I'm Gon-dola Miss Venice (Too Cheesy?)

The Enchanting Burano Sunset

My favorite thing about studying abroad so far has been meeting friendly people from all over Europe and getting to hear their stories. Last weekend, my friends and I went to Venice for Carnevale and I had a day that I’ll remember forever. I am lucky enough to have gone to Venice already, back when we visited Ruthie while she studied abroad here. It was November of 2011 and I had a lovely time touring around with my family. Since I had already been to Murano and Burano, the two best-known islands off of Venice, I decided that this time I would try something new. My friends Lucas and Abigail set off for Murano and I got a daily ticket and boarded a rickety boat to Torcello. Torcello is a lesser-known but still very worthwhile third island. It is filled with byzantine religious art and houses the notable Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta.

I figured out my route and wasn’t at all nervous to travel alone. I figured I would spend a few hours looking around Torcello and then head back to Venice to meet up with the rest of my group. I boarded the boat and settled into a window seat in a group of six. A few minutes later, the rest of the six was filled in by a friend group of five 35-year-old Italians traveling. We began chatting and discovered that a few of them – Guilia and Michele – lived in Rome as well. The others –  Annalisa, Alessandro, and Matteo – lived in Milan. They had all gotten together to go to Venice that weekend. Since we were all headed to the same place, we decided to tour the church together. Before I knew it, these fantastic people had completely welcomed me into their circle and invited me out to a long lunch. Several hours, proseccos, and the best seafood risotto I’ll ever eat later, I found myself getting on another boat with my new friends. We took a group picture on the docks and landed in Burano where we sunbathed and walked around the colorful houses together for several more hours.

I was amazed at the endless kindness of these no-longer-strangers. We discussed Italy’s wild politics, our work and passions, and our family backgrounds. They gently corrected my broken Italian when I dared to try using it, and we sang out Barbra Streisand’s “Memories” on the ferry. We exchanged information with each other and talked about getting together again in the future. In fact, I’m meeting up with Guilia and Michele soon for an aperitivo.

The rest of my Venice trip was as wildly fun. One of my close childhood friends Lisa and I discovered that we were both in Venice for the weekend and we spent our Saturday evenings together catching up, laughing, and walking around in the absurd crowds of masked figures. Seeing my old friend put me in a good mood for the whole week, and I loved hearing about her adventures in Florence, where she is studying for the semester. She and I have an April trip to Paris booked with a few of our other friends from growing up.

The next morning I decided to get up early and see one more neighborhood before we left town. I packed up and went to the historical Jewish Ghetto in search of a bakery and a sunny spot to view the sights. As I ate my cookies on a bench and watched school children walking to their apartments, a woman sat down next to me. She was easily the most naturally beautiful person I have ever met. I don’t know her exact age, but she had six grandchildren. Her Manolo Blahniks weren’t the most impressive part of her gorgeous outfit, which made sense to me only once I discovered she was a fashion boutique owner in Milan. Marina and I chatted for over an hour – she was waiting for her friend to wake up and I had nowhere in particular to be before my train. She gave me her phone number and told me to call her when I come to Milan so that she can “put together a dinner.” All I know is that if I’m going to meet any of her friends and they are even a fraction as well dressed as she is, I’ll need to go shopping beforehand.  

The spontaneity of Europe has yet to cease amazing me. I don’t take for granted how lucky I have been to meet such inviting, warm people almost everywhere I go. It reminds me of the one-of-a-kind quality that traveling as a young person has. Although it is important to make safe choices, traveling alone is nothing to be afraid of. Each time I do it, I find great reward. I love my family and my friends back home, but homesickness is one feeling I have yet to experience here. Italy is my home now, too.

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Audrey Hertzberg

I’m a Jersey girl raised on lasagna and The Godfather. I’ve always liked learning about Old Italy and I’m excited to experience it this spring. I study Political Science and History at George Washington University, and I’m still on the hunt for the best cannoli in D.C. Talk to me about reading, running, and The West Wing!

Destination:
Term:
2017 Spring
Home university:
George Washington University, The
Major:
Political Science
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