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February 12, 2010

To begin a trip to Italy with Venice is getting into the dream world immdiately. It’s the perfect place to slow down and surrender to Italian rhythms. You walk and stretch out from the plane ride, you listen to the church bells and the lapping of the water. You feel the softness of the water and melt into the fairytale.

There is no better ride from an airport than taking the boat in from Venice. I remember my first time, how the fantastical island appeared out of the fog–a place I’d seen in so many postcards, now was right there in front of me…REAL…

I’d come in from San Francisco and the flight arrived at the golden sunset hour. My girlfriend Betsy and I dropped our bags and started wandering away from the apartment we’d rented in the Dorsoduro.

We stopped on a small bridge, and as if on cue, a gondola glided toward us, steered by the most handsome of handsome dark-eyed gondoliers. He flashed us a smile, a ciao, and then floated away.

Giddy, we stumbled across another bridge, and there it was: Cantinone Gia Schiavi (Ponte San Trovaso)–a classic Venetian Bacaro (wine bar), where tourists rub elbows with locals. Here is where for the first time I had one of my favorite tastes on earth: A tumbler of prosecco and baccala mantecato (whipped baccala on toast). I was hooked. Betsy and I kept taking the same route to this wine bar during that trip, hoping to see the Gondolier on that bridge again, but we never did.

I remember dinner that night in the restaurant at the Hotel Agli Alboretti. Fegata alla Veneziana, Amarone…the whole afternoon of arrival into evening was a perfect dream of Venice come true.

NOTE: Transportation from the airport to Venice is most cheaply a ferry that costs around 10 euro and the ride takes an hour and a half. On the other extreme, there are plenty of water taxis that cost around 100 euro. The Blessed split down the middle comes with Bucintoro Viaggi, that charges around 30 euros per person–book in advance.

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