A number of WorldStrides employees recently had the opportunity to travel to Italy to visit Venice, Florence, and Rome and experience many of the same sights and activities our student travels visit. As an avid traveler with an intense desire to see “everywhere,” I jumped at the chance to fly across the Atlantic one more time before the end of 2016. The first stop on our adventure was Venice.
Venice is a city that doesn’t feel quite real. Everywhere the eye looks is picturesque and enchanting. Homes and businesses are colorful and inviting and the canals and bridges only add to the whimsical feeling of the city.
Upon arriving at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport, we gathered our bags and went outside to wait for a taxi. Except, this was no ordinary taxi. Cars aren’t allowed on the narrow, ancient streets of Venice. To get from the airport to the city, you simply wait on a dock for the next available boat!
It was exceptionally foggy when we arrived, making the trip from the airport take a bit longer than usual, but our guide taught us about the Venice waterways as we made our way through the lagoon. There are lanes, speed limits, even speeding tickets, just like driving in America. It was a bit bizarre to see mail delivery boats, police boats, even ambulance boats while we were in Venice!
After dropping off our things at our hotel, we began to explore. Our first stop was, of course, a gelato stand. When in Italy! We took in the scenes around our hotel as we snacked on our cones. While the fog kept us from seeing into the distance, it did provide some rather magical landscapes.
Before dinner, our guides took us on a walking tour of Venice, pointing out the cisterns in neighborhood squares, once used for gathering water, as well as prominent churches, homes, and other landmarks. They also took us through the Venetian Ghetto, more commonly known as the Jewish Ghetto. During the Venetian Republic, this was the area of Venice where Jews were compelled to live. It’s a beautiful neighbored of homes, schools, synagogues, and shops (oh, the bakeries!) that is still the heart of Venetian Jewish life today.
The next day, we bundled up and caught the vaporetto – Venice’s water taxi system – to take us to Piazza San Marco, the main public square of Venice. Within the square is the beautiful St. Mark’s Basilica, the Clock Tower, and the Campanile of St Mark’s church among other sites. We explored the square for a bit before heading into the grand Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace where we were able to see beautiful examples of Renaissance and Gothic architecture as well as room after room of ornate artwork.
Following a bit of free time to roam about Venice, we boarded a boat for the island of Murano for a glass blowing demonstration. Watching the glass blower work to shape first a vase and then a horse figurine was mesmerizing. So much skill and attention to detail goes into their work! Later in the afternoon, many of us went for a Gondola ride, a must-do when in Venice. It was a beautiful way to see the city!
We finished our time in Venice with a bit of shopping, a delicious meal, and of course, more gelato. The next morning, it was off to Florence! Check back next week for details on our Florence – and Tuscan! – adventure!
Learn more about our student educational travel programs to Italy.