Souls Like the Wheels, Turning, Taking Us With Wind at Our Heels

When I laid out this Italy trip with travel between so many cities, I thought the time in the car would be great for sight-seeing, catching little glimpses of places to visit on the next go-round. Hilarious. I can barely stay awake in a car I’m not driving without six hours’ worth of jet lag, so inevitably, after putting in eight hours of sight-seeing in Venice by mid-afternoon, we both slept most of the way to Florence. God bless Pino for Driving Miss Drowsies all over Italy.

In Florence, we checked into the adorable Rovezzano B&B, where the room keys were adorably quaint and the ambience was on point.

We took a few brief moments to settle in before navigating the buses up to Piazzale Michaelangelo, a lofty viewpoint over Florence. The only thing that ranks higher than my love of churches is my love of a scenic overlook, and it was magnificent!

We rode the bus back down into town with good intentions of exploring Florence by night, but it soon became apparent that none of us had the energy for it. We were hungry and we were tired, so we found some food in a cross between a farmer’s market and a food court and then got right back on a bus bound for our beds.

We had a light schedule planned the next day touring Florence, so we enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in and linger over breakfast and the patio view before traveling into the city centre. As we walked through the B&B grounds, I spotted a lawn-mowing robot tending to the grass. I had no idea those existed, and being American where we find new ways to be lazy about everything, I didn’t expect my introduction to it to be in Italy.

Our first stop was Florence’s Duomo, where we waited with a long line of people for doors to open.

The exterior was staggering in size and beauty.

The interior was lovely, but couldn’t hold up to the outside. Nevertheless, the view under the dome was quite impressive.

Roman numerals still being something I have to stop and think about, the better part of a minute ticked by before I figured out this bizarre clock. It’s funny how ingrained some things become in our minds, like the hand placement on a clock.

Like most churches in Italy, the Duomo boasted some fantastic doors.

Even more eye-catching was the door on the battistero.

Our next church was the Chiesa di Orsanmichele, featuring sculptures of saints along the façade and an impressive Gothic interior.

The crowds in Florence were unrelenting. Like Rockefeller Center at Christmastime, but EVERYWHERE. I found it utterly baffling and extremely overwhelming. I realize that my view of Florence was tainted by my disdain of mobs of people walking slowly in my way, but of all the places in Italy, I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why Florence is the place everyone flocks to. I’m glad that I ignored every travel blogger that told me I should spend the bulk of my time in Italy in Florence. I didn’t even need the whole day.

That said, we did see some lovely places.

We ducked inside the Palazzo Vecchio in search of a bathroom, and found this beautiful foyer.

We walked by the Uffizi Gallery and stopped for a kitschy photo in homage to our White Collar memories, and then kept strolling, leaving other suckers to stand in line for hours to spend their whole day in stuffy, crowded hallways, pretending to care much more about old paintings than almost anyone actually does. Hard pass – no regrets.

We continued the Tourist March of the Penguins to the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). The water isn’t very pretty – pollution, presumably – but we snapped our photos, anyway.

Once we crossed over the bridge, the mobs dissipated greatly, making this my favorite part of Florence. We had a lovely lunch at 4 Leoni, arguably one of the best overall meals of the trip. (Except the chicken. Hear me: Italians haven’t the foggiest idea what to do with a chicken, so just say noooo.) We passed plates around as usual and discovered a new Italian appetizer, Fiori di Zucca, fried zucchini flowers. The flower that blooms before the zucchini grows – they pick that and fry it up, sometimes on its own, and sometimes with other fillings like meat or cheese. It was great! And, as always, Pino finished his meal with the tiniest cup of coffee.

During lunch, I was distracted trying to figure out the meaning of this street sign. At first I suspected graffiti, but upon closer inspection, it didn’t have that haphazard look to it, and I decided it had to be intentional. I took this picture and since discovered that it is the work of street artist Clet Abraham, who has cleverly altered many street signs across Italy in this manner. You can see more of them HERE.

We crossed back over the river via a less populated bridge and maintained a break from the crowded city centre on our way to Santa Maria Novella.

Santa Maria Novella was sprawling and had plenty to look at both inside the church and in its exterior passageways along the courtyard.

While we were nearby, we stopped into the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, founded by Dominican friars in 1221 to serve the monks’ infirmary by making herbal medications. It is accordingly one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, now selling high end perfumes and still featuring natural herbs in the vein of an old world Apothecary.

As we walked in search of our daily gelato ration, we stumbled upon another church (Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano) not in our plan, so of course we took time to peek inside.

We found our gelato and ate while we walked back to the Piazza della Signoria, better viewed in the afternoon light and with a somewhat lighter crowd.

The “Plaza of Statues” featured reproductions of many famous statues, but why linger around the reproductions when you can go see the real thing? So Tracey and I headed off to our appointment at L’Accademia for just that purpose, stealing a glimpse at the Riccardi Medici Palace as we passed.

At L’Accademia, the collection is quite small (comparatively speaking), but it boasts one particular crown jewel – the most famous sculpture in the world, Michaelangelo’s David.

Giambologna’s “Rape of the Sabine Women” is also on display.

And the newest addition to L’Accademia is a museum of musical instruments, containing many masterpieces including this Stradivari.

Having considered Florence to be one of the “rest stops” in our busy Italy itinerary, we headed back to the B&B early again and picked up a pizza to share on the terrace before turning in early to rest up before resuming our Tuscan adventure the next day.

Much like a first-time visitor to New York City must make a point to see Times Square, so must a first-time trip to Italy include a detour to Pisa’s Piazza dei Miracoli – the Plaza of Miracles. The tourist trap stands of random merchandise were thick as we walked toward the Piazza. I scooted by those, but got fascinated with these guys. If your question is, “How?” … the answer is that I have no idea.

Of course, the real star of Pisa is its Leaning Tower.

Our favorite part was watching the tourists.

Aaaaaand then BEING the tourists.

Get it? Yeahhhh, you do.

Some pictures work out…

…while some pictures are just so much better.

The tower is cool to see, I must admit.


The church was lovely as well. We almost missed it because it was closing for an event. The girl at the ticket counter (the church was free, but you had to have a ticket) said we were too late because they weren’t letting anyone in after noon. It was 11:58. I said we’d take the tickets AND our chances. And then we RAN the length of the piazza, using valuable tourist-dodging skills we both perfected in NYC. I didn’t even have to look back, because I knew that when I got to the entrance of that church, Tracey would be right behind me. She was, and we made it!

Then we were able to take our time touring the Baptistery of St. John, including climbing the very narrow and steep stairs up to the top.

The window at the top afforded a nice view of the church, with the tower leaning in the background.

Leaving Pisa, we stopped at a grocery store to get some more snack provisions and a lunch we could eat somewhere in Tuscany. Never in my life have I been so happy to see a pre-packaged grocery store salad. You know the kind with the tiny forks that can barely stab through a piece of iceberg lettuce? Yep, I nearly trampled people to get to them like it was the Black Friday sale of the century.

Then we drove on and watched for a place to stop and enjoy our lunches. We considered one spot along the rows of grapes, but decided to keep driving – after taking a few pictures, of course.

We pulled over again for a magnificent Tuscan landscape as we approached the town of San Gimignano. Its medieval skyline of towers can be seen on the hill to the right side of this picture. 14 towers remain of the original 72.

We had our salads (I devoured mine and half of Tracey’s) on park benches at the entrance to San Gimignano before we set out on foot to explore the fascinating 13th century town.

Another spell of riding, snacking, and snoozing brought us to Siena. Like every other town we visited in Tuscany, there was something beautiful to see in every direction.

Siena’s Duomo may have been my favorite both inside and out.

And yes, this is still inside the same church:

Siena is also home to the famous Palio Horse Race, which happens here in the Piazza del Campo every year on July 2nd and August 16th. While I’m sure it’s a sight to see, I was pretty content with a quiet piazza and no animals stampeding anywhere.

Group shot!

Having covered nearly 200 miles of road that day, we reached our hotel for the next two nights in Chianciano Terme, in the spa region of Tuscany. Once again, we followed our formula of finding dinner and then settling in for the night.

In the morning, we awoke to the sun rising over our balcony. This is by far the best way to wake up.

And the sun lured us out onto the balcony, pajama-clad, to take pictures.

Fortunately, at this point in the trip (day 7, if you’re counting!), we’d finally come around to the ability to keep our eyes open in the car – good news, since being awake is somewhat integral to enjoying a drive under the Tuscan sun. I attempted hundreds of through-the-window-on-a-winding-road pics, most of which didn’t turn out at all, but I certainly enjoyed taking them!

We pulled over for some better photo ops and visited a few more ancient towns along our way. First up was Montepulciano, seen here on the approach.

Much to my dismay, the (not-so-)secret passage was locked.

I recovered pretty quickly, having many other sights to see.

I loved this little farm house.

This mountain looked just like home.

Hay bales are more exciting when photographed through the car window, driving around a foreign country. Right?

And then we spotted our next stop – Pienza.

The highlight of Pienza was walking along its southern walls and taking in the view.

We passed by a shop that offered to pack up picnic provisions, and we all stopped in our tracks, each of us having the same idea. We headed onward to the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo to enjoy our lunch. It elicited gasps when it came into view – the photos don’t begin to do it justice.

Even more stunning than the views OF the Abbazia were the views FROM it. It was the perfect spot for our picnic and to spend plenty time wandering the grounds to marvel at the view.

We had a visitor who became very interested in us when we pulled out our food.

The views were so spectacular that I almost forgot to look inside the abbey. Let me repeat – I, Amanda, almost forgot to look inside a church!

One parting shot as we walked back to the car…

As we circled back toward Chianciano Terme, we pulled off upon seeing a great view of Montepulciano (our first stop that morning) shining in the distance.

Grace and Pino had their own afternoon adventure planned, so they dropped us off at the hotel in time to put on our “bathing costumes” and catch the hotel shuttle over to the Terme Sensorali – the Sensory Spa! Tracey and I were booked for the 4:00pm time slot, good for three and a half hours to follow whatever “path” we chose, or blaze our own trail through the spa. Neither of us really knew what to expect, but whenever I hear the word “spa,” I am all in.

We checked in and were given bath robes, shower caps, shampoo and body wash, plus bracelets to wear with our locker keys on them.

We began by walking over a stone path while cold and hot water alternated spraying us. I moved much quicker when the cold water sprayed! Next we climbed into a huge pool with jets where you could sit or lay at various points and let the jets massage you. From this pool, you could swim outdoors to enjoy more jets. I could have stayed in there for the whole three and a half hours, but we wanted to go see what else was available.

We found a sauna, a mint shower (yessss!), an ice crash (nooope!), and a tub in a room labeled as music therapy. I was sure I had misunderstood the sign, because I heard no music. It was just a warm tub with changing-colors lighting up the tile walls and ceilings as the water ripples reflected in the dancing colors. It was really neat, but I was still confused until I realized the two other people in the pool had their ears below the water. I laid my head back, and as soon as I submerged, I could hear the music playing. Super cool!

There were aromatherapy rooms where you could sit and breathe in natural scents to either energize or relax you, depending on your preference. There was also a room to sit in those egg-shaped chairs that are supposed to simulate the comfort of the womb or something bizarre like that, but my skepticism abated when I felt how relaxing it was. Another room featured cushioned lounge chairs where you could rest quietly as music played.

We proceeded downstairs to the mud room, where we smeared mud all over our bodies and waited for it to dry, after which you sit in the sauna for 15 minutes before washing it all off again in a huge shower room. After feeling cramped in every hotel shower in Italy, we LOVED the big open room full of showers! The mud experience was Tracey’s favorite part.

Having tried everything (except the ice crash), we still had over an hour remaining, so we repeated some of our favorite things. Tracey went to walk through the rocks again while I revisited the music therapy pool. This time, I was the only one inside, so I floated in the water listening to the music and watching the lights and it was complete bliss. I could have done that for hours and hours, but I decided to come out and grab another mint shower before spending the last of the time in the jet pool.

We showered and changed and our shuttle returned to take us back to the hotel just in time to meet Grace and Pino for dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was quite good. Our day was a tremendous success, and we were rejuvenated in preparation for the rest of our trip.

Chianciano Terme treated us to another lovely bed-and-balcony-sunrise before we got back on the road.

Next stop… Roma!


Pack a Change of Clothes and a Pillow for the Road for When You Drift Off

With three years gone by, I still look at a framed picture of the Eiffel Tower in my living room and have to remind myself that the photographer was me. Some travel experiences are so other-worldly and ethereal that it’s hard to believe I was really present there within time and space.

It’s been three months since I came home from Italy, and I already feel that same disbelief and awe at the experience. Looking back through these photos with a friend recently, I was delighted and astonished by the sights and memories, and realized the time had come to get it written down.

Traveling outside my own country always feels like a tall order for me – a task to be risen to, when travel anxiety still plagues me crossing state lines – but it’s not to be missed and worthwhile at every turn. So, after my inaugural journey “across the pond” to visit Scotland, England, Wales, and France, the next stop was an obvious one – Italy!

Stars aligning as they do, I met a sweet Italian couple in New York City in 2012 when we gathered there with fellow White Collar fans to tour locations from the show and watch filming. We repeated this experience annually for three years, and during White Collar’s final season, my cousin Tracey joined me on the trip and also met and hit it off with Grace and Pino.

Even after White Collar ended, Grace and I kept in touch with emails and postcards to and from Italy. So, I knew when I finally made it to Italy, I’d be among friends. I’d originally thought to make the trip solo in 2015, but it didn’t fall into place, and in hindsight, I know why. I mentioned my trip plans to Tracey, knowing she’d remember Grace, and she also expressed an interest in seeing Italy. Her husband Adam immediately chimed in and said that we should both go and make it a girls’ trip. Five minutes later, I was twice as excited to be planning the trip of a lifetime for two!

Many months and a great deal of research later, we were very excited to board the first leg of our flight from DC to Dublin, eager to have bad airplane food and not sleep a wink on our way to Italia!


Time skipped ahead an extra 5 hours while we flew across the Atlantic, so we had breakfast in the Dublin airport at 1am, home time, then boarded our flight to Milan with the sunrise.


And we still didn’t sleep. But the views were nice.

Adrenaline kicked in with full force when we walked out of the airport in Milan to see Grace and Pino all smiles, waiting for us. I was wide awake again then.

Having anticipated the jet lag and lack of energy that would catch up with us quickly, we had a light tourism day in Milan, hitting the highlights. Of course, while we walked toward said highlights, I found even the “simplest” of buildings enchanting.

And then we rounded on this architectural majesty – the Duomo di Milan.

Grace and Pino offered to line up for us at the Duomo while we ducked into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an ornate shopping mall built in the 1800s. You can see it to the left of the church in the photo above. Here is what it looked like on the inside.

The line to see inside the Duomo was very long, but fast moving. We caught up with Grace and Pino to wait out the last of it.

Once we got inside, I was quite taken with the way the sunlight through the stained glass created a reflection on the stone columns.

The sheer size of the building was incredible, with windows seeming to reach up forever.

I turned back for a few parting shots as we turned to walk toward more Milan sights.

In case a massive, ancient, breath-taking cathedral wasn’t enough of a “Welcome to Italy,” this certainly was – finding myself standing in front of one of those most famous pieces of art in the world – Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” The painting was completed in 1498.

We were all pretty dead on our feet by this point, so we cat-napped our way to Sandigliano to spend the evening relaxing at Grace’s house. She and her family prepared a wonderful feast for our arrival, including traditional Italian appetizers, a special bottle of Italian wine chosen for the occasion, lasagna, and tiramisu. We all congregated around Grace’s long, beautiful dining table, ate our fill (and then some) and talked for hours. I only regretted that my eyes refused to stay open any longer to enjoy more of the lively discussion and laughter.

Grace’s balcony view was also quite stunning. I spent some time standing on it when we arrived the first evening and before we departed the next morning.

Before we got on the road to Verona, we had a surprise stop in a little village called Candelo (in historic Ricetto) very near Grace’s place, where we had only our clothes and gadgets to remind us we hadn’t stepped back in time several centuries.

In planning this trip, there was so much to see in such a short amount of time, that had Verona not been directly in the path between Sandigliano and Venice, I never would’ve planned a detour to see it. That would’ve been a terrible shame, because it turned out to be a fantastic place, where I can easily see spending several days instead of just several hours.

As soon as we walked through this gate, I was enchanted.

We circled around the Verona Arena, built 50 years ahead of the Roman Colosseum in 30 AD.

Feeling hungry, but eager to keep exploring, we stopped to grab a slice of pizza, and my life was forever changed by discovering that the Italians have pizza topped with pasta. Obviously, I had to have it. And it did not disappoint.

With fresh carb-energy to burn, we started checking off my Verona “to see” list while admiring every building that we passed along the way. Some of the primary tourist attractions in Verona are its churches. This should’ve been enough to clue me in to how much I’d love it!

First up was the Chiesa di San Fermo Maggiore:

The sidewalks got much more crowded when we approached the #1 tourist attraction in the city. Can you guess what it is?

Got it yet?

How about now? Nice BALCONY, right?

Yes, yes, it’s the Casa di Giulietta, for all of the Shakespearean doomed-romance fanatics. But you simply can’t go to Verona for the first time and pass it by.

On the topic of things you HAVE to do here…

We joined in with the throngs of people accosting this statue of Juliet, said to bring true love to those who touch her right breast. Hey – we didn’t make the rules.

Having done our due diligence, we continued along to the piazza adjacent to the medieval Torre dei Lamberti and took the lift up before climbing the stairs even higher to get a bird’s eye view of Verona.

Next up was a stop for gelato, which became a daily occurrence through the remainder of our trip. The gelato is not pictured here, because this beautifully painted wall across from the gelato shop is much cooler to see.

We polished off our cones as we arrived at the next church, Santa Anastasia, which is easily in my top 5 of all the (many, many!) spectacular churches I visited in Italy. It was so colorful!

Verona’s Duomo, just a short walk further, didn’t capture me as much following right after Santa Anastasia, but it was prettier from the outside.

Did I mention how much I love these old, charming buildings that are EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK in Italy?

We followed the winding streets toward the water and crossed over the Ponte Pietra toward the Roman Theater.

From the other side, I captured my favorite picture from our day in Verona:

Then we proceeded to tour the Roman Theater, climbing many steep stairs on our way to a lovely view from the top.

After that, I was fairly certain I couldn’t take another step, but there was one more church on my list, and I would’ve regretted missing it, so I had to press on!

The Romanesque Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore is not only one of the oldest churches in Verona, but one of the oldest in Northern Italy.

There was so much to see in San Zeno – the ceiling, the statues, the artwork – but its spectacular bronze doors were astounding.

It had a lovely courtyard as well.

Heading back to the car, we passed the Castelvecchio Museum and many more beautiful buildings decked out in bright colors.

I took this picture out of sheer delight at what’s written on the back of the train. Can you read it?

Their spelling is more fun than our “choo choo,” don’t you agree?

We left Verona properly exhausted once again (though not so much that we couldn’t retrace our steps three blocks to find out where the person walking by had gotten cheese fries), and then it was on to Venice.

Jet lag still had a serious hold on me and Tracey, the effects of which were most apparent every time we were in the car for more than 5 minutes, at which point we’d both doze off. By the time we arrived at our B&B, we opted to have dinner and go to bed so that we could get an early start in Venice the next morning.

Rather than stay in Venice, precisely, we went the (much) cheaper route and stayed on the mainland a 10-minute bus ride from Venice, so that we could park the car for free and not have to drag our bags onto a boat to get to our hotel. It worked out really nicely.

Tracey and I left Grace and Pino to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast before catching up with us in Venice. Pino gave me his phone so that we’d have a way to get in touch. Plus, I gave them a copy of the itinerary!

We caught the bus over to the Piazzale Roma, which is the furthest any non-boat traffic can go in Venice, and then we found the landing for the slow boat (called the Vaporetto, their version of public transportation) down the canal so that we could take our time gawking.

Probably owing to the time of day, we rode with mostly commuters, and therefore were able to snag two seats on the front of the boat. “Giddy” cannot even begin to describe my state as we began moving through the canal. There’s nothing like it.

We were in such a state of bliss that we didn’t even notice that our boat had stopped at the Rialto Bridge and wasn’t going any further – presumably some alteration to the schedule related to rush hour. A nice Italian man who was on the front of the boat with us tried to clue the hapless tourists in to this fact by saying, “Goodbye, goodbye” and waving at us, only to have us cheerfully waving “Bye!” back to him. He tried a new word, “Finish,” which owing to the pronunciation, we still didn’t grasp, but finally realized he was trying to convey something beyond, “Farewell, fair tourists,” and looked around to see that everyone else had gotten off the boat. Then we laughed and laughed at how oblivious we were as we got off the boat and immediately caught another.

Whenever I need to recall how blissfully happy we were “meeting” Venice, I can look back at this picture.

I think I took a picture of every building that we passed, but I was blown away by this church. The sheer size of it, not to mention the beauty, and right there on the water.

We disembarked near St. Mark’s Square, which is the busiest tourist area of Venice. The “streets” are widest here to accommodate the hustle and bustle. We arrived early enough to get ahead of the crowds visiting Doge’s Palace.

The most famous part of the Doge’s Palace tour is the passageway from the palace into the dungeons across the “Bridge of Sighs,” so named for the sighs of prisoners as they caught their last glimpse of Venice before passing over.

The courtyard of Doge’s Palace also features a view of the side of St. Mark’s Basilica.

And imitable statues.

St. Mark’s hadn’t opened yet in the early morning, so we just glanced at it and planned to return the next day to see inside.

St. Mark’s Square also boasts another primary tourist attraction, the Campanile (Bell Tower), but we skipped it in favor of the one at San Giorgio. More on that later, but here’s a look at St. Mark’s Campanile.

Our next laughing fit came along the canal, as one of the gondoliers took a hard look at Tracey, and she quipped, “I think he likes my shirt.” I cracked up every time we saw a gondolier ALL DAY.

We continued our walk, crossing over what one travel blogger called the “Bridge of Tourists Looking at the Bridge of Sighs,” so we joined the fun in looking at the outside of the bridge we’d looked out from not long before.

I was keeping a lookout for a cross street, headed to find another church (surprise, surprise), and it’s a good thing I was watching carefully, because here’s the street:

Once you passed through the dark entryway, you emerged on the other side to this:

We passed by the police station…

…and found San Zaccaria.

Grace and Pino joined us just in time to hop on a boat across the canal from St. Mark’s to visit the Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore.

Being careful to avoid going up on the hour when the loud bells would probably knock us down, we took the lift up to take in the view from atop San Giorgio.

Then it was back down the canal again (any excuse to ride the boat, really) to see another palace, the Ca’ Rezzonico, which I found much prettier than Doge’s Palace (albeit without the particular claim to fame of the can’t-miss Bridge of Sighs).

I was most taken with this intricate glass chandelier, which was made in Murano – one of the islands of Venice.

Ca’ Rezzonico also featured a small but cute courtyard area.

Inspired by the chandelier and being ahead of schedule, we decided there was time in our afternoon to tour both Murano and Burano, which meant a long boat trip, so I got comfortable.

We were ravenous when we arrived, so we began by having a delightful lunch in the garden of the Antica Trattoria.

The outdoor seating was much more popular, but as we left, I got a kick out of how the water seemed to be right outside the restaurant’s door. It practically was, of course, but the novelty hadn’t worn off for me.

We weren’t enthused by the glass museum, but found the Chiesa dei Santi Maria e Donato, a church (!!!) with beautiful mosaic tile floors.

Having arrived from Venice (proper) on one vaporetto line, we needed to depart to Burano on a different line, which could only be caught from the other side of the island. Fortunately, a good thing to do on Murano is take a stroll.

In Burano, another of Venice’s islands, the story goes that the fishermen painted their houses bright colors so that they could easily find them when they returned home at the end of the day. Whether this is true or not, all of Burano is decked out in an array of colors, and it’s even more delightful than it sounds.

I mean, come on! It’s perfect.

While Murano is known for its glass, Burano is known for its lace, which is for sale everywhere you look. One of the few souvenirs from my trip is a scarf I bought in Burano – a generic, cheap scarf, but embellished with Burano lace. You could buy items made entirely of hand sewn lace in Burano, but the price would leave you gasping for breath. A little taste of it was enough to suit me.

We even caught a glimpse of some locals, sitting and chatting while they sewed – under the laundry lines, of course!

While much less known than its comrade in Pisa, Burano has its own leaning tower – a church bell tower. The pictures don’t show off the lean very well, but it was obvious in person.

While it would be easy to walk the entirety of Burano in a few hours, I think I could’ve spent days there. Perhaps longer, since all of us took part in a game of imaginary house shopping as we walked around. “I could live there, and you could live there!” “Oh, or that one – love that one!”

We eventually hopped a boat back toward Venice just before the sun started to set, and once again transferred boats at the “faro” (lighthouse) on Murano.

I spent most of the return to Venice hanging over the side of the boat taking pictures of the magnificent sky.

We rode around the “backside” of Venice and passed by San Pietro di Castello.

And of course I seized the opportunity to take more photos of the buildings along the canal as night settled in.

Goodnight, Venice!

Knowing we were leaving for Florence the next afternoon, we got to bed early so that we could maximize the remainder of our time in Venice.

The next morning, we caught the bus in the dark and rode the boat down the canal as the sun rose. The cloud cover was thick, but the sky was still beautiful.

As we reached St. Mark’s, the clouds had begun to sweep away, framing the San Giorgio bell tower perfectly.

Then we were back in St. Mark’s Square, silent in the early morning, with Doge’s Palace, the Campanile, the stately church…. And the pigeons.

From there, we wandered aimlessly, choosing directions, bridges, and alleys as we came to them, keeping an eye out for a café to stop in for a cup of tea and a croissant, discovering treasures as we walked.

In seemingly no time, we were beside the water again, having crossed from one side to the other. There we found our café by the Rialto Bridge and watched people (and more pigeons) go by.

It was nearing time for St. Mark’s to open, so of course we opted to take the long, slow way back there via the water.

After touring the church, Tracey went into one of the museums in search of a bathroom, and I sat down on the steps to admire the square.

Soon, I became the admired instead of the admirer, but they were too late to get any of my granola bar.

Next, it was finally time to go see inside the grand church on the canal, Santa Maria della Salute. The inside hardly stood a chance of measuring up with my love affair with the architecture outside, but it was a beautiful church nonetheless.

I waited (and held Tracey hostage) for an exceptionally long time waiting to take this picture with no tourists in audacious colors walking through it. I can almost guarantee that there are people hidden behind each of these columns.

The church has its own vaporetto stop, so we floated along again toward the Cannaregio neighborhood, where we opted for more aimless wandering, enjoying the sights as they came, and reading all the restaurant menus!

We ended up stumbling upon one of the churches I had noted on my itinerary as a possible stop, but we were a few minutes past its closing time. This is what happens when you fly by the seat of your pants, people! HA! It was OK, though. We were content with our wandering.

We did find lunch, though. Whaddaya know… pasta!

With full stomachs and a bit more time left, I suggested some more wandering – wandering with a purpose toward another church I wanted to see. It was a worthwhile walk.

With another gelato stop in the books, we got on our last boat in Venice – the one headed back toward the buses. It was the one moment in the trip that I felt like I was leaving a place before I’d gotten my fill.

Venice, we’ll see each other again.