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  • An Unforgettable Venetian Journey
    You don't have to break the bank to experience and enjoy the world's dreamiest city
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio


    Grand Canal - Venice
    No city is more romantic than Venezia. And now I know firsthand, for sure, with certainty. After arriving in Roma on Monday, my boyfriend Antonio, a native of the Neapolitan island of Ischia, picked me up and surprised me. At first he wouldn't tell me where we were going. Then, he mentioned the town of Jesolo, which I did not know. As we inched closer to our destination, I saw the signs for Milan and Venezia. In my gut, I knew then we were on our way to see the city on water in all its glory, which had been a long-held dream of mine. But having a native Italian plan the trip for me made all the difference; this surprise was affordable, yet met every expectation I had and then some.

    Antonio wasn't lying when he said we were going to Jesolo, a town that is accessible to Venezia by boat. Hotel Fenix, where we stayed for our two-day sojourn, was actually in the nearby town of Cavallino Treporti. It was downright charming alive with colorful plants, a sparkling clean pool that was separated from the beach only by hedges, and a friendly staff that made you feel like family. After a good night's rest, we headed to Jesolo to pick up the boat to Venezia.

    Arriving in Saint Mark's Square is like a dream. Everywhere you turn, you find history - from St. Mark's Church to the notorious pigeons. Bring your camera and take as many photos as you can of this piazza because you'll want to capture every inch of it. The Biblical paintings on the sides of some of the buildings and the intricate, ornate architecture can't be put into words.

    The fearless will make friends with the pigeons roaming all over the square. Many visitors feed them. One guy even put food on his head and arm to get a photo of himself with the little critters who consider the piazza their nest. I fearfully walked into a team of them for a very fast snapshot - much to Antonio's chagrin. He was hoping I would pick up one of them, but I still think of them as rats with wings. I couldn't bring myself to do it.

    Of course, a trip to Venezia wouldn't be complete without a stop at the famous bridges that connect visitors and residents from one street to another. Many tourists take rides on the gondolas, but they seemed way overpriced to us at 80 euro for a 15-minute tour. We passed and instead took pictures of the gondoliers from atop the bridges.

    A heat wave has been beating down on all of Italy, and it was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit when we were in Venezia. To keep cool, we purchased an ice cold orange granita for 3 euro each. For lunch, we picked up pizza and panini from the street vendors, who offer economical, quick, and tasty bites. You can also get fresh fruit - even coconut - along the way.

    Shopaholics won't be able to contain themselves in this magnificent city. Here, you'll find all sorts of lovely souvenirs. Some of the most common include brightly colored and uniquely designed ceramic and leather Carnevale masks, hand-knitted parasols, glass art from nearby Murano, and handmade linens from nearby Burano. If you want to go right to the source, you can take a boat that leaves every 20 minutes to either Murano or Burano. In fact, Antonio and I headed to Murano to see the experts make the world's finest glass products. Even though the room for the demonstration felt like it was 1,000 degrees hotter than outside, the stop was well worth it. We picked up a few vases and figurines for friends, family, and ourselves before bidding farewell to Venezia and its islands.

    Being on the water with the cooing couples and singing gondoliers, one can not help but feel lighter. You're free and without stress. Love and history are all around you - and the smooch Antonio gave me in St. Mark's Square is probably the loveliest I will ever have. That's why everyone should make it to Venezia at least once in her life.

    For more information on all things Italian, including photo tours of Venezia, visit www.francescadimeglio.com.

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