The Food, Fun, and Foibles of a First-Time Europe Traveler


Venice: Throw Away Your Maps

Now I see what Venice Beach was after.

After feeling lucky to escape Napoli not only with our lives, but also with the best pizza either of us had ever tasted, we were more than happy to make the journey to Venice. Hanna assured me that it was beautiful and nothing like the cesspool from which we had just returned, so I was excited.

Hostels and hotels in Venice were extremely expensive (400 euro/night at some places), so we stayed in a hostel in Mestre on the mainland (Venice is technically and island…well, 116 islands to be more specific), just a 10-minute bus ride away. We got off the train around 12:30 and found our hostel easily. They told us that we couldn’t check in until 14 o’clock, but we could leave our bags in the “safe room” and come back later.

We walked to the room and it was literally just a common tv room with no locks on the doors, with open access for all customers (or anyone who walked in the hostel doors). We decided that we couldn’t walk around Venice with our huge bags, so we took all the valuables out and left the bags up against the wall. Of course, we attached them securely to one of the cupboards under the tv with our locks. Trust no one!

We took the bus into Venice and were immediately confused. For anyone that hasn’t been there, Venice is probably the most difficult city to navigate in the world. Well, I take that back. It would be, if not for dozens of heavenly yellow signs posted on buildings that lead you in the direction of the Rialto, San Marco Square, the bus station, etc. We came to a couple of crossroads where we couldn’t find a sign and we literally just guessed which way to go. Apparently even the locals get lost.

Not a bad afternoon.

Venice was beautiful. The canals are no joke and, besides smelling a bit off sometimes, are totally worth the trip. We hit up the Rialto, where we purchased our first souvenirs of the trip (on day 22). Hanna got a couple of Christmas ornaments and a wine stopper, and I embraced the local culture and picked up a soccer jersey of one of the only players I knew, Eto’o from Cameroon. I figured I’d pick a player that couldn’t possibly be a rival of an Italian team, but it turns out he plays for AC Milan or something. Great.

After seeing San Marco Square and looking around the Cathedral, we took a long walk along the water, stopped at a bench, sat down, and watched the sun set over the Adriatic. Now this is what I call vacation!