Early today, we marched to the train station to find our transportation to Venice. It was my first train ride ever! The train car was super clean and comfortable, and although I wanted to watch the scenery that we passed, I couldn’t help but take a nap. One hour later, we made it to Venice!!! Right as we stepped out of Venice’s train station, the wind immediately hit us, and I was sure glad I wore jeans today. We hopped on a taxi boat to cross the Grand Canal, which is the largest and longest canal in Venice. Though it was chilly outside, we couldn’t help but stand in the open back area to see the sights. Right after stepping off the taxi, we got in line for the gondola experience. The gondolas were very long and seemed hard to maneuver, but the drivers were extremely talented and used whistling to signal to others around corners. It was such a peaceful ride. Once we escaped the open Grand Canal and rode our way through the small canal streets of the city, the wind wasn’t attacking anymore and everything just got quieter. We all relaxed enjoyed the ride while taking in the man-made island city. An experience I’ll never forget! Got another small prosciutto sandwich for lunch and then met up with the whole group to begin the guided walking tour. Starting in St. Mark’s Square, the main public piazza, we saw St. Mark’s Basilica, featuring interior walls encrusted with spectacular gold mosaics, and including an ascent to the Galleries to see the original bronze horses. This cathedral church suffers from any flooding that occurs since the ocean’s salt water causes corrosion. Apparently when St. Mark’s Square does flood, it gets pretty high, which is very concerning for all the stores and landmarks around it. Right next door is Doges’ Palace, the residence of all rulers of the Serenissima Republic. Construction began for this palace in the 1300s, and the palace also connects to the Bridge of Sighs, which then connects to what used to be the jail. That jail contained the cells where Casanova was once imprisoned. The history behind the Bridge of Sighs has a very different meaning behind it than the tourists who now consider it to be a romantic bridge. While passing some tourist shops, we noticed many decorative masks for sale. Supposedly, back in the day, Venice would host many carnivals and people from all over would be invited to join, but they would wear these masks because they didn’t want to be recognized. There were also beaked masks, like the plague doctor masks, that seem popular because Venice was also hit hard from the plague three significant different times. When Venice has hosted these carnival, though, they centered around the Rialto Bridge, the most elegant and famous of the bridges that span the Grand Canal. It was actually built to unite the two main sides of the city, in order to merge the banks of the canal, to make market more accessible, and so on. On the tour, we noticed large structures in the middle of some squares that were once apart of the rain water system that was used to collect good drinking water. Because no one can drink lagoon water, the previous locals created a rain system to collect the rain in reserves to then drink, so they used to be happy when it rained a couple days in a row. Now they must have another way of getting clean water. Because of how chilly it was outside, we found a nice warm pizzeria for dinner and enjoyed each other’s company for a couple hours until the train ride back. Overall, it was a super long day so I’ll be calling it an early night. Last full day in Verona tomorrow!