Olivia in Scotland: Volare

Hello everyone!

I promised to tell you all about Venice, so here we go!

My friends Susy and Tatiana and I flew out of Edinburgh International Airport to Venice Marco Polo Airport on the night of Friday, December 2nd. The craziest thing about that to me was how relatively close Italy is to Scotland. The flight only took about 2 hours and 10 minutes—I’m so used to thinking of Italy as being world away that it hardly seemed possible! I was so excited on the plane ride that I basically danced the whole way there while listening to happy, pump-up music through my headphones (sorry again for that, Susy.) Did I mention that I’ve wanted to go to Venice for basically my whole life?

When we got to the airport, we boarded a waterbus to take us to the city. That’s right, a waterbus. (How cool is that?) It took us about half an hour to get in to the city. It was too dark to see much when we arrived, but I still took pictures anyway because I was just a little excited.

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My brain at this point was basically like, “CANALS!! BRIDGES!! AAAAHH!!” Honestly, that feeling did not change that much while I was there, unless I was particularly tired and didnt feel like walking over a bridge.

We checked into our hostel and our very helpful concierge gave us tons of tips about things to see and where to eat in the city. It was 9 PM there by this time and we were starving, so we completed a very essential activity: we went to a pizza place and took my customary pizza selfie.

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Venice isn’t really the place you go to get pizza, but it was still good. I loved how there were about a million different options #pizzaselfie #venetianpizzaselfie

The next day was an extremely full one. First, we toured the Doge’s Palace near the Piazza San Marco. It’s where the duke lived and where the seat of government was, and it lies adjacent to the New Prison where criminals were sentenced. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a building quite this grand.

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This is one of the largest rooms in all of Europe. There’s real gold on the walls and ceiling and every wall is covered with some enormous work of art. 

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This is a view within the famous Bridge of Sighs, where criminals got a last look at the outside world before being imprisoned in the New Prison.

Next, we went on a gondola ride! We didn’t get a fancy one with a singing gondolier, although we did pass by a few that had those, but it was a fun way to see the city. A note on traveling to Venice in the winter, though: it really does get chilly. Over the course of the trip, we steadily put on more and more layers—I think in the beginning I was trying to convince myself that it was warmer than it actually was. The damp chill won out over my wishful thinking in the end.

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Venice by gondola #bucketlist

After grabbing some lunch, we spent the rest of the day just walking around the city. Venice makes you want to take pictures about every two seconds. Everywhere you look, there’s another bridge and another canal, and from the bridge you can see more bridges and buildings and sometimes some gondolas. It’s exceedingly picturesque and a simply lovely place to walk around. The city is so small that we were able to cover most of it in one afternoon. We also got gelato, which was absolutely delicious.

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Here’s a view from the Rialto Bridge, the most important bridge in Venice. 

That evening, we returned to the Piazza San Marco to see it at dusk and to go inside Saint Mark’s Basilica. The basilica is stunning, inside and out, and the inside is covered with mosaics and gold.

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The piazza is enchanting at night. 

To finish the evening, we went to a famous bookstore called Aqua Alta and then ate some amazing Italian food. I think the spaghetti with ragu I had that night has ruined me at least a little bit for regular spaghetti for the rest of my life.

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Sad that I can’t enjoy spaghetti quite the same way again, but ecstatic to be in Venice!

For our second and final full day in Venice, we bought waterbus passes for the day and took trips to several islands around the main city. First, we took the waterbus down the Grand Canal to a beautiful church called the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. After walking around that church with its works by Titian on the walls, took the bus to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in order to see the church and get a view of the city from the campanile (or tower). We hoped to attend a Gregorian chant at this church, but since they weren’t having one that day, we simply sat outside one of the smaller chapels and listened to the Italian Mass for a little while. Even though I do not know Italian, it felt very special to me to hear the priests singing and people worshiping God in a different language.

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The view from the campanile was spectacular!

After grabbing some lunch, we went on a longer trip to the North of the main city to visit the islands of Murano and Burano. You may have heard of Murano glass before; that’s where that comes from. We went to a glass-blowing demonstration there, and it was stunning. The artisan made a glass vase and a glass horse in a matter of minutes with incredible dexterity.

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They are very proud of their beautiful glass-making on Murano. I took this picture as we walked around the island a little more before heading to our next stop. 

We then headed to Burano. This island is famous for two things: its lace and its colorful buildings. It was a truly beautiful place! I bought a scarf with hand-embroidered flowers on it to remember this gorgeous island by.

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You can see a few of the colorful facades in this picture! I was just excited to take a picture with this giant piece of pizza, because #pizzaisbae

After that, we rose back into the main city, had another spectacular Italian pasta meal that ruined me for life, and that was the end of the night. It was so interesting on this day to see how public transportation in Venice really is about the same as anywhere else—they just use a boat instead of an automobile. You scan your bus pass to board the waterbus, there are seats to sit on as well as standing room, and there are speed limits just like on a regular road.

We didn’t have time to do very much the next day before heading to the airport, buuuuut I did stage a mini photo shoot near our hostel.

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When you buy a Venetian carnival mask in Venice, you gotta take some cool pictures with it, even if some people laugh at you. There were actual Italians waling by and laughing as we took these. 

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I also took a few more city photos before we headed out—this was the view right outside our hostel each morning. 

One other significant thing happened on our trip. Because I apparently don’t know much about European geography, I did not realize that you can see the Alps from Venice. I was very excited by this because I really love mountains. My family roots are in the Appalachian Mountains, which are some of the only mountains I’ve ever seen. On the plane ride home, we flew right over the Alps. I can hardly describe what that experience was like for me. I had never seen mountains that large before. They were enormous, snow-capped, craggy, awesome; they seemed full of mystery and wonder. After flying over the Alps, I am more determined than ever to return to Europe. I have to see those mountains up close!

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I could not believe how beautiful the Alps were (on the left). However, I was also so happy to see the lovely Scottish hills again (on the right). 

So, that was my trip! Venice is beautiful and I’m so happy that I got to travel there with Tatiana and Susy. It was colder and not as sunny as we expected—ironically, it was sunnier in Scotland when we got back than it ever was during our trip to Venice—but that city seems to be gorgeous under any weather conditions. If you study abroad in Europe, trips like this are within your reach! I wasn’t even expecting to take this trip and fulfill this dream of mine, but I’m incredibly thankful that I was able to do so. Studying abroad can open doors to more places than you might expect.

I will give you some more recent updates about the end of my semester and finals in my next post. Till next time!

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