During my study abroad trip to Milan, I realized I had a Sunday completely free. On a spontaneous inclination, I booked a tour to the legendary city of Venice. Although the tour began at seven in the morning, I enjoyed the bus ride through the rolling Italian hills, home to wineries and historic buildings. As we approached Venice, it was obvious why so many tourist are attracted to this gorgeous area.
The smell of the ocean water and the warmth of the sun was a pleasant welcome. After a quick boat ride, we arrived on the beautiful islands. Venice is made of hundreds of islands connected by many, many ancient stone bridges. The legendary gondolas can be seen bobbing between the buildings, holding not only tourist, but locals traveling to their next destination. As one walks around, many shops and stands can be found, selling hand painted art work, incredible Italian blown glass, and uniquely crafted masks. What many do not know is that in Venice the celebration of Carnival is a big deal. During the months of January and February, before the Catholic observation of Lent, they wear masks and live by the rule “anything goes”; however the masks are sold year round. Not only are they a creative way to hide one’s identity, but a beautiful way of self-expression. Every mask is different, and a true mask has small imperfections, thus one is unable to imitate it.
The last perk of our trip was a private gondola ride. One can really get to know the city of Venice by floating through the waterways. Some of these streets were quiet and peaceful. To the left I could see barnacles and crabs, and to the right I could see rustic doorways and overflowing flower pots. All I could hear was rushing water and the murmur of the locals. Other waterways took me under bridges, past the main tourist spots, and even past a professional Italian opera singer and his accordion player. I could smell fresh dough. When I looked up, I saw a bright blue sky framed by yellow, tan, and red roof tops. I could take in the Venice scenery for hours.
Alas, this was only a day trip. To those who are interested, I recommend staying overnight. By doing this, one can walk the streets at their own pace, take their time, and really embrace all that Venice has to offer. Although some areas can be crowded, the city is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I think every study abroad student in Italy should take advantage of.
Dominique is a Summer 2019 Milan student from Northern Illinois University.