We traveled from New Orleans to Venice in December. While we had this trip planned for months, we did not anticipate that the Pirate would be on crutches for it. His knee surgery in early October was much more invasive and painful that we were led to believe it would be. Post-surgery, the doctors informed us that it was much worse than they thought and the healing time would be 4 months. Yikes! What was done was done though, and we had no choice but to accept it. And Pirate being a true Pirate, gritted his teeth through the pain and medicated with rum as needed. Off to Venice we went- 10 hour plane ride and lots of rum later- we landed in a very cold and wet ancient city.
We took the Vaporetto to our hotel. Luckily the small boat was enclosed with heating and protection from the rain. The waters were rough and it was difficult for Pirate to get on and off with his knee, but we managed. It was a beautiful ride through the Grand Canal. There was so much boat traffic in Venice, it is amazing there aren’t more accidents. Vaporettos and gondolas and water taxis come centimeters apart as they pass each other in the narrow passageways and canals. There were even gondoliers racing in the nasty weather amongst the crazy boat congestion. We made it safely to the Hotel Bauer and breathed a sigh of relief.
The Bauer is a fabulous hotel right in the center of Venice steps away from the Piazza San Marco. Next door are the uber-luxury Italian designer boutiques of Prada, Mui Mui, Versace, Ferragamo and Gucci. However, we arrived in the midst of the Aqua Alta so there was sadly (for me, not Pirate) no shopping to be done. Aqua Alta is when the tide reaches its maximum state in the Venice lagoon and the streets of the city flood. While Venetians are used to this and view it as just another charming feature of their city, it can be quite jarring to those seeing it for the first time. It was literally necessary to walk places on elevated plank risers which were quite narrow only allowing for two slender people to slither past each other when going in opposite directions. Navigating these risers with crutches and a bad knee was out of the question. Some braved the waters in hip boots- but not many. We opted to wait for low tide before venturing out and instead headed to the bar. It was a great choice as they made the best champagne cocktail we ever had!
When the tides were low, we went to some amazing places and saw some beautiful sights. We enjoyed an opulent dinner composed of wine and lots of deserts at Caffe Florian on the Piazza San Marco. We also loved wandering the narrow streets of the San Polo district and walking across the Rialto Bridge. It was easy to get lost in the winding streets with no names, but it was no problem because everywhere was beautiful and had wonderful window shopping and great places to stop for a tasty treat or glass of vino.
We befriended a gondolier named Nico. He is a 7th generation gondolier and his son will be the 8th generation soon. He said that gondoliering is a revered profession there that is very hard to get into unless you are born into it (sort of like river pilots in New Orleans). Nico said that there are 400 and something gondolas in Venice (one for every bridge). Their gondolas are works of art made of shiny black wood, gold filigree and plush velvety cushions. It was awesome to chat with him about his livelihood and his beautiful city over a bottle of wine.
Our time in Venice flew by and before we knew it, it was time to board that vaporetto again- this time out of the city. But our departure was not a sad one, as we are returning in May. Springtime in Venice promised to be even better- less high water, a stronger Pirate knee, more shopping and more wine!