and during the day, none of Nonna’s gnocchi, or of our new friends in town that we chatted with after dinner. God, locals are the best. It’s so exciting to meet people and devote all of your hour or two to them, have a great time, and then leave on a high note. It’s sad we will never see them again, but it was a fun two hours.
Our hotel was in the most picturesque spot. Set inland from from Cinque Terre, we were atop a mountain about 700m above above sea level (Cinque Terre being at sea level). We overlooked a large valley of homes with terra cotta roofs, an indigo inlet, and a wrap of luscious dark green forest. Italy’s countryside and entire landscape truly are beautiful and a pleasure to drive trough. Umbria, Lacio, Tuscany…all had such beautiful landscapes on our drive around the country.
Back to our hotel…it was a boutique hotel and was in an area that was frequented by cyclists for its variation in terrain and likewise visited by wildlife enthusiasts looking to see wild boars with the hairy and black fur as well as some unique and beautiful birds. Edith and I especially love the poppies that grew everywhere on the property of our hotel and spa as well as throughout the town and hills growing fainter and hiding as they weaved into the forest patches. The trees are striking thought the country…from the coniferous to deciduous…the trees seemed extra beautiful. Tall evergreens, poplars planted for wood, Cyprus trees landmarking Tuscany and all the succulents growing taller than us lining the side of the roads. I highly recommend driving through the country if you consider yourself a good driver and want a to spice up your driving adventures. You’ll enjoy the limitless speeds, aggressive tailgating, honking, light flashing, lack of marked lane use and indistinguishable traffic signs. Edith and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
If you stay at our hotel Golfo Dei Poeti Relais & Spa you’ll need to eat at the only other restaurant in town and then when you’re done walk across the street to the garden bar to chat with our local friends about art, history, politics, swear words, ship yards, and Italian life. Absolutely loved that town for its peace and serenity.
When we boarded the little water taxi to Venice I had no idea what to expect. As the city came into view I was left without words. This was he most unique place I’ve ever been. It was as if I’d entered a micro universe. In a movie like WallE you see a self-contained micro ecosystem. Little robots zipping by, it’s own traffic system, logistical rules you’re unfamiliar with. That’s exactly what Venice felt like. You first line up in a Disney-esque line and wait for your boat. Then you undock and set out into the busy river in which there are hundreds of boats in close proximity. You pull off into different pavilions which are the actually the different islands and places in Venice. Some are full more of locals, some are overrun by what looks like little ants from the water. In fact they’re tourists walking between and over bridges soaking in the dense dense beauty.
I was completely overwhelmed by this city. I cried happy tears the second I landed for it was the most stimulating and beautiful place I’d ever been. The color, the people, the comedy of the souvenirs, the incredible architecture, and sheer number of people. This place is magical. Our friend in Montemarcello described Venice as an indescribable, magical city with secrets. That’s exactly what it was. Gondoliers, opera singers, artists, God seekers and the confused who didn’t know what they were there for but found it unknowingly. There was so much there. You must go. It may not end up being your favorite city. But it will leave its mark on you. There’s no place like it. It’s something out of a story. It’s enchanting. So so enchanting.
Our first day we checked in and talked to Sandro, our hotel manager. Per his directions we set off into the city and ended up at San Marco’s Basillica where one of my recurring dreams came true. I love pigeons. I don’t care what others say. They’re wonderful birds and I love them. And I love when they land on me. When I walked to the square a man threw bird food on me and pigeons landed all over me. I giggled like a little girl as they clawed my hair with their blunt nails and tried to balance on my arms. It was fricken wonderful and I’d do it every day if I could.
Ok but the fun ends there because the pigeons didn’t land on me because hey loved me. It was because the guy threw food at me. And then put more in my hand. These non-Italian anti-bird whisperers stand around with pasta and pray on tourists. Lol, my joy transformed into an interesting exchange with three non-Italian money makers.
Man: “Ok ma’am, now you pay.”
Steph: “Pay for what?”
Man: “This is my livelihood, give me 10 euros.”
Steph: “10 euros?! I’m definitely not giving you 10 euros. I’ll give you something but it’s not going to be 10 euros.”
By this point the other two men were starting to get involved. Each of them had “given” me bird food (in my face). They both insisted that they too deserved 10 euros.
Men: “Ma’am, you come here and we give you pigeons.”
Steph: “They’re not your pigeons!”
Man: “10 euros ma’am.”
Other man: “20 euros.”
And the men started to creep in closer.
Steph: “Get away from me, here’s 2 euros each.”
None of them would take the 2 euros as they held out for better. So I placed the money on the ground told hem it was that or nothing and walked (kinda ran) away looking over my shoulder. They followed a while but eventually they settled with 2 euros each.
From there we saw San Marco’s, Palazzo Ducale, and salsa danced on the square.
Later that night, our concierge Dimitri took us around town. It’s people like him that make you remember a place. We had such a nice time with him as he showed us some sights, gave us flowers, taught us some Italian expressions, and hydrated us with beverages. Venice and Montemarcello get 1000 points each. Cinque Terre…not so much.