I do not have too much say in length about Venice, except that it really is a charming city. Yes, it is crowded with tourists, especially on the main canal and larger piazzas, but there are also plenty of almost deserted areas of the city to enjoy, and it was not overtly romantic in my opinion. I particularly liked looking at the dozens of Venician mask shops. They were so whimsical and beautiful. I really wanted to buy one, but they were pretty expensive, the well made masks going for about 15 euros for a small, relatively simple mask, to upwards of 45 eruos for the larger and more intricate ones. As far as the gondola rides, they were also really expensive, but I was not the least bit eager to jump on board. Once upon a time, this may have been an experience not to be missed, but now the whole operation just seemed overly touristy and sad. They would sometimes pile up to 10 people in a single gondola, which seemed strange and just wrong. Where's the romance in that? A few days after I left Venice I actually saw a story in the news about a gondola that had been hit by a water taxi, a man, his wife and 3 year old daughter were thrown from the gondola into the water and the man, only 50 years young, was crushed between the two vessels. Tragic!
Don't let that put you off visiting this town though, it is really lovely, even as a single traveler :) In fact, a not so bad looking gentleman stopped me in the street on my way to the train station, showering me with typical compliments and invited me to coffee. I know I've complained bout Italian men and their Don Juan syndrome before, but when you are in alone in a city like Venice, its nice to get a little bit of attention. I declined of course, but the sentiment was nice.
My only warning about this city would be about getting yourself lost in the maze of streets and canals. Its really confusing. After the first 15 minutes I realized that there would be no way, even with a map, which I didn't have, to keep myself on track. I was surprised however, after wandering for a few hours and feeling totally disoriented, I still ended up finding my way back to the train station just in time to catch a train to Verona.
Verona? But, Kristen, I thought you said you were going to Bologna? Yes, that's true, and I can not even say when my plans changed, but as I was buying my ticket out of Venice for some reason I typed in the name Verona, instead of Bologna. When I saw there was a train leaving for Verona in just a few minutes I made a flash decision to go for it. I guess I wanted to keep the City of Love tour going, and so I was off tot he home of Romeo and Juliet, Verona, Italy.
At first I immediately regretted my decision to go to Verona. From the train station there is no tell tail sign or beacon to lead you in the right direction towards the old town. So, I started walking pretty aimlessly. I ended up in what I'm guessing was part of the new city, and since it was siesta time and I was not in a touristy area, it was completely deserted. Eventually though, I got myself on track by following signs to the Arena. Once I actually made it to the old town I was really glad I had chosen Verona and was eager to explore. The town is just really pretty, and is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you enter through a large medieval looking gate, it opens up into a very large piazza with a lot of activity. On the far end is the Arena, which is a smaller scaled Colosseum, which was an unexpected surprise. I didn't realize that Verona would have anything like that. I did some research and found that it was built in 30AD and is the 3rd largest arena in Italy. The also still preform opera in the amphitheater. From the piazza there is a main street, which is pedestrian only, but I would avoid this crowded avenue, unless of course you are looking to shop because it has all the high-end shops. Any of the other streets are quite charming. I wish I had actually given myself more time to explore around, and maybe a map as well so I knew where I was, but I did happen upon several churches, art fixtures and piazzas that were lovely. I also missed Juliet's house, but came across the house of Romeo, which was scrawled with love notes. Very cute. When it came time to leave I was really sad to leave, and I found myself hoping that I will return one day soon.
On my way back to the train station, which is a bit of a walk, I broke my shoe and had to walk bare foot. People were apparently very amused and concerned, and just about everyone I passed asked me what happened to my shoes. Of course, I didn't pass a single shoe store on my way. This is Italy, right? Since I was using my Eurail pass for this trip I was able to get a comfy seat in first-class, which made me feel a little better, especially after I realized I was sharing the car with a few members of the Italian Football team and their coaches! It was only a little embarrassing walking past them bare foot. After I was seated I figured out a way to rig up my shoe until I got back to the hostel.