Italian Vacation Diary: Chapter 3 – The Gondolorian

Waking up in Venice was a treat, in more ways than one. The weather was nice, so we slept with the windows ajar. Being that there were no screens on the windows, I was awoken by some flying insects that morning. The damp musty smell of the waterways next began filling my nostrils. I recall thinking “where am I and why am I being tortured like this?”. My dismay quickly turned to delight when I looked at the window and saw the astounding buildings and unique landscape Venice offers.
Once we all gathered ourselves we set out to explore Venice for the day. We stopped at a small café where I had an ‘American’ breakfast which consisted of a ham and cheese omelette which I enhanced with a croissant and a Coke Zero. At the café we spoke with a local named Andrea who gave us great advice on visiting the Tuscany region later on our trip. Andrea and Paul talked for a while back and forth in Italian and Andrea complemented him on his language skills.

Before our trip I had studied up on Italian so I could pick up some of the words being said. At one point, Andrea, Paul and myself started laughing which confused the rest of the group. Andrea had asked Paul if we were his kids, which Paul replied blushingly with, “No, no, no”.

By the evening we had hit all the major touristy spots in Venice. We got around by using the water bus which normally costs €7.50 per person per trip, but because we’re dumb Americans we rode for free, illegally. Navigating the tight “streets” of Venice is very difficult because of all the dead ends and bad GPS signal. Several times we headed out one way only to turn around and go back the same way because it was either a dead end or the entirely wrong direction. As the reluctant navigator I took a lot of harassment from the group for these antics. We learned words like sinistra (left) and destra (right) which didn’t help us navigate any better, but were fun to say.
Later we had dinner, I had gnocchi again, and this is where Mike became attached to the word limoncello which he said with a very humorous Italian accent.

After dinner as close to sunset as possible the six of us sought to find a gondola ride. Since this is a busy time of day for the gondoliers we had to wait for one to come available. I started dancing around like I had to pee and saw a public toilet sign not far from the gondola station. I quickly walked to the W.C. and was surprised to find that it would cost me €1.50 to use. I only had 10 Euros on me at the time so I turned around and sauntered back to the group. I found Mike and he lent me a one Euro coin to accompany the 50 cents I had in my pocket. Next I turn around and run back up the hill to where the public restroom was, and by this time I was almost ready to go in my pants. On my trip to find Mike and get some coin, the bathroom closed before I came back. I had no choice but to hold it for the entire 30 plus minutes of the gondola ride.

We all piled in the gondola in random order leaving me to sit in the front facing away from everyone. The ride was delightful and the gondolier was very unrevealed. We quickly noticed we weren’t going on the main waterways and found ourselves traveling down what we would call the ‘back roads’. I looked back a couple times at our driver who did nothing more than steer the boat, poorly, and duck under bridges as we approached them. After a while Mike and I started to smell a distinct yet familiar scent in the air. Each time it wafted by, we would look at each other and chortle. The gondolier’s phone rang and of course he answered it, but this led me to turn around again and glance his way. It was then we all noticed at the same time he was smoking a joint of cannabis. Mike and I laughed and abruptly my urinary pains came back. As we maneuvered through tight waterways, bumping into boats, our high-as-a-kite gondolier seem to have everything under control. All of a sudden we heard a loud thud and a splash. The boat rocked and we felt like we might go overboard. Looking back at our captain we see him half hanging off the boat, on his back, trying to keep ahold of his oar. Shortly after he regained his stability, apologizing, and saying that he is fine, we learned that he had failed to duck low enough to clear a bridge. The concrete bridge clipped his back on our way under and sent him straight to the deck. I think we were all laughing so much it was hard to breathe. I’m pretty sure, though I’ll never admit it in person, I urinated in my trousers a bit when our gondolier went crashing down.
Every bridge thereafter most of us shouted at our driver “Attenzione!” Which is a word we learned earlier when local delivery drivers would want us to get out of their way.
This was another thrilling end to another night of a long trip ahead.

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