Shortly after crossing the Italian border, we left Domenico and the coach behind and boarded our water taxi to “The Floating City”. We coasted along the Venetian Lagoon, taking in the sights and soon, Venice emerged in the distance, an amalgam of light and color.
One again, Insight Vacations impressed us with their choice of accommodations. Hotel Gabrielli sits on the waterfront known as Riva degli Schiavoni and offers incredible views of the lagoon. The hotel is furnished in authentic Venetian style and we were charmed when the desk clerk gave us an actual key for our room! The room was spacious and comfortable, with a small balcony overlooking the inner courtyard below.
After settling in, we met Ruth and the rest of our group for a short walking tour of the waterfront. We marveled at the Bridge of Sighs, which is an integral part of Venetian folklore and the only covered bridge in Venice, and world-famous Piazza San Marco, also known as Saint Marks Square. “La Piazza”, as its called by the locals, is home to Saint Mark’s Basillca and perhaps the most photographed landmark in Venice, Saint Mark’s Campanile.
Everyone listened intently to Ruth’s history lesson about the area and then we followed her to a small dock, where several gondolas awaited to take us on a tour of the canals Venice is famous for. The gondolier carefully guided us onto our gondola and away we went. One gondola was occupied solely by musicians, who serenaded us with lovely Italian music for the duration of the trip. We later enjoyed a relaxing dinner at the Bar Ristorante Bucintoro right outside our hotel. Sunset over the lagoon was a spectacular sight and we were super excited for the evening excursion, a twilight cruise of the majestic Grand Canal via private water taxi!
Venice’s Grand Canal is the largest and most populated canal in Venice. The canal is bordered on either side with buildings of various classical styles, which house everything from cafés and businesses to private residences. This is also where Venice hold its Historical Regatta, an annual boat race that draws thousands of spectators. The “grand finale” to this incredible experience was an invitation to the exclusive Café Florian in St. Mark’s Square. Considered to be the oldest café in Europe, Café Florian was the perfect place to conclude our evening. We indulged in their specialty drink, the Florian Spritz, and a dish of gelato while we watched a delightful quartet play both Italian and American music.
Strolling back to our hotel, it was hard to imagine a more perfect day than this, but there was still many amazing adventures to be had on the Road to Rome. Check back soon to read about our second day in enchanting Venice!