We are sitting outside of our hotel enjoying coffee and breakfast, waiting to walk 500 meters to board the vaporetto (water taxi) to the train station.  From there, we ride almost 5 hours to Cinque Terre!  We learned yesterday that Venice hosts 30 million visitors every year and I’m pretty sure 29.98 million of them are here right now.  Thus, the mornings and evenings in Cinque Terre will be a welcome relief.

Yesterday was a fantastic day filled with non-stop activity.  We walked the narrow cobble stone streets from our hotel to San Marco where we met up with a tour group led by a feisty Italian woman (are there any other?) named Rosanna.  She was knowledgeable and sarcastic – also a welcome relief.  After immediately learning that Venice is shaped like a fish (prior to I thought our room key was just fortituous decorating), we headed straight to St. Mark’s Basilica.  It is stunning.  Breathtaking, actually.  Liv commented moments after stepping inside, shoulders and knees covered out of respect and reverence, about the intricate gold leaf details.  There are 100 active churches in Venice, unsurprisingly, 95 are Catholic. Inside of St. Mark’s, we watched preparations for Sunday morning Mass – something to behold.  High above the roped off altar sat 14 statues:  the twelve disciples (including Mark as a man, even though he was a kid when Jesus was crucified), the Mother Mary, and of course, Jesus.  Since there are no adjectives that will do it proper justice, hopefully the pictures will paint a better visual.

Speaking of painting – I also thought of my artist husband when Rosanna told us about mosaic vs. some other type that I have since forgotten (sorry, honey!) being used depending upon the restoration timeframe.  Stuff gets ruined in Venice rather quickly given the little water issue.  Also interesting to note is something I didn’t forget: the 14 statues looked as if they were made of bronze, but in fact, they were made out of white marble.  The smoke from the altar candles over the years has rendered them their current color.

After the tour, we walked to lunch – perfecto!  The sauce took me back…all the way to my Gram’s kitchen table.  Liv and I both chewed and savored as if we had no place to be.  I’m not sure I EVER eat that slowly, but it warranted it.  Afterwards I said, “There is no way I can ever eat sauce out of a jar again.  Such an atrocisity.”  Everything deserves copious amounts of olive oil and garlic!

It was also about a zillion degrees yesterday and so the food was the only thing fresh. We walked down corridors we had not yet seen, including the Rialto district which is the main bridge in Venice.  You might recognize it from The Venetian Hotel in Vegas…yeah, not the same.  After snapping the obligatory pictures and translating a massive banner’s font to English – “No Mafia Allowed” – we hopped a gondola.  Clearly overpriced for the 30 minutes, it was still worth it if not for the ridiculous amount of skill and balance it takes to navigate those boats on such narrow and crowded waterways.  I kept imaginging myself standing atop of a gondola, sporting a giant oar and a black and white shirt and decided it would be much more akin to bumper boats than anything relaxing.

We saw the home of Marco Polo, learned much about the rich Venetian history (including hands on learning = downing local beer), and returned to where the tour began later in the day for a one hour boat tour.  Seeing Venice from that perspective after having been on land for two days was cool.

Finally, we meandered back through the streets to our hotel, took ridiculously long showers and went to dinner on the water as the sunset.  I enjoyed it almost as much as the 3 Euro per person “cover” charge – as in, the perk of sitting under the canopy – which is the only seating available.

Well done, Venice.  On all accounts.