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Italy: Day 14-16 – Big Family European Expedition

    We were up by 615 AM when what sounded like air raid sirens started going off.  The weather was good, and it was too early for a drill or practice. So the kids were worried, and I texted the poor host (though I don’t know how he could sleep through that anyway). He texted back:

    “Don’t worry. It happens all the time. I think it’s just a way of getting mountain rescue up and out. I could be a cow with a broken leg needs a helicopter ride or something.

    What??  It happens all the time???? ….. city wide sirens to airlift cows?   HA – it was much better than some alternatives and surely an interesting way to start our day.

    Day 14- Venice!

    We left our beautiful mountains of Austria for Italy. The drive time was fairly short to Venice and we were literally 40 minutes out of the way from Slovenia. I thought it may be fun to stop there for lunch just to do it. Tricky thing that…. as in some European countries you have to have stickers on your car that you buy to drive on their roads (tolls). The regular car price was about 10$. Well worth another country for an hour or two.  The part that got us was that we’re not driving a regular car, we’re driving a tank! It was going to be much more so, unfortunately, we couldn’t justify it.

    We got to Venice car park. Which with research we discovered that parking the van for 11 days would actually be cheaper than returning the van and then renting another for the rest of our trip.  The one-way fees and charges are quite extraordinary.  The tronchetto (parking garage) advertises 50% discount for cruise travelers.    We were actually staying 3 extra days in Venice pre-cruise and they also gave us those days at ½ price.  So the full price is 21 Euro/day and we got it for 11.5 euro/day. (the one-way fee for returning the van in Venice was $800!!!)

    We then had to figure out how to get 7 people, 7 backpacks and 7 pieces of luggage from the car park on the mainland to the BnB on the island of Venice. This involved two different boat rides and a 4 block walk in a flash thunderstorm! Literally the only time it rained. It was gorgeous before and after!  Scott is the best traveler- reminding us that these adventures are what will make the best memories.

    We got to our apartment and the renter couldn’t meet us but sent an alternate hostess- who spoke zero English! We got a tour in Italian and surprisingly I think between gestures and miming we were able to understand all she wanted to communicate.

    This rental was again a second-floor apartment.  It had a full kitchen and eat in dining area, the main level sitting area,  a full bath, laundry, a loft and a bedroom.  The Bedroom slept 3, the loft slept two and there was a full bed in the main living area.  The benefit of the main room sleeping area was the room air conditioner.  The loft and main living area were cooled and this was of the utmost importance while sleeping in Venice in the summer. So much so that the 3 who had the bedroom gave it up to sleep on couches in the air conditioning.  The draw on this rental was the terrace…the views were incomparable.  

    We freshened up and set out to explore, the kids found a trinket shop and talked us into purchasing and also wearing masquerade masks.

    We ate dinner without looking touristy at all- lol, but we did have fun! We enjoyed some gelato and then snuggled in to sleep.

    Day 15 – Exploring the City

    Unfortunately, the power went off at 615 AM waking me up. Fortunately, I was able to finish my book on the roof deck while waiting for everyone else to get up. Finished the Nightingale- fantastic read!

    We went exploring (shopping) and then took a walking tour of the city. Our guide was terrific, filling us in on the geography, history, culture, food, and drink. We learned many interesting facts and saw some of the beauty of the city.

    One of our favorite stops was the Alta Acqua Libreria bookstore that she took us to. The shop was filled with books set up quirky and fun.  It reminded the kids of what Diagon Alley looked like in the Harry Potter world.

    The kids really enjoyed it and we learned a lot. We had to get gelato to cool us after the walk.

    We later ran to the grocers to get some basics; I have really enjoyed grocery shopping in all of the cities we have visited.  It’s interesting to see the different foods stocked and also educating to see the prices!  We purchased some basics including pasta, fruit, pastry, cola, and water.

    We then explored some more.  It was so different here, the tiny passageways through town were quite different than what we generally choose to walk through – it felt uncomfortable at first until we realized that this was common for most of the walkways.  It was fun to explore but not so easy to get home. 

    Our GPS didn’t work – it lagged too much to give us an idea of where we were and this town is like a giant labyrinth! On the plus side we saw a lot of the city and due to all the walking, we had to get more gelato!!  We ended up finding our way to the outer edge of the island and walking along until we found our way back to our original water taxi drop and then went home from there.

    Big debate on what to do for our last day. Our options included 1. Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs and St Mark’s Basilica. (How could we not do this??) 2. A boat ride to the islands of Burano and Murano (to see a glass blowing exhibition) or 3. A gondola ride (again how can we not??? Especially since our littlest told us all that it’s on her bucket list – HA!)

    Day 16

    I was a bit off my game this AM; oversensitive and emotional. This had been a fantastic vacation and I would do it again in a heartbeat but I think the traveling and language barriers and food choices (for crying out loud I actually was craving a hot dog and French fries ) caught up to me. We regrouped and set out to enjoy our last day in Italy.

    So to fix the traveling, language barriers, and new foods issues, we ate at a restaurant which had a ceiling covered in real grape vines and where the staff spoke no English and I ordered a plate of unknown Cicchetti (essentially tapas – a whole bunch of things to try). And then tried whatever it was including octopus, squid, and other random seafood.  LOL  Seriously, I actually looked up how to eat an octopus (what parts to eat).  All but the littles ate the legs. Our oldest son ate it first and said it was weird how all the suckers were falling off in his mouth!!!! Ga-ross!!!!! He was tricking us all- but still.

    View from Bridge of Sighs

    We then toured the museum in the Piazza San Marco, Doge’s Palace, and walked across the Bridge of Sighs! Two of the kids even danced the tango in one of the ballrooms.

    Sala del Collegio by Paolo Veronese in Doge’s Palace 1575-1576

    The art was amazing, the views gorgeous.

    Doge's Palace

    The kids kept saying things reminded them of the castle in Beauty and the Beast… and then we saw the candlestick right next to the clock!!!! Lumiere and Cogsworth!!

    We planned to visit the basilica but missed St Marks opening hours.  We were disappointed but we learned we could attend mass inside. My kids weren’t overly enthusiastic but it was actually a pretty cool experience to attend a mass in Latin in St Marks Basilica (especially for me as I was raised Catholic)! Plus the basilica itself was beautiful to look at for a half hour!!  The kids all ended up counting this as one of the most memorable experiences.

    Our grand finale was a gondola ride, had to be done.  The boat regulations are strict on 6 people! We even asked a few different places and texted our rental host as we did not want to have to separate into 2 different boats.   

    We got soooo lucky in the guide we had as he allowed us all into one and cruised the grand canal at sunset. I laughed as I told the littlest that she could cross the gondola ride off her bucket list but she proceeded to inform me that her bucket list item was a gondola ride WITH a singing gondolier which we did not have.  She is a feisty one.

    We didn’t get to the islands but I did get an authentic blown glass necklace.  So I think we did well.


    Terri L

    Terri L

    Terri has been married to her best friend, Scott, for 20 years and together they have 5 children. She has been blessed to be able to be a SAHM since her first was born over 14 years ago. In addition to finding new and creative ways to entertain 5 children, she enjoys date nights with her husband, photography, reading, and traveling with her crew.