La Serenissima (the Most Serene Republic), as Venice is known, lies about 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the east of Vicenza, where I live. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined that I would live so close to one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the world. Growing up, Venice was like a fairytale land, a place that only existed for me as an image in a book, a place in a story. And so, I consider myself one of the luckiest people alive to be so close to such a place. Sadly, most Americans on the base here take Venice for granted, perhaps because it's so close and they can travel there whenever they like. Venice is dirty, packed tight with tourists, and in the summer the lagoon can give off a pungent odor to be sure, but it's still a marvel, a sight to behold. If you go, try to resist the urge to ride in a gondola, as the entrepreneurial spirit of the locals have turned it into a caricature, and an extremely expensive one at that. You'll actually do better by going around the island on the vaporetto (water bus) for a few euros; the ride lasts alot longer, and you'll see more.
Also worth seeing is Carnivale, which is Venice's version of Mardi Gras (Although Carnivale dates back to the 1500's). Venetians and visitors alike don outrageous masks and costumes and throw a huge street party for 10 days straight. It's cold, but alot of fun.
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The famous Bridge of Sighs. The bridge connected the courthouse to the prison, and got its name from the sound that prisoners would make as they were crossing it into the prison, knowing that they would not be seeing Bella Venezia for a longtime, if ever again.
Recently, Virginia and I were fortunate to meet two wonderful ladies (or, as Virginia likes to call them - "cool chicks") who live in Venice. Their names are Theresa and Denise. They're both married to Venetians and have been living in Venice for several years. They've become good friends, and whenever we're in Venice, we usually get together for a cafe or to say hi. Denise and her husband Maurizio manage several rental properties around Venice (To check out her website, go to: www.venicerentals.com), and Theresa and her husband Michelangelo own a cute little shop called Atmosfera Veneziana, which specializes in Venetian beads and the famous Murano Art Glass (If you'd like info, email Theresa at: firstname.lastname@example.org ) Here are a couple pictures of Denise and Theresa:
Virginia and Denise
Rik and Theresa
An additional benefit of Venice...
In addition to it's natural and man-made beauty and charm, Venice has something else going for it - several good Irish Pubs. I've been to all of them except for the Blackjack Pub, and I would recommend them all. The great thing about it is that there are no less than 5 or 6, which is quite a bit for a city (island) the size of Venice. Recently, my friend Steve Lester visited and he, the wife and I visited a couple of them - The Devil's Forest Pub and the Irish Shark. The Devil's Forest was very enjoyable, and, in addition to Guinness, they actually have Kilkenny's Cream Ale on tap there, which puts them at the top of the list in my book. Here's a few pictures: