Elizabeth and Austin wasted no time getting me to the heart of Venice. With my arrival in Italy came a rush of adrenaline. Regardless of how tired I may have been, there was no way I was going to be able to sleep any moment too soon. So, we owned it.
Weeks prior to the trip, I had intended to do the entire thing in reverse. I would arrive in Italy, spend two weeks traipsing about solo along the west coast before finally landing in Venice to meet with my friends. A few conflicts on the home front delayed my take off and — at the risk of my travel dates crashing into E+A’s honeymoon — I moved my visit with them to the beginning of my travels. In retrospect, this could not have been a better accident.
Immediately, they whisked me away to the train station where they taught me to buy a ticket from the kiosk (using proper UK English). For someone who grew up with absolutely zero access to public transit, the mess of Italian schedules, bins and train options was instantly overwhelming. E+A did their best to explain the process, show me how to validate the ticket and shuffled me toward our platform. The bin. Binario.
In minutes, we were breezing toward Venice proper. The train stopped at its final destination and we unloaded onto the busy binario. Expensive designer shops surrounded us from all angles while gelato vendors peppered the smaller windows between them. We wove through the shops and stepped into the city.
I’m still terrible at describing the feeling of standing atop the steps of the Stazione di Venezia and looking into the Canal Grande. Never have I felt so “this is where I’m supposed to be” than I did in the half-second in which I first saw Venice. Suddenly, I’d arrived in a real-life postcard. I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to cheer, gasp or cry. I think I kind of did them all at the same time.
E+A wasted no time shuffling me toward a series of bridges. My delayed flight, no doubt, had us all craving fresh pasta — although, at that point, I had no clue whatsoever of what I was in for.
Snapping photos all along the way, they led me through a busy market and down some quiet side streets. The alleys — free of cars — narrowed with every turn, growing darker and darker until they burst into a sunny, open piazza.
Just when it felt as though we couldn’t be more lost, we popped into a small cafe with a table for three.
Forgive me — that first meal (and several of the others over the course of the month) didn’t get photographed. While I was making a genuine effort to live in the moment instead of behind the lens, I also failed to fully emphasize how necessary Italian food photos would be for my survival beyond the trip. Don’t worry — there are plenty. But not nearly as many as there should be.
We had a light pasta and still water. I assume there was wine involved — as there was with absolutely every meal that followed. I remember being a bit unsure with the options of the menu. Far more involved than the expected “spaghetti + meatballs: check [ ] yes [ ] no.”
After our meal, E+A introduced me to the Piazza San Marco. And that would be the beginning of my basilica addiction. Overwhelmed by art and history, we wandered the piazza for a bit before starting our walk back toward the train. Along the way, we ducked into shops and grabbed the first of many gelato snacks.
They told me of their favorite places, Venetian history and tips for where we should go in the days ahead. Elizabeth had already brainstormed many of what would become the week’s funnest adventures while Austin emphasized the importance of tomorrow. “We left a day for you to sleep and catch up in case you’re jet lagged.”
I wasn’t. But as the car breezed down the highway and grassy fields passed us by, starting the trip in sweatpants sounded more and more appealing. I let my mind settle on what had just happened.
“This trip is going to be so much cooler than me,” I thought.