As we tired of the hills of Italy, I cheerfully informed Rob that he should look forward to Venice because it is flat!  Except that I forgot about the bridges. I mean, I guess I did not really forget about the bridges. I remembered them in all of their glory, spanning even the smallest canals in the never-ending maze of waterways that forms the most fascinating city I have ever visited.  Some people hate Venice, but I can not fathom that. I absolutely adore Venice, even while carrying a stroller up and back down the bridges at every turn. The hardest part about navigating the passageways of Venice was when we first arrived and left the Vaporetto (water bus) stop trying to find our way to our hotel.  Not only were we hoisting our babies up and down the endless bridges, but we were also hauling our luggage and had no idea where we were going. Luckily, we did not have all of our luggage as we had packed just what we needed for two nights and left the rest in our rental car which was parked at the Venice Airport.

We got lost.  Really lost. The directions seemed easy enough, quite clear really.  According to our map, the route was quite short and only involved a few turns.  The problem is that the actual passageways of Venice look nothing like they do on a map.   Last time I was in Venice, this was precisely what I loved about the place, getting lost on purpose to discover the parts of Venice that few tourists ever see.  However, with bags and babies in tow, getting lost was not fun. We stopped many times for directions and finally arrived on a cool spring day in a full sweat.

Fortunately, we recovered quickly from our debacle.  Our journey from San Gimignano was 3.5 hours and somehow we kept the boys awake the whole time which meant the boys would be taking a nap while mommy and daddy enjoyed our complimentary bottle of prosecco from Hotel Palazzo Vitturi.  We had an oversized room overlooking the square with the boys’ baby cots winning the prize for best view.

Directly outside our room was a large sitting area with open windows to a small balcony overlooking the square.  Here we relaxed as we sipped prosecco while listening to the few remaining singing gondoliers who seemed to fancy the small strip of canal that passed close to our hotel.  

We watched Venetian life from above – people rushing home from work, walking their dogs, and shopping the stall full of vegetables right below our balcony.  

Once naptime was over, we enjoyed the view with the boys for a few moment before joining the buzz of activity below our window.  

It was in this piazza that people stopped to take in a little slice of openness in such a crowded city.  While in Italy, our little gemelli received a lot of attention from Italians, but nowhere as much as in this piazza.  The boys chased the little dogs walking by, played with new Italian friends, and tasted the fresh vegetables for sale at the stall.  Away from the throngs of tourists and surrounded by Italians, I felt like we were staying in the real Venice, and I was so in love.

Even though our location felt authentic, it was not too far from tourist central, Piazza San Marco.  We found the route with the fewest bridges and committed it to memory. The locals had all-terrain strollers and were able to get over the bridges quite easily with a few backward pulls up the stairs then bouncing down the other side.  I am not sure how those strollers made it through the narrow doorways of Venice, but I guess when you are a local, you know where and where not to go.

When in a place as confusing as Venice, I try to not make too many plans regarding meals, which is really hard because I am a planner and eating is my favorite part of being in a distant land.  I am a huge fan of TripAdvisor when planning my excursions, but when a place is overwhelming, I rely on the ‘Nearby’ option on TripAdvisor to find sustenance. Before arriving in Venice, I had read about Baci & Pasta and it sounded like the perfect quick stop for us since all the reviews raved about the quality of the pasta, but I had no idea where it was exactly.  Low and behold, when I clicked the ‘Nearby’ button while still at our hotel, Baci & Pasta popped up and away we went. Again, we were greeted by the friendliness that seemed to exude from every Venetian we met. I cannot remember which pastas we ordered, but I do remember enjoying them immensely as we sat on the door threshold of a nearby closed shop because there were no available seats in the small eatery.  Just as well since it was best to keep moving with our kiddos. We made our way to Piazza San Marco and while far more touristy than the piazza outside our hotel, the boys enjoyed running around while we listened to the nighttime entertainment emitting from all of the overpriced cafes lining the square.

As we walked back to our hotel, we were able to take in the lit up exterior of Palazzo Ducale and the Bridge of Signs under the moonlight as we listened to waves lap up against the boats and to accordions beckoning tourists for tips.

The next morning, on our way back to tourist central, we passed this vegetable market that caught our eye.  

We purchased some veggie snacks, and I still remember the taste of these bright cherry tomatoes.

We made our way back to Piazza San Marco and actually enjoyed the more crowded, daylight version, although I must say that it was not as crowded as I had feared.  This is a huge benefit of visiting touristy spots in the shoulder season which is much easier to accomplish with young children before school schedules become a factor.  Bryson and Connor had so much fun chasing the pigeons.  So many pigeons! The scene was the typical pigeon covered piazza from all of the Venice travel photos you have ever seen, but somehow it was so much cuter when there were two matching little boys chasing these pigeons while their giggles filled the air.  

Apparently, it was not just my biased mom opinion that they were adorable because we soon had a tourist asking if she could take a photo with them.  The boys did not want to cooperate with that request (which is illustrated by the stroller in the below photo), so the tourist ended up of with an added bonus in her photo – Rob!  He helped settle the boys long enough to take some photos, then they were off chasing pigeons once again.

We knew from the start that we would not be able to enjoy a gondola ride since we were traveling with our two little wiggle worms.  Of course, this is the one thing you should not miss while in Venice. I had ridden a gondola during my previous visit to Venice, so it was not as sad for me, but I am sure we will make it back there one day so Rob can experience the ride.  To make up for missing this required activity, we decided to visit Palazzo Ducale which I had not done on my previous trip. It was quite impressive, but the boys did not seem to think the same so we rushed through the palace since they were getting restless.  

Because our hotel offered a large spread at breakfast, we did not need lunch until after our visit to Palazzo Ducale.  After making our way up and over the most daunting bridge of all, The Rialto Bridge, without much of a game plan, we realized we were getting a bit peckish.  Soon we were passing Antico Forno which I had read about on TripAdvisor but had not sought out despite it sounding like a perfect fit for us.  

What luck for us to stumble across it because it ended up being the best pizza we ate in all of Italy. We nibbled on it as we sat al fresco on a bench alongside the Grand Canal – a slice with a view!

The rest of our day was spent wandering aimlessly in Venice taking it all in.  It was an enjoyable afternoon although Rob and I were quite jealous of those sitting at cafes enjoying Aperol spritz without a care in the world!  

We so wanted to join the fun but did not want to ruin the serenity of the cafe patrons, so we opted for a bottle of wine from a wine shop near our hotel and another nap for the boys.  

Since we were a little more rested this evening, we decided to actually search for a dinner restaurant instead of opting for something close and easy.  I am so glad we did this. I had read about Trattoria San Basilio and even though it was off the beaten path on the edge of Venice, it was the perfect opportunity to ride the Vaporetto which was the closest thing we were going to get to a gondola ride during this trip.  The “bus” ride gave us an economical tour of the Grand Canale, and we disembarked at the San Basilio stop where a few steps later, we were at our destination, a family run establishment in every sense of the word.  

By the end of the meal, we also felt like part of the family.  The owners took it upon themselves to keep our boys entertained throughout the meal.  I do not recall ordering here, it was as if we were at our family’s house and they just brought things out of the kitchen that they thought we would like, and we liked all of it, especially Bryson as you can see!

By the time we were done visiting our “family”, it was dark which made the ride back on the Vaporetto a new experience.  It was the perfect ending to our short stay in Venice, a place we will surely visit again … and again … and again …