My Return to Venice

To say I was happy to be back in Italy is an understatement. I am so fortunate to have seen so much of the world and have the opportunity to travel around Europe, but of all the places I have been, Italy just feels like home. My mom once said to me, after returning from a trip to Paris, that she felt as if she belonged there. I always wondered what she meant by that and it took years later to find out. From my first moment in Italy, in 2005, I fell in love and felt at home.

My first Gondola ride in Venice, 2005
San Marco Square, 2005

While I was studying in Italy in 2007, I loved every minute of living there. I loved the food, the sights and culture. I loved the people and their life style and most of all, I loved the language. It was such an amazing experience and I could not wait to get back. I knew I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to go more than once in my life, but in my heart I knew I would be back one day. Every trip I made to Rome, I visited the Trevi Fountain, turned my back and threw a coin over my left shoulder. They say that if you do this you will return to Rome and so far this has remained true! While I was studying in Florence, only my cousin Michael was able to make the trip to visit me and we traveled to Venice and the Amalfi coast.

Again, in San Marco Square in 2007, next to Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)

My first time in Venice, I was so taken aback and overwhelmed by being in a new culture for the first time, I thought it was HUGE and couldn’t ever really get my bearings. The second time I was there with my cousin, Michael, we spent the day at a restaurant near the Rialto Bridge people watching, eating amazing food and drinking wine.

This trip was different. I knew where to take my family and what to see. I knew how to get around and I wasn’t overwhelmed by the culture, making it so much more enjoyable than ever before. When my cousin and I sat near the Rialto bridge in 2007, it was just something we stumbled upon. I’m glad I took time this trip to plan the day and take it all in.

We arrived in Venice bright and early and were some of the first people walking the streets. It was really cool to walk through an empty San Marco Square, get an espresso and sit in front of the San Marco Cathedral. We spent the day walking every street, shopping, eating and exploring along the way.

Enjoying some pizza in Venice
My Brother, Jack, sampled about 15 different Gelato flavors throughout the day
Shopping and being "touristy"
View from the Rialto Bridge

By the time we got to Italy, I was starving for something delicious and I was in luck. Every meal I had in Venice was delicious. We even stopped at a restaurant near the train station and it was possibly one of the best meals of the trip. Everywhere you looked there were dessert’s in the windows, in the cafes and restaurants. Sweets were everywhere!

Desserts - Sicilian Cannoli!

After lunch we continued to make our way around Venice. We stumbled upon an amazing little market that had some of the brightest and freshest looking foods. My sister got in trouble for touching the peppers because they were so beautiful and vibrant she thought they were fake.

Mini Peppers at the market
Market in Venice
Checking out the Venice Market

My sister and her husband, Grant took a break from the family to have a romantic Gondola ride before we had to head back to the ship to get ready for our night out in Venice. While they were enjoying the romantic qualities of the city, my Dad, Mom, Brother and I continued to explore the city. After walking a while I noticed there were a lot of children playing in the Piazza we were in. There were mom’s everywhere chatting and watching their children. I realized we had stumbled into a very residential part of Venice. I am so glad we did, as it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We stopped and got directions back from a man who was chasing after one of his children and he was wearing a Chicago t-shirt! What a small world.

Gina and Grant's first Gondola ride!

After regrouping on the boat and getting ready for dinner, we headed back into Venice. We had heard from a friend on the ship that Drew Barrymore was in Venice and they had seen her walking around. My sister and I were hoping we would get to see her too – but weren’t getting our hopes too high.

Venice was even more beautiful and romantic at night. The streets were lit up and it really wasn’t overcrowded. As we shopped around looking to buy some leather purses my brother-in-law motioned in another direction to me and whispered “there is Drew Barrymore.” I wanted to get a better view so I sped down the street, pretending to be heading in the same direction as her and got a pretty good look as I walked by. We were in an empty street at this time and I heard her say to her friend “that girls dress is really cute.” I was the only person in front of her so she was definitely talking about me. I felt pretty cool and will probably never get rid of that dress now.

The boys trying to get us to stop shopping!
Last family photo of the trip before heading to dinner
Where we had dinner

After dinner we headed back to San Marco Square and sat at an outdoor cafe and had a few cocktails, some coffee and dessert. Even my parents felt the romance of the city – my Dad swept my Mom off her feet, literally!

Enjoying some romance in the city of love!

It was such an amazing vacation and not just because I had the opportunity to visit a new country and return to Italy. Family is everything and I am glad we were able to experience new cultures together and take some time out of our busy lives to just enjoy one another and spend quality time together! We were all sad to leave Venice and I think everyone would agree that a family vacation around Italy is a MUST in the future!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my family, friends and everyone who takes time out of their day to read these posts and share their experiences as well! Next up, my very first Pecan Pie (or as I say to my sister, Pe-CAN Pie!)


Grecian Adventure Part II: Katakolon and Corfu

If you read Part I of my Grecian adventures you know my family and I started our cruise in Athens and made our way through Mykonos and Monemvasia. After Monemvasia we headed to Katakolon, Corfu and last, but not least, Venice!

Our first stop after Monemvasia was Katakolon. While this island has beautiful views and crystal blue water, it is nothing short of a tourist trap. If you have never heard of Katakolon, it’s where the first Olympics took place.Well, 30 minutes from the Olympic stadium.

Gina and my Dad at the entrance to the Olympic Stadium
Crossing the finish line!

Sure, I think the Olympics are cool. Yes, I am glad I was able to stand on the field where the first Olympics took place, but it was an empty field – not really that exciting. There was also a museum, but…I’m not the biggest fan of museums. They usually just make me sleepy (I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true). My dad, sister and I (the only non sea-sick family members that day) made the best of it and I am grateful I was able to experience the culture and history. We had fun exploring the grounds and reading the stories about each ruin, but I would have rather stayed another day in Mykonos or had the chance to go to Santorini.

Dad at the Ruins

Next up was Corfu. Corfu was unbelievably exquisite. The city streets were tiny and lined with shop after shop and tiny cafès, and everywhere you turned was a beautiful view of the ocean. As we walked down the streets, my sister and I tried every sample of Kumquat we could find and enjoyed looking at all of the colorful trinkets, scarfs and souvenirs.

Sampling Kumquat in Corfu
Shopping in Corfu

After spending the morning walking around the town and shopping, we hopped in a cab and headed to a popular beach town, Paleokastritsa. We had lunch at the top of the cliff with some of the most breathtaking views. It was absolutely stunning. While the food was once again sub-par at best, the views more than made up for it.

View from top of the Cliff

After lunch we headed to the beach where we rented kayaks, swam in the ocean and relaxed on the beach. My brother was the first to take the kayak out in the ocean and I think my mom had a slight panic attack. My brother is fearless and my mom is nervous about everything, so it wasn’t a good combination. He of course was perfectly safe and came back after about 30 minutes of exploring the caves around the cove. It was quite possibly one of the best days I have spent with my family.

Beach in Corfu

While the food was sub par, one of my favorite things about Greece was the beer! Since I found out I can’t drink wine (tear…) I did enjoy a few beers every now and then and we came across Mythos, which was by far the best!

Grant and Jack enjoying Mythos - the Greek beer

After our long and adventurous day in Corfu, we headed back to the boat for one of our last dinners on the ship. We spent the next day at sea, laying by the pool, getting massage’s and just relaxing. It was a much-needed break from all of the sight-seeing. After our day of rest, we embarked upon the homeland – Italy! Only my mom and I had been to Venice before and everyone was overly excited to get there. While my dad had been to other cities in Italy – he had never been to Venice and said it was by far one of his favorite cities in the world!

Enjoying dinner our last night on the ship!

Next up (and I promise it will come soon!) our family adventure in Venice and some big life changes!