Europe, Italy, Travel

Venice (Day Two)

There is nothing more awesome than waking up in an incredible hotel room and realizing that right out your balcony is nothing but water.

For those of us that are used to street noise, it’s so surreal to wake up to the sounds of “waterway noise”.  Instead of car engines, it’s boat engines.  Instead of horns honking, it’s laughter.  Instead of car gridlock and pavement, it’s a parade of boats through a canal.

Our day started with breakfast at Hotel Danieli.  Note that many of the cafes in Venice serve pastries and coffee.  Since I’m allergic to wheat, finding breakfast becomes a bit more difficult.  This hotel’s buffet, although 20 euro, was good enough. And, while already in the 90s outside, the outdoor patio offered us great views of the waterway.

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Since it was so hot out, we had two options for the day: Visit the Murano Glass Factory or head to Hotel Cipriani for use of the beach.  While I was so eager for the latter, the temps were just too much to want to bear for the day.  Instead, we did what we were meant to do: Learn all about how this very expensive glass is made, meet the Master Artisans, and go shopping!

Murano Glass Factory

From our hotel, we were given a free boat ride over to Murano Island.  From there, we were greeted by our tour guide, who is part of the Murano family.  He guided us into the factory to watch the Artisans work.  As you enter into the factory and look up, you can’t help but notice the abundance of glass chandeliers hanging above you in every vibrant color.

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And, you fully appreciate the time it takes to create one of these magnificent pieces, once you watch their demonstration.

It’s amazing to think that these works of art are created from sand and through patience and skill, can emerge something so beautiful.

When the demonstration was over, we were escorted to the beginning of their 12-room gallery, showcasing the absolute genius of these Artisans.  It was seriously like stepping into Willy Wonka’s Factory, except for glass.  Everything from hand railings, to mirrors, to lamps, and candelabras guided our way up the stairs to our first room.

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Each room was just a little bit different from the other.  They ranged from the common Murano glass pieces we see everyday, to absolutely works of art – scenery that requires layers upon layers of different glass to capture something, in what looks frozen in time.  Other rooms offered beverage serving ware, to 24k gold, hand-painted pieces; to Cinderella-inspired mirrors.  In fact, Lebron James had just ordered a $250K mirror that was still on display in the gallery (yes, it’s a proud moment to say I’ve seen it, before it was headed to its new home however, I wasn’t allowed to take any pics of it).

Note that the custom, artisanal work comes straight out the factory we visited and can be shipped, within 4 weeks of order date.  The smaller pieces you see in the U.S. are outsourced to other factories around the world.  It’s genuine but just not straight from Murano Island.

Caffe Florian

My last stop in Venice, which I regret not having spent more time in, was Caffe Florian in St. Mark’s Square. First opened in 1720, this has been the go-to cafe for some of the most famous artists (writers, painters, sculptors, etc.) in the world.  It’s also the only cafe in the 1800s that allowed women, which explains Casanova’s frequenting of it.

But what Caffe Florian is also known for are their macarons, chocolates, teas, and fragrances.  For 21 euro, we were able to sample eight different macarons in flavors, such as: lavender, passion fruit, pear, pistachio, blueberry/vanilla, chocolate/coconut, coffee, and lemon; as well as their milk/dark chocolate – all of which are original recipes.  Nothing disappointed us.

If you go to Venice, this place is an absolute must!  It is the main reason I want to go back to Venice!

Leaving Venice by Airport

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Venice, to head back to the states.  And, it’s a bit of a trek.  For 150 euro (includes tip), a water taxi took the seven of us (and our luggage) on a one-hour ride to Marco Polo Airport.

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Note that once they drop you off, it’s still a seven-minute walk to departures.  They offer shuttles and/or porter service for your bags. If you’re going in the summer, I suggest springing for this if you don’t want to walk with your luggage.

Once you’re inside the airport and at your ticketing counter for check-in, your passport and itinerary are looked at, they ask you some security questions, and you check in.  If you’re headed back to the states, they will direct you to a special security line, in which you will go through security one at a time.  Once through, I suggest you eat any meals before going through Passport Control – there aren’t a whole lot of options once you’re through.

Suggestions/Tips

  1. If you want to tour anything in Venice that requires tickets, go for later tour times – there are so many tour groups that think the morning is the best time to go. It’s actually the hottest/most humid time of day and the lines can be as long as two hours.
  2. As our guide at the Murano Glass Factory put it, Venice has become “Veniceland”.  There are a TON of tour groups that come through – my suggestion is to visit St. Mark’s square but also do your homework on the best places to eat/snack.  There are so many hidden alleyways with delicious food – the aromas alone will carry you in that direction anyway 🙂
  3. Caffee Florian is a must.  Next time, I’m making a reservation for a tea service!
  4. I also wish I was there on a day when the Opera (Teatro La Fenice) was open.  It’s one of the oldest forms of entertainment in Venice, and would be incredible to experience.  Definitely try to fit that in.  They are open Wednesday – Saturday.
  5. Definitely take the Murano Glass Factory tour – it’s very worth it.  However, if you want to shop there, note that there is nothing available under 100 euros.
  6. Water taxi to the airport is 150 euro (includes tip) and because it takes an hour, make sure to give yourself at least 3 hours from hotel dock to gate.