Episode 3: In Which We Cram all of our Italian ‘Tourism’ into Two Short Weekends

Diner melodies with an electro-twang and a gust of air conditioning beckoned to us from the sweltering Venice walkway along the Giudecca Canal and lured us into a technicolor rabbit hole.

Inside, we passed through a circular doorway marked with neon letters: “the dish ran away with the spoon. everything you can think of is true.”

And it only got weirder from there.

A pouncing white tiger with an espresso cup and saucer in its mouth. White rabbits suspended and dancing against a red polka dot backdrop. An all-white field of stalks with cup-and-saucer “flowers” guarded by albino apes and a freaky white Big Bird.

Among all the bridges, quaint canals, beautiful churches, and—of course, adventuring puppies—that made Venice a paradise for a wannabe photographer, I gotta say that this trippy art exhibit might have been my favorite place in the whole city. It was certainly the wackiest. Josh and I felt like we’d found a portal into Wonderland when we stepped inside.

Little art exhibits like this—well, none quite like this—were peppered all over Venice. Housed in old estates and other random buildings, most were marked only by open doors and a person sitting inside at a table with some brochures. I’m sure we missed twice as many as we found, and we would have missed them all if our local tour guide hadn’t tipped us off to their existence.

With only a few days to adventure outside Cortona on the weekends, and in our attempt to reduce costs and stress, Josh and I were bound to trains and walking on our travels. So, despite having just decided to start a backroads-themed blog, we weren’t able to do a whole lot of “backroading.”

On this particular adventure, we opted for more quintessential Italian destinations: Venice for the weekend in the middle of Josh’s math conference (which just so happened to be a few days after our fourth anniversary—gonna be hard to top this one), and Florence for our final hoorah before heading back to the airport in Milan and bidding Italy arrivederci!

Still, hidden art exhibits and all the meandering streets gave us plenty of opportunities to go adventuring. Other than booking a walking tour our first morning in Venice (which turned out to be a godsend—our tour guide was full of insider tips and helped us plan out the rest of our stay), we didn’t have an itinerary and followed our whims and my photo-fancies wherever they took us.

Here are a few highlights of our weekend adventures.

(Sorry, I tried to make it as short as possible, but, well…we covered a lot of ground in these three days. Make sure you go on to page 2 to see the highlight reel for Florence)!


Out of the several thousand pictures I took in Italy, about two-thirds of them were taken in Venice. It’s a beautiful place—and I’m not just talking about the main attractions like San Marco’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. All the old bridges and buildings and churches, the streets and plazas, and of course, the canals…Everywhere you look, there’s another something to photograph. I had to rein myself in a bit, or we never would have made it anywhere.

Gondolas everywhere!

We learned that each gondola (real ones, anyway) is made and weighted for the individual gondolier. We never took a ride, which were €80 for 30 minutes…no thanks! I was happy to just take pictures of them.


One of several thousand little bridges we walked over


Saint Mark’s Basilica

We went on a brief tour of Saint Mark’s as part of our guided walking tour. The outside was gorgeous—Gothic detailing and a marble facade. Pictures weren’t allowed inside, but the ceilings and walls were all covered in gold mosaics, just like in the half-domes outside. A fun fact we learned from our tour guide—Saint Mark’s square is the lowest point in Venice. At certain times of the year, it’s known to flood twice a day with the tides, even inside the basilica.


The best view in Venice

The best view in Venice is from the roof of a top-brand shopping center that caters to Asian tourists, according to our tour guide (this was also quite obvious as soon as we stepped inside). The locals hate the new shopping mall, but love the view.

Just Josh being Josh...or perhaps being my seven-year-old nephew, Landen. “Hey, Lacey, take a picture of me clicking my heels!”

An old, ornate religious building (now a hospital)


Burano is basically a mini, more colorful version of Venice. The small island and fishing village is about a 40-minute water taxi ride from Venice. Aside from a little bit of gift shopping, there wasn’t much to do there except walk around and take pictures—which we did (well, which I did. A lot).

Here’s a little word problem on behalf of my mathie husband: Lacey took 3,500 pictures in Italy. Two-thirds of those pictures were taken in Venice, and half of those pictures were taken in Burano. How many pictures did Lacey take in Burano? 

Answer: a lot. 

Wait, there’s more! Check out Page 2 to hear about our weekend in Florence.

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