Vacationing in Italy: Part 1, Venice
Updated: Jul 7
I recently returned from a 10-day tour of Italy 🇮🇹. It turned out to be better than I even imagined. I booked the tour through CIE Tours. If you want to book with them, just know that their Italy tour is more educational than relaxing. There are moments of relaxation, but a lot of walking is involved. A lot of history is explained. A lot of historical sites are visited. History buffs (in relatively decent shape) would love it! Art majors and even theology enthusiasts would find it very interesting. If you’re more into doing nothing at a beautiful resort, or having really laid back days everyday - Go to Italy, but maybe not on a tour like this. If I go back, I’d like to stay in Venice for half the trip and Orvieto for the other half. I’ll explain and take you through some of our moments in Italy in this blog series.
Several people told me that they vicariously lived abroad through my social media posts. I’m here to tell you, vacations are self-care! You don’t have to leave the country, or even leave your state. But, taking time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, have great experiences, and make wonderful memories is worth the investment.
As a new business owner, I questioned whether I should close my store for two weeks while I travel. Based on what I experienced while on vacation, I know without a doubt that I made the right decision. Being an entrepreneur is hard work, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a workaholic. Rest is important. Burnout is real. Vacations are important! I went on this trip with my mom. She says she probably won’t be traveling overseas after this, meaning, making these memories with her was a once-in-my lifetime opportunity. We had an amazing time… starting in Venice.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the beauty of this city. As our water taxi took us to our hotel, I was mesmerized by the many beautiful gondolas. Gondolas are flat-bottom boats with high pointed ends, mainly used to take tourists through Venetian canals. Taking a gondola ride allows you to see many crooks and crevasses of Venice that you can’t see on foot. Gondoliers must have a license to pilot the narrow boats. It’s impressive to witness the skill it takes to balance, row, and turn corners in a gondola. We took a gondola ride on our second day in Venice. Before we got to that, our water taxi took us to Hotel Bonvecchiati, where we checked in for our stay in this beautiful city.
The hotel rooms across Europe seem to all be small, but that’s okay with me. The air conditioning doesn’t seem to get as cool as the A/C’s in the U.S. It was fine for me. My mom likes to sleep in cold temps, so she was a little uncomfortable at night. My favorite hotel is the one in Venice for three reasons: 1. It’s located right in the heart of Venice. 2. Their breakfast buffet (free with our booking) was absolutely delicious. 3. Our room view was beautiful.
After checking in early in the afternoon, we had some free time before meeting with our group and tour guide for orientation. First thing we did was find a restaurant for pasta!
We found a quaint little restaurant with a small courtyard. I didn’t want to start with anything fancy. I just wanted traditional spaghetti. Turns out, in many places in Italy, traditional spaghetti is made with clams instead of meatballs. I’m allergic to shellfish, so I can’t tell you what it tastes like. I will say, I was a little underwhelmed after my first pasta dish. I had spaghetti with tomato sauce. It was really salty. It had to have been a mistake for it to be that salty. I was expecting perfection 🤌🏽, because you know… I’m in Italy! Don’t get me wrong, I had the best pasta in Italy… just not for my first meal. Later, I learned that everyone who owns restaurants in Italy are not Italian. Some people open restaurants and target tourists serving recipes that aren’t authentic. That’s why it’s important to find out where the locals eat. Go there!
It’s common for waiters to ask if you want “still” or “sparkling” water. I accidentally bought sparkling water more than once (from a supermarket, and from a vending machine). Be mindful of that if you visit Italy, especially if you dislike sparkling water. It’s everywhere.
Later in the evening, our group met with our tour guide for an official orientation before dinner. She walked us through streets lined with original architecture, shops and restaurants.
Cigarette smoke was noticeable, but not bothersome, as we walked through Venice. The absence of car pollution and traffic noise was also noticeable. It felt like being in a beautiful board game. Everything was picture-perfect. Our tour guide, Diana, let us know that during our free time, we should walk around and explore. She emphasized how safe the city is and told us we might discover some pretty cool shops if we ventured down some of the alleys in between buildings.
After our orientation walk, we had dinner at the hotel. Dinner is served in courses. You don’t have to order from every course. If you want something light, or if you’re trying to spend less money, only order what you want. There’s no obligation to order multiple courses (even if you’re handed a menu with several courses). Several of our dinners and lunches were included with the tour. On our first night, we shared travel stories with the group over good Italian wine and food in an outside seating area in the heart of Metropolitan Venice. 🤌🏽
I was the first to say goodnight to the group after dinner. I wanted to get back to our room, FaceTime my son, and sleep! That plane ride was exhausting. The next morning, I had a delicious breakfast at our hotel, and drank coffee like the Italians. 🤌🏽
Apparently, if you really want to look American (which is perfectly fine), walk around with a cup of coffee. Many Italians have either a cappuccino (only in the morning), or a shot of espresso (anytime). Nursing a cup of coffee is what Americans do! Darn right we do. Now that I’m back home, I’m back to nursing my extra large cups of coffee. But, while in Italy, you wouldn’t catch me with a caffé Americano ☕️. Espressos only. 🤌🏽 I prefer to add sugar to mine.
For breakfast, cakes and pastries are always available. My favorites were the fruit-filled croissants. Whatever fruit is in season is what you’ll find in those yummy croissants. I had apricot croissants in Venice. They’re the best croissants I’ve ever had. I also had fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, scrambled eggs, sausage and other cheeses. I don’t need any judgment about all this either 😂. My mom and I ate breakfast as soon as the buffet opened so we would have time to walk through Venice before our itinerary started. After eating, I went back to the room and applied vitamin C serum and sunscreen before getting dressed. It was hotter than usual (we were told), and I made sure to protect my skin.
After taking a morning walk, we met up with our group and tour guide. We were visiting Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark’s Basilica, so the women had to wear clothes that covered our shoulders and chest. On the way to Doge’s Palace, I saw a vendor selling a beautiful Venice umbrella. It was perfect for providing some shade from the sun.
Doge’s Palace was built in the 14th century, and it’s where the Doge of Venice (the ruler of the government) lived centuries ago. The building was the center of government for the Venetian Republic. It’s now a museum full of history and art.
After leaving Doge’s Palace, we walked to Saint Mark’s Basilica. The two buildings are next to each other. Saint Mark’s Basilica is considered to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe and the world.
Not gonna lie, the buildings are a sight to see, but I was hot and tired at this point. The rest of the group went to a glass making workshop but my BFF / partner-in-ditching-the-group / mom and I said “arrivederci!” to everyone. ✌🏽That’s “goodbye” in Italian. We went and found a pizza shop and drank a glass of wine until it was time to meet up for our gondola ride.
The gondola ride was the highlight of Venice for me. I definitely recommend wearing a sun hat or having an umbrella if you do this in the summertime during the day. If you use an umbrella, be mindful not to poke others in the head with it! 😂 My mom took a few accidental pokes but she was a good sport about it. The boat was a little shaky when we stepped into it. My mom was nervous it would tip over. I wasn’t nervous about that happening. It didn’t come anywhere near tipping over. We rode with 3 other members from our group. So, six people, including the gondolier, fit inside.
After the gondola ride, we went back to the hotel and had a few Italian-inspired evening beverages. 🥂
The bright red-orange drink is called Spritz. Everywhere we went in Italy, people were drinking Spritz (after 5:30pm). I watched a bartender make it, and now we’re making Spritz at home. It’s equal parts Aperol liqueur and Prosecco wine, a splash of club soda with an orange slice in the drink… stirred over ice. You’re welcome! 😁
While having my spritz in the hotel restaurant, I wrote the first vacation edition Tip of the Day for my blog. Since Italy is 7 hours ahead of the U.S., I could post my blog in the evening, and my followers would see it around 10am or 10:30am.
We spent two days in Venice before boarding our coach bus and heading to the next city. We definitely started in what’s become one of my favorite Italian cities. Technically, Venice is a “sinking city” literally. Because it’s built on an island laced with canals, the infrastructure is sinking. Experts believe the city will be there for decades to come, but I’m glad I got to see Venice in the event the water levels become drastic in the future.
I think of Venice every time I have a Spritz in my backyard now. If you use the Spritz recipe, cheers! 🥂
This was just the beginning of my tour of Italy. Stay tuned for the rest of the series. For now, arrivederci.