In 2012, I went to Italy for the first time with my family, and I hated Venice.
Right after I’d graduated from high school, my sister and I begged and pleaded to go abroad, and my foodie parents selected Italy. We all loved the food and the culture, but not one of us was big on Venice. It was July, and therefore it was hot, dark, crowded, and confusing. We stuck to St. Mark’s Place for almost the whole day.
On Contiki’s Eastern Trail, we got to spend one whole, incredible day in Venice, which completely changed my perspective.
We were set loose upon Venice with zero plan. My friend and I opted out of the trip’s additional activities for Venice in favor of others at different stops on our trip, but our own personal wanderings gave our fellow travelers a little something to be jealous of.
We picked just any cafe for lunch, mostly because we were ravenous by the time we arrived in Venice, after being squished on our bus all morning (There was a lot of being squished on the bus all morning on our trip, but I kind of love the whole mush-pile tour bus thing? Long bus rides are for deep thought, finding yourself, and unintentionally cuddling with whoever ends up sitting next to you… or for taking intense, mouth-open kind of naps. Whatever floats your boat… because Venice. OK, I’ll stop now.).
Afterwards, we took a lift to the very tippy top of Campanile di San Marco (Eight or nine euros for a breathtaking view. No, I did not cry, but it was definitely one of those “this is actually my life” moments in which I got dangerously close) and very carefully navigated the warped floors of Basilica San Marco to avoid any ankle-breaking. We then spent the afternoon happily lost, souvenir shopping and treating ourselves until we could no longer find any justification for our purchases. We followed the yellow and black signs from Rialto Bridge to Piazza San Marco and back again, before making ourselves at home along the Grand Canal with our loot and two Aperol Spritzes. It was my favorite afternoon of our whole trip, and probably one of my favorite afternoons ever.
We did dinner in reverse and started with dessert, because when you find what you’re looking for in Venice, you do not walk away because you’ll never find it again. Gelato is acceptable for any meal anyway, right? Our backwards dinner were some of the best things I ate, which can be found here.
I found myself exceptionally sad as we boarded the little charter boat back to our bus, as I watched Venice disappear behind us, and as our bus driver drove endlessly around a roundabout so we could finish singing along to a playlist our group had curated. It was a day I’d only heard other travelers tell stories of. One that never felt like it’d ever be mine, and in such a place I had so disliked years before.
But it was mine, and it was pure magic.