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Honeymoon Trip: Venice, Bologna & Florence, August 2017

Hi all--here is the belated second part of my trip report from our honeymoon last month, this section is our time in Italy!

August 6

We left Brussels and took an easy train to the airport where we flew on Brussels Air to Venice. It was an easy flight but with some turbulence. We were in an exit row which was great for the leg room, but they wouldn't even let us hold a book or our headphones in our laps during takeoff and landing, which I found odd--I know it's a safety thing, but I've never come across that in the States (although I don't often pay extra for an exit row to be fair!)

Once in Venice, we took the Alilaguna water taxi from the airport to the Guglie stop and found our bed & breakfast with no problems. We stayed at a place called Aquavenice which was lovely, very nice room and excellent air conditioning which was a lifesaver! That first night we got dinner at a place called Ai Promessi Sposi: very good, friendly staff who helped us understand the menu. The food was solid and well-priced, if not mind-blowing. Only downside to the dinner was a very obnoxious American couple seated closeby who insisted on yelling at the waiters "Do you speak English?!" I still don't quite understand the point of asking that question in English, but I digress...

After dinner we walked to the Rialto and then to San Marco Square as it was thunderstorming, and it was just stunningly gorgeous--we were treated to a rainbow over the Grand Canal and I nearly cried just from being so happy and overwhelmed to actually be there. Italy has been my number one wishlist destination for as long as I can remember. We ended up going into Harry's Bar because I thought it would be fun to splurge on a fancy bellini, but the vibe was very stuffy and we weren't treated very friendly, so we went next door to the Hotel Monaco where we could sit outside and have a bellini overlooking the Grand Canal for about 10 euro cheaper than at Harry's. Topped the night off with some gelato and headed to bed after a wonderful first evening in Venezia!

August 7

Breakfast at the B&B was bread with different spread and cappuccino: yummy but not super filling, so we ended up stopping at a market nearby and picking up some cheese & salami to add to our breakfast for the next few mornings. Today we had prebooked times for St Mark's Campanile & Basilica. We walked right in with our tickets which was great because the lines were insanely long. Both experiences were lovely, but the bell tower was much faster than I realized--in all of my planning, I somehow missed the fact that you take an elevator rather than climb up the tower, so I definitely left too much time in between that and our time slot for the Basilica. Oh well. The church is beautiful, but it was a bit of a turn-off that you had to pay extra for so many of the spaces.

We had lunch at Trattoria Al Gazzettino next to a table of gondoliers! It was delicious and very friendly service. I ordered lasagna bolognese. They gave us so much free alcohol we were definitely day-drunk, and we also got free cake, a tasting of pasta and a bag of pasta to take home! I know they are after good reviews but it was still charming and we enjoyed it. :) After a mid-afternoon nap, we went to meet our walking tour with a company called La Bussola. This was a free walking tour and although it has excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, this was probably our least favorite tour experience in our entire trip. Our guide was sort of awkward and seemed very nervous and unsure of herself, and frequently made comments about the "official" guides not liking her and that if we saw them start to say anything to her that we should just ignore them, etc. It was just uncomfortable and the tour itself wasn't great enough to make up for the awkwardness. Oh well, lesson learned!

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We finished our night at a bacaro called De Bricoe for an aperol spritz & cicchetti for dinner, along with a panino and it was amazing--so simple, delicious, local and only 20 euro!

August 8
Today we had our Secret Itineraries tour of the Palazzo Ducale planned. We really enjoyed it, although the guide was 30 minute late which was a little frustrating. Regardless, the tour was super interesting although the rest of the palace failed to hold our attention. Beautiful, though! Afterward, we tried to catch a vaporetto from the San Marco stop but it was so busy that I got really stressed and overwhelmed--the heat combined with the crowds really got to me this day! So we ended up just walking a ways to a different stop and there we caught the boat to Murano. We had lunch and ventured into a few shops where I picked up some treasures, and then we headed to Burano for a quick stop to see the colorful houses before heading back to Venice.

After a little break in our room in the A/C, we went around the corner to Bar Pontini for dinner--SO GOOD and worth the 40ish minute wait (make a reservation!) This was by far our favorite meal in Italy and one of the top meals on our entire trip. It was excellent. I had the seafood spaghetti and my husband had beef in a pepper sauce, and we topped it off with tiramisu and of course lots of wine. I just loved everything about this place--the food, the atmosphere, the service were all wonderful. Highly recommend.

After dinner, we walked to Piazzale Roma and caught the #1 vaporetto down the Grand Canal. It was very beautiful, but still extremely crowded even after 10pm which made it hard to enjoy. Walking through Piazza San Marco at that hour was magical, though--it was still lively but not nearly as crowded as it is during the day, with the music playing and the lights twinkling off of the puddles that had collected in the square due to high tide--it was just perfect and very romantic! It was a lovely way to end our stay in Venice. My only regret is that I did not manage to wake up and get out early to see the Rialto Market at dawn--maybe next time, although I think it may be awhile before we decide to return as even though Venice was lovely and we had some wonderful experiences there, I won't visit again at this time of year which is when I'm able to take time off from work. The heat and crowds were bearable for a day or so, but after that it was just too much for me.

August 9
Our travel to Bologna today was straightforward and gave us no trouble (we took the train from Venice). From Bologna Centrale, we took a bus to our B&B and arrived there around 4pm. We stayed at Antica Residenza d'Azeglio--lovely place, large rooms with two bottles of wine, still & sparkling water and fresh fruit waiting for us in our room. The host is a character and very personable and kind. We went and grabbed some pizza and gelato from Cremeria Funivia: OH MY GOSH this was the best gelato I have ever had, by far the best of anything else we got in Italy. We ended up going there once more before leaving Bologna, it was that good. Anyway, we ended up falling asleep for most of the afternoon and then heading out to the local market to pick up some salad and cheese for dinner, which we ate in our room at the B&B. Bologna was designed to be a more relaxing, slower paced stop for us in between all of the larger cities we had planned, and at this point in our trip it was very much needed!

August 10
Today we slept in and had breakfast at 10am which felt great. Our host kept telling us to go "piano, piano" (slowly, slowly!) and we definitely took his advice while in Bologna. We did some sight-seeing today, though: the Teatro Anatomico at the University of Bologna where autopsies used to be performed, the Basilica of Santo Stefano, and then we climbed Le Due Torri--in a thunderstorm. That was a really fun experience and the view was gorgeous.

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For lunch, we went to Sfoglia Rina which is famous for its pasta and for good reason. This is where I had the Bolognese speciality of tagliatelle al ragu and my husband had tortellini. Both dishes were superb and affordable, and very filling. After lunch we did some shopping and then went back to the room. Nick took a walk to the laundromat and got our stuff refreshed, while I relaxed in the room before we headed to dinner at 8:30 that evening at Ristorante Alice which was recommended by our host. It isn't a fancy place but very good, local food and people. We had the antipasto della casa which is their specialty (they literally brought out an entire wheel of pecorino cheese at one point) and then we each had a pasta course. The food was fine but I really enjoyed the atmosphere and getting to chat with a local couple seated next to us. They asked us about Trump and talked a bit about Italian politics--it was really interesting and a pleasant experience! After dinner we headed back to the room, caught up on Game of Thrones (I told you this was our relaxing stop!) and headed to bed!

I will write up my Florence section soon! My husband is diligently working on editing our vlog from Italy, so if anyone is interested in seeing video of the adventures I described please feel free to PM me for the link!

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Oh my, Bar Pontini and Ai Promessi Sposi are two of my favorites! Well done!

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And now your marriage is off to a good start! So glad you had a great time, although yes, heat and crowds can be too much. Still, your trip sounds wonderful.

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Laurel, I'm glad we made some good choices! We just LOVED Bar Pontini!

Shelley, thank you so much!

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What a great report so far!! Looking forward to Florence's report!

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What a great report so far!! Looking forward to Florence's report!

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Thanks for taking time to do a trip report. I especially liked hearing about a Bologna, even though it was your restful stop. I hope to visit there on my next trip to Italy.

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Oh my, so sorry for the delay everyone--about to type up my Florence report, finally! I should have it posted tonight or tomorrow. :)