On October 28, 2008 my mother and I along with two friends, Terrie and Cindy, left for a 10-day tour of Italy. We were part of a group of about 25 on the Friendly Planet "Italian Treasures" tour. It was the first time in Italy for all four of us and my expectations were ridiculously high. I had always dreamed of traveling to Italy some day. Could the "old country" possibly live up to what I was was hoping for?
After roughly 9 hours of air travel we landed in Venice. A bus ride delivered us from the airport to a depot of sorts where we then boarded the small boat that took us to our hotel. Our lodging in Venice was at the Hilton Molino Stuckey, an elegant hotel housed in a former flour mill on Giudecca Island, just across the lagoon from Venice.
As we walked around Venice that evening, exploring the narrow cobblestone walkways lined by shops and cafes and crossing over countless bridges while gondolas passed below, my mom commented, "This is like being at Disney World, but it's the real thing". Venice certainly offers that magical feeling. And to some degree, it is like an attraction at Disneyworld, in that much of Venice is a facade, kept in place to delight the tourists. There are very few Venitians living in those canal-front apartments. Most of Venice's residents live off the main peninsula.
The food in Venice, from what I was told by those in the know, is the worst in Italy and everything is overpriced. However, the Murano glass is spectacular and definitely worth consideration. I was also warned that Venitians are known by other Italians to be generally rude and a bit stuck up. We encountered that with some people, but certainly not with everyone.
My conclusion of Venice is that it is one of those places that everyone should experience once, because there really is nowhere else like it in the world. However, our day and a half long visit was enough for me. While I hope to retrun to Italy someday, Venice is unlikely to be on the itinerary.