Jeff and me in Saint Mark's Square, Venice, Italy. 

Jeff and me in Saint Mark's Square, Venice, Italy. 

This entry is part of the 2014 Italy (& Turkey too!) Travel Blog Series. Read this story and then the rest HERE


Take me back to Venice because that's where I left my heart. 

Venice was by far my most favorite of all the cities we visited, which is saying a lot because I loved ALL the cities we toured. There is just something about Venice that screams authenticity and genuine 'Italy.' Venice is far different than any place I've ever visited with it's water ways in place of roads, winding cobble stone sidewalks, and maze of buildings wherever you go. Every inch of Venice is dripping with ornate stone work, charming bridges, climbing vines and blooming flower boxes. It's beautiful and prime for sweeping any American girl off her feet. 

We arrived late afternoon to Venice, much like the timing of our arrival in Istanbul leaving enough time to drop our backs, change and head out to explore a bit before night fall. 

At first, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. Jeff and Josh were chattering excitedly and my eyes were distracted by the neon lights moving up and down in the large square. In Italy, street peddlers sell a number of trinkets including light up flying helicopters. They were everywhere. 

"This is it!" Josh yelled. "Saint Mark's Square." 

It was breath taking. The square was massive and surprisingly empty of people aside from those who had gathered for dinner and music around the handful of fine dining restaurants located there. The string quartets playing reminded me of the major motion picture Titanic - the musicians were wearing tuxedos and all I could picture was Jack and Rose dancing. 

Josh had been there years before with his family. For weeks we'd heard him retell the story of how he and his younger brother ran into the square and accidentally soaked themselves in a knee deep puddle because they were running so fast. 

We watched as he reenacted the scene for us in the actual spot where it took place. It might have been the 15th time to hear the saga, but we didn't care. It was Italy. 

Hungry and thirsty we set off in search of margarita pizza and wine - an occurrence repeated many times throughout our trip. The food and the wine was everything we hoped it would be.  

A few liters of wine later we left our table in search of our next adventure when we happened upon a group of locals, our age, gathered outside a bar. We struck up conversation and moments later we were invited to venture the city with them. 

As we walked, we also talked. The crowd was loud at a size of about 20 people. Our voices carried through the narrow walkways towards a destination somewhere in the heart of the city. I chatted with a guy named Peter who was living in Venice with his girlfriend and studying sculpture there. 

And then came the Moscow Mules, a drink recommended by our new friends. 

The bar, which in American terms wasn't really a bar, was a open square with two small cafes on adjacent corners. Both cafes were open air with groups of 20 and 30-somethings hanging out there. There was music playing loudly over the talking and laughing and people lined up inside to place their drink orders. 

"You have to get the Moscow Mule," the local said. "It's what everyone drinks here." 

"What's in it?" I asked. 

"Vodka, ginger ale, mint, sugar, ginger root..." he said. 

"Sir, you had me a vodka." I replied. 

Moscow Mules in hand, we joined the crowd in the square. And then we heard it... 

"OWEN WILSON!" the guy said. He places his hands on Jeff's shoulders and says it again, "Owen Wilson! You are Owen Wilson." He grabs Jeff's nose and cocks it to the left and we all laugh. 

We talked and laughed and at some point Emily explained to a guy who was hitting on her that she was 'old,' only to be immediately put in her place when he revealed his age was a few years her senior. Jeff continued to fulfill the drunk man's dream of meeting an American celebrity by partaking in a song they made up: 'Oh-When Wilson! La-la-la-la-la-la-la...." 

Moscow Mules drained and Jeff's nose tired of being touched, we wandered our way back to the canal outside our apartment. With wine readily accessible on most every street corner, we poured a few glasses and reflected on our night by the water. 

The city was quiet and the water was calm. We were in Venice with friends and life was good. 

BONUS TRAVEL NOTE: Throughout our trip we stayed at places booked through VRBO and Airbnb, which are independently rented apartments rather than hotels. The cost was very affordable (much cheaper than hotels) and provided a unique insight on what it would be like to actually live in each city. We recommend saving money and enjoying a look at the local life by booking through these sites for travel. 

This entry is part of the 2014 Italy (& Turkey too!) Travel Blog Series. Read this story and then the rest HERE