So, we finally made it to Italy roughly 30 hours after we had initially anticipated.
The four of us traveling together planned to spend the first five days in Rome, and the second five days in Venice. We ended up selecting Airbnbs with the utmost prime locations, luckily for us, as our Rome spot was a two minute walk from the Pantheon, and our Venice spot was smack dab in the middle of Cannaregio, three minutes from the Grand Canal.
Okay, so story time of some highlights between the two cities…
Our MyTaxi driver in Rome got into an accident… and did, like, multiple hit and runs. They have these dinky little cars to go with their dinky little streets, and this dude, first, ran into the corner of a building while trying to turn down one of these tiny streets, second, hit at least three cars and/or mopeds while trundling down this tiny street, and third, got stuck trying to exit the tiny street by a moped blocking the way.
And by ‘got stuck’ I mean, we literally sat there for fifteen minutes while he begged for help in Italian to people passing by because, not only could he not move forward or backward with his car, but we were wedged in between the building on the left and the cars lined up on the right to the point where none of us could even open our car doors. The four of us were just sitting in the back with our mouths open. I was trying not to laugh. I mean, the hit and run part is absolutely heinous, but at this point…
Two gentlemen finally took pity on us and stopped to move the moped (with great difficulty I might add), and we continued on our merry, albeit slightly horrified, way. As a pedestrian in Rome, you really have to be careful because, apparently, they don’t believe in sidewalks. Or clear street signs for walking. You’ll be walking down the street and these tiny little Fiats will try and mow you down if you don’t move quick enough. Constant vigilance in Rome, people.
We ended up doing the majority of our sightseeing after 12am in Rome, mostly because we were too lazy/tired to wake up before noon most days, but also because we found the best tourist sights were not swamped with tourists at that point. See below for some stellar pictures. It was interesting walking through Rome because you get these super old school sights with amazing architecture where you can literally feel the history and culture just seeping out of the scene, and then you walk 5 steps to the left and, oh… hello, McDonald’s.
We went out clubbing only one night in Rome, but it was quite the night that really did not need an encore. One of my friends from college is quite familiar with traveling around Rome and suggested a bar for us in the more ‘poppin’ side of town, if you will. Thing is, just like how Paris is the city that never sleeps, Rome is like the city that always sleeps. Things close down there wicked early. Ironically, we ended up running into the only other minority Americans in Rome (or so it would seem) and linking up with them. As my friend so comically put it “black people always be finding each other, no matter what.”
They had a friend who was living and working in Rome, and therefore knew all the late night spots. It was one of those super random nights that ended up being a blast… and we literally partied until 6am. I’m too old for that… and I didn’t wake up until 6pm the next day… and I really only woke up to eat pasta.
We took a 5 hour train from Rome to Venice. We brought a bottle of wine on board and had the obligatory glass of wine in Tuscany as the train whipped through the scenery. We’re classy like that.
FYI, if you’re training into Venice, don’t stop at the Mestre Station, it’s not even actual Venice, it’s part of Italy proper before you cross the bridge to get to the island that is Venice. Get a train that will take you to the St. Lucia Station, which stops about 100 feet from the Grand Canal. We didn’t go to St. Lucia and had to take a 25 euro taxi to the edge of Venice, where he had to drop us off since cars are not allowed in the island. I’ll add that, as annoying as that was because we just wanted to get to our Airbnb, which was a 20 minute walk from where he dropped us off, not having any cars or bikes makes walking extra glorious in Venice.
The main thing that is so special about Venice, in my opinion, is that boats take the place of any form of transportation you can think of in any other city. Need a taxi? Take a water taxi. Need a bus? Take the water bus. Want a cute horse and carriage trip? Get you a gondola. Just turned 16 and got your license? Now you get a boat, congrats. Slept over someone’s house and now need to walk-of-shame home? Nah, you boat-of-shaming home.
Even the garbage trucks are actually garbage boats. FYI, trash pick-up in Venice is every morning 6:30am-8:30am except Sundays, and you need to bring your trash to one of 14 designated garbage boats in order to rid yourself of your trash. Not only that, but the city has it scheduled which kind of trash is picked up on which days, for example, glass and plastic is only picked up on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
We checked out on a Saturday and did not read that handy, and, oh, so obvious schedule until that morning at 9am, realizing with horror we had missed the trash pick-up completely. We, being the together girls that we are, had not bothered to take out the trash at all up until this point. We ended up each grabbing a trash bag and running around the city trying to find empty garbage cans or one of the kind gentlemen doing manual trash pick-up. Not so fun in the rain, let me tell ya.
The other thing so totally cool about Venice is that they have legitimate street signs for their water roads. While on the water metro to Burano (which, by the way, runs 24/7 just like NYC’s metro system), I tried to take some pictures of them, but they did not come out great… just like an NYC subway, the windows were wicked dirty.
Regardless, the entire body of water surrounding all of Venice’s many islands features poles and lights stuck up out of the water to dictate which boats drive on the left, which drive on the right, where they can stop if they need to, areas for beginning boaters to practice driving, areas for competitive boaters to work on their craft, and the designated pathways for the water metros and other fast-moving boats. To me, being on a boat in Venice felt literally the same as riding a bus in a regular city… although one of my friends got seasick so I am 110% sure she would not agree with that.
Burano was the most authentic-feeling place we visited while in Venice. We realized too late, however, that all the restaurants closed at 5pm since March is not peak-tourist season, so we were very sad after we had gotten our gorgeous photos with the colorful houses. They also had vintage Venetian clothing, similar in style to what you imagine they wore to Carnivale way back in the day. I would have bought at least one outfit had they not cost over 300 euros per piece.
Side note – for 20 euros, you can get a 24-hour water pass, which means for 24 hours you can ride any boat (except the super fancy gondolas) all inclusive, whether just to jump over the Grand Canal, to get to Murano, Burano, or any of the islands, or just to sit and trek all the way around the entire set of islands. Definitely worth it, in my opinion. 30 euros to do a 48 hour pass. The super fancy gondolas, however, are 80 euros for a 30-minute ride, up to 6 people per boat, and includes a very brief historical depiction of the area you boat through.
Of course, if you’re with a group of attractive girls and one of them agrees to sit on the lap of the gondola man and take a picture with him, you get 20 euros knocked off the total price. Don’t ask me how I know that.
Oh, and only some of them sing and wear the striped outfits, so make sure to ask. Get you a gondola man that can do both.
Last thing, which I found quite funny, was that we witnessed a fight in Venice. This was no ordinary fight. This was a fight brought on because a man boating down one of the smaller canals splashed another man walking down the streets of the canal. I’m assuming they were both drunk, because it went on far longer than necessary, and did not really seem to be that serious. The land equivalent of a man driving near mud, skidding his tires, and splashing another man with that mud, if you will.
However, while my friends and I watched, clutching our bottle of wine (totally open carry city, by the way, just like New Orleans, where you can also get any and all drinks in to-go cups and wander the streets sipping them), voices were raised, punches were thrown, dogs leapt to defend their owners, someone fell into the canal, men were chased over bridges, and all of the people living in the buildings on either side of the canal were hanging out of the windows, like:
An interesting time was had by all.. except the dude who fell in the canal, of course.
To end this post, here are some quick observations and personal opinions between the two cities:
- Walking in Rome is awful, and coming to Venice after 5 days of stumbling over the aggressively raised cobblestones felt like a dream come true. I had bought a fairly decent pair of walking boots from Macys several months earlier, and trying to navigate the streets of Rome for that short period of time literally destroyed the structure of the boots. The four of us wandering the streets vacillated between looking like a baby deer learning to walk for the first time, and young girls going to the club wearing heels they really ought not to have been wearing in the first place. Venice has cobblestones, sure, but they’re set deep into the street and look more like large stone tiles than outright rocks jutting out of the surface.
- The plumbing situation in Rome was reminiscent of a city deeply concerned about its water usage- much like Los Angeles should be, but I was not aware (and please forgive my ignorance) that Rome was experiencing such a drought. Under no circumstance should I ever have to stand next to a toilet I have just flushed for an additional 15 minutes in order to assist my you-know-what down the drain. Our Airbnb host had even left a sturdy pair of orange, waterproof, elbow-high gloves right next to the toilet bowl, as if to say “Yes, ladies, you will need to don these in order to ensure your flatmates are not greeted by your leftover business when it’s their turn to investigate the facilities.”Oh, and mind you, this plumbing situation went for every restaurant and establishment we visited in Rome. Venice, on the other hand, was a literal breath of fresh air. We spent a solid 5 minutes cheering when everything flushed with a single flush and, yes, this too corresponded with the plumbing situation in all other establishments in Venice.
- Gelato is 100 times better in Rome than Venice. I promise you.
- There is no Uber in Italy. There is, however, MyTaxi, which is basically the same thing. Beware, MyTaxi is not a thing in Venice. No cars allowed in Venice. No bikes either, as far as I can tell. FYI- this means no food delivery for you! Although, let’s be honest, if you’re in a new city, please don’t sit in your Airbnb and have people bring your meals to you… come on now.
- Venice is 100 times cheaper than Rome. If you’re going to both places and you see a souvenir you like in Rome, don’t buy it in Rome… buy it in Venice. For example, I am determined to buy a unique shot glass from every country I visit. I popped into several shops in Rome, taking stock of the options, and noting that the prices ranged from 8 euros to 15 euros for the super nice, non-tacky ones. Upon arrival in Venice, I found the exact same shot glasses for 2 euros.
- Both Venice and Rome appear to be pretty touristy, in my opinion. In Rome, it was touristy due to the masses of people everywhere, and the very gimmicky style in which restaurants attempt to get you to eat there: “Ah, bellissima! Come over here, I have great food for you! Homemade pasta! Ah, my love, you break my heart if you don’t eat here!” In Venice, on the other hand, the touristy bit was repetitiveness of the establishments. All the restaurants had the same 15 dishes, for the most part, and all of the stores featured the same types of wares. Same souvenirs, same bags, same clothes, same everything. My friend’s dad described it like a ride-less carnival.
- Between both cities, eating can get pretty expensive. This was annoying for me because there were not a lot of different food options. Normally when my friends and I travel, we like to play this game where we pick an ethnicity we want to eat that meal, then walk around until we find it. But, in Rome and Venice, it was like “Hmm, what ethnicity do you feel like?“… “Gee, um, Italian?” Literally the only option.
Side note – I’m going in for my weekly Boditrax scan tomorrow with my personal trainer (if you recall from my previous post, I am trying to get into shape), and I’m pretty sure my scan is going to reveal that I am now 40% gluten after this trip.
Anyways, point is, many restaurants will have a daily special where, instead of spending 15 euros on an appetizer (antipasto/i) and then 15-20 euros on a main course, you can spend 10-15 euros total on a set menu that gives an appetizer, main course, and either a dessert or a glass of wine. Not too shabby, in my humble opinion. Keep an eye out for them.
Overall 8/10 to return