Venice, Italy

      Thursday through Sunday was a 4 day weekend for us. We had originally planned to go to Belgium, but after looking at the weather and there being rain all 4 days we made a last minute change to go to Venice. We did look into taking the train, but getting last minute accommodations did not work for us so we drove. It’s about a 7.5 hour drive from where we live.
     We had planned to leave at 3:00am to be sure we got there in time to still explore most of the day Thursday. Well, misplaced passports delayed us over an hour. Of course they were in our backpack that was already in the car ready to go, we just over looked them. The hubs wasn’t too thrilled with the delay but it always makes for a good story later hah.
     When driving to Italy you’ll have to go through Austria. In Austria you have to have a Vignette for your car. It’s a sticker that goes in your windshield to allow you to drive on their autobahn. I believe it cost us 8 euro and it’s good for 10 days so you don’t have to buy one on your way back home.  Italy does not have a Vignette but they do have toll roads, be prepared to pay a large chunk for those tolls. There is a small one at the end of Austria that cost 8.50 euro. The next toll in Italy is the kind where you get a ticket first, then you pay for how far you drove. If you don’t get off the autobahn until you’ve reached Venice you’ll pay 25.00 euro, and yes that is both ways. So added up both ways you’ll pay 67.00 euro in tolls. I’m not sure about the small toll, but I know the larger one does take credit/debit cards.
     We finally got close to Venice and I started realizing that the signs don’t say Venice, they say Venezia. For some strange reason the English language likes to change the names of places (i.e. – Deutschland to Germany, Praha to Prague, M√ľnchen to Munich), so I’ve only heard of Venice and had no idea it was called something different, just something else to learn in our travels. 
     There are different options for staying in Venice. You can’t drive in the city, it’s an island and there are no roads in the center of the city. There is one bridge that allows residents, the train and buses to get to the city. There is a parking deck but I don’t know if tourists are allowed to park there. We decided to stay just outside of Venice on the mainland in Mogliano Veneto. This was a perfect location to stay! We rented out an apartment through Airbnb from a girl who is actually a tour guide in Venice. She had the best information laid out for us when we got there. She had maps of Venice and Mogliano Veneto, the train schedule and a few restaurants and supermarkets listed for us. She also made a book that had daily itineraries with things to do and how much they cost. We would highly recommend her and the apartments she rents out. There wasn’t any parking near the apartment, but her parents live upstairs, so her dad had us follow him to their personal garage where they had 2 RV’s and allowed us to park our car there for the duration of our visit. When it was time to leave her dad drove us back out there to pick up our car. They were extremely helpful and nice. The apartment was also very clean and only a five minute walk to the train station.
     If you stay outside of Venice and take the train into the city you have to be sure to validate your ticket! This is something we’d never seen before. If you get caught riding the train without a validated ticket you can pay a hefty fine. At the train station inside, or on the tracks there is an oval like green box that you put your ticket in and it makes a small punch in it. Once it’s been validated you have to ride the train within 6 hours. So if you have 2 tickets, one for the ride back home, be sure you only validate one, you don’t want your 6 hours to run up before you get home.
     Once we got into the city we decided to just walk around and take in the scenery for the first day. If you look at any website on what to do in Venice I’m sure you’ll find “get lost in Venice.” Well I can tell you it’s not hard to get lost. We went in the opposite direction of all the tourists and through the smallest alley ways. It was really great to see where people live, where they grocery shop and all their clothes drying out on the line. Even though it’s a huge tourist city it’s also home for so many. To see how they live in a city built on the water was unique. While you’re walking around be sure to watch your step, there are many dogs but there is no grass. So you guessed it, the dogs use the bathroom right on the concrete walkways. I often saw little baggies with dog poo by front doors, but not all owners picked it up and a lot of dogs wonder around on their own so there is no one to pick up after them.
      Our second and third day we did some of the typical tourist things. We visited Saint Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. We also took a boat ride; they call them Vaparettos, to one of the small islands, Murano. Vaparetto tickets have to be validated as well, you scan them before getting on the boat. Murano is known for their glass blowing. They have a museum there and at certain times you can watch them do glass blowing. There are many, many shops with glass items. The ones right in the path of tourists are the most expensive. Go down the alleys to find the better deals. We bought a small Christmas ornament, a Santa on a Gondola :) This also applies to eating, the restaurants right on the Grand Canal and in Saint Mark’s Square are high priced and not good quality. We had some great pizza and wine at Ristorante Piccolo Martini which also happens to be recommended by TripAdvisor. 
Saint Mark's Basilica
     Going to Venice this time of year was perfect (early April). It wasn’t too crowded and the temperatures were in the upper 60’s. It was absolutely perfect weather for us! For our last evening in Venice, we found a great spot to watch the sun set over the city. We had a great trip and definitely recommend that you visit! If you do drive, be aware that Italian drivers can get a little crazy. They seem to think driving in the middle of 2 lanes is acceptable ;) Also be prepared to do a lot of walking! It is not the best city for elderly or handicapped, there are stairs all over the place with no ramps.

Grand Canal