Italia! After a week's worth of fog, rain, and chill that made us wonder why we only brought one pair of pants each to Europe, we made our way to Italy. And it was warm. And sunny. And did I mention there was no rain?
First stop, Venice. We had heard (ahem, sister) that Venice was dirty and smelly, but our informant must have visited on a bad day, because we loved Venice. :) (I think we hit it early enough in the summer to avoid the smell.) Things we loved: the colorful buildings, the bridges everywhere, the water, the little alleyways that will get you lost, and the remnants of a sumptuous period of history.
However, if you would like to ride the gondolas, be prepared to dole out over 90 dollars. We rode a water taxi instead. Almost as romantic.
We also solved a mystery that we'd forgotten about. When we were in Paris gazing up at the Arc de Triomphe, I mused to Aaron that I thought something used to be on top of the Arc. It was one of those things you know you learned at one point, but can't locate anymore. As we listened to our audio tour of St. Mark's Piazza, the pieces came together! The four bronze horses on St. Mark's Basilica were originally Roman plunder that the Byzantine empire had stationed at the Hippodrome in Istanbul. During the crusades, the horses were moved to Venice, which at the time was the world's richest and most powerful city. When Napoleon rose to power a few centuries later, he swiped the horses to put on top of his Arc. And when he fell out of power, the horses were returned to Venice, leaving the top of the Arc bare. What made this discovery especially cool is that we visited each of those spots on our trip! We stood at the Arc, walked the Hippodrome, and gazed up at Venice's famous basilica. It was a neat little piece of historical trivia that tied our trip together.
No cars in Venice, but boats make up for the lack
Looking down the Grand Canal on our taxi ride
On one of the many bridges
St. Mark's Basilica
The Doge's Palace, where the ruling family of Venice lived
Bridges, bridges, bridges
The famous Bridge of Sighs connecting the Doge's Palace with the prison. Legend is that when prisoners were sentenced, they would cross over the bridge, take one last look out the tiny windows at beautiful Venice, and let loose a deep sigh