Honors Italy: The Grand Tour - Days 1-3

Our adventure began on Monday, May 18, with most of us meeting in the Columbus airport for a flight to New York and then to Venice.  As I was waiting for students to arrive, I noticed that all of the flights going into New York had been delayed or cancelled, but our flight was still listed as being on time.  Given we only had a 65 minute layover in New York, I knew that a delay could mean we would miss our flight to Venice.  Sure enough, about 2 hours before our flight to Columbus was to depart, we were informed it would be delayed.  After spending about 30 minutes on the phone with our airline company trying to make other arrangements, one of the students showed me that the flight from Venice to New York was delayed as well, so I cancelled the new arrangements.  Unfortunately, 10 minutes later, the flight from New York to Venice was listed as being on time again.  After taking a poll of the students, we decided to fly into New York (after a 3 hour delay) and spend the night there, delaying our trip to Venice by one day.  While disappointed, we decided we would make the best of our day in New York to do a little sightseeing there.  As our plane landed, one of the students excitedly approached me to show me that the Venice flight was also delayed by 3 hours and we may still be able to make our flight.  While all of our fellow passengers were perturbed by the 3 hour delay due to a mechanical issue with the flight, our 17 travelers were grateful that we would arrive in Italy on the day that was planned.

Elated Honors students on ferry to Venice
At the Venice airport, it soon became apparent that while we made the flight, our luggage did not.  However, we all agreed being in Venice for 1 day without luggage was much better than being in New York for 1 day without luggage.  After filling out all of the lost luggage information, we left the secure area of the airport and met Gesualdo, our tour director for the week.  He led us to meet Antonio, our bus driver, and we departed to check in to the Hotel Altinate in Venice.  We were not in the center of Venice, so we departed the hotel to catch a ferry over to the city center. 

Gondola ride through Venice canals

Upon arriving in central Venice for our shortened day due to the travel delay, Gesualdo asked if we were interested in taking a gondola ride through the canals.  While there was an additional charge for this ride, we all agreed that we could not say we had truly visited Venice without a gondola ride.  We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) before having a four course meal.  Our weary travelers, many of whom had only slept 2 hours in 24 hour span, were happy to return to the hotel for a full night's rest.

Bocca di Leone, Doge's Palace
We spent Day 3 of our trip entirely in Venice, starting with a glass-blowing demonstration at the Murano Glass Factory.  After watching the expert craftsman create a vase and a horse from molten glass, we had some time to tour the factory store.  Unfortunately, picture taking was not permitted inside the store, but the chandeliers and statues were quite impressive and expensive, with most of our travelers saving our Euros for souvenirs later in the trip or purchasing small pieces of glass jewelry.  We then returned to Piazza San Marco to meet our local Venice guide who guided us during our visit to Doge's Palace, the construction of which began in 1340.  The Doge of Venice was the primary leader of the Republic of Venice from around 700 to 1797.  One interesting story from our tour guide was regarding the Bocca di Leone, or Lion's Mouth, in the wall outside of the palace.  A citizen of Venice could accuse another citizen of a crime by writing down the accusation and dropping it inside the Lion's Mouth.  If guilty of said crime, the citizen would often be exiled.
Venice canal from inside Bridge of Sighs
As our tour of the inside of Doge's Palace continued, we were astounded by the large amount of artwork and ornate decoration of the ceiling and walls of the palace.  Eventually, we walked across the enclosed Bridge of Sighs, which connects the prison to the interrogation room in the Doge's Palace.  Our tour guide told us two legendary explanations for the origin of the name of this bridge:  prisoners condemned to be executed would cross this bridge and sigh as they caught their last glimpse of Venice or lovers riding a gondola under the bridge at sunset would enjoy eternal love and sigh over the romance of the entire scene.

Upon returning to our hotel, some participants enjoyed a walk along the beach before heading to bed to rest for our bus ride to Florence the next day.


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