Split, Venice and Lake Como – Can it get any better than this?!?!

After the wedding festivities, Michael and I planned to travel through  Europe with Mom, Terry (step dad), Kristy, Andrew and Lydia. We started our journey in Dubrovnik, Croatia and ended in Geneva, Switzerland. We traveled nearly 1,600 kilometers!!! This was so much fun as we got to explore a bit of Europe in a big group. Our first stop was 1 night in Split, Croatia. (This is probably our 800th time there now!) haha

It wasn’t only the party I mentioned above that would be going to Split, but also my friend Bek, her friend Sonia, and Kai joined us there as well. We booked into a walking tour around Diocletian’s Palace which was very interesting. We learnt about how the place used to look like and the grand parties that used to take place there. We even learnt about a tradition or mainstay practice where people would indulge and indulge in both food and drink and actually vomit it all up in an actual “vomiting room”. How disgusting!!! We were told that this was very common and the room was specifically designed for this purpose.

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We then all had dinner together at our favourite restaurant in Split, Fife! It was a great night with a lot of laughs and good food. After being on the road just the two of us (Michael and myself), it was nice for a change to have a huge group travelling together.

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The next morning, Kristy, Andrew and myself went for a run along the Riva. Just a few days earlier, I ran the same track with my Dad and Tammy so I had perfected the route for a 5km run. We then quickly packed our bags and started our long long long car ride to Venice.

After nearly 6.5 hours of driving we arrived to Venice, parked the cars in a long term car park and took a water ferry over to Rialto Bridge as we booked an apartment near it. I have been to Venice before, but entering Venice on the ferry was breathtaking. The landscape is just so beautiful and really did look like the movies. With cameras in hand we couldn’t stop snapping photos.

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We finally reached our apartment which was in a great location, but to be honest…. It was pretty disgusting! When trying to find a place to stay in Venice, it’s really hard to find something for a descent price that is new and of good quality. Everything seems to be very old and in our case pretty dirty! It was definitely not what we had in mind, but we all just sucked it up and dealt with it.

We headed out to dinner that night and walked around Venice a bit to get our bearings. It’s so easy to get lost in the little alleyways!!!

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The next morning I had booked us into a free walking tour of Venice. It was an excellent tour with a young Italian girl who showed us her city. I have no idea how she navigated us throughout the city because earlier that morning I went for a run and got extremely lost! We learnt about the piles of wood that was used to essentially make Venice liveable. We also learnt that the water ambulances and the post workers have the hardest jobs here! If you get sick, forget about it as it takes forever for them to reach you. We also stopped by the BEST GELATO place in Venice. It was so delicious…. I still think about it!

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Our tour guide took us to the quirkiest book shop I have ever been in. There was actually a gondola in the middle of the store which was full of books! In the back of the shop there were piles and piles of books which were used as stairs! This was such a cool and quirky book shop!

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We ended the tour in Piazza San Marco which was full of tourists. We were advised to go back at night as usually it’s pretty dead and we would be able to get better photos.

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After the tour, we found a really cute restaurant to have lunch at. I absolutely loved my ravioli meal, unfortunately it just wasn’t enough. I could have done with double the serving! Haha. We walked around Venice a bit longer and found these really cool country specific art exhibits in the palaces. Our tour guide actually took us to the New Zealand art exhibit during the tour, so we decided to find a few more while we ventured around. Check these out!!!

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We gathered as a group again and headed off on our GONDOLA RIDE! This was so much fun. Our tour guide didn’t sing much but we all got into the spirit and gave it a go. “When the moon hit’s your eye, like a big pizza pie, THAT’S AMORE…….” The views of the buildings were so beautiful from this angle. I would highly recommend coughing up the money and indulging in a gondola ride. It’s a memory we will have forever 🙂

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After we were on such a high from the Gondola ride, nothing could prepare us for the ABSOLUTE LOW we were about to encounter. As we headed out for dinner, we were recommended to look in the university area as it is more of a student friendly area and is supposed to be away from the typical tourist traps. We decided on a restaurant that everyone was happy with, sat down and began to look through the menus. One of the specials for the day was a fish for 6.99 Euros. This was surprisingly a very good price so we confirmed with the waiters what type of fish it was and what came with it. The waiter explained that they will clean the fish for us and that it comes with vegetables. This was a good deal, so 3 members of our family decided to order it. The rest of us ordered a few pastas and what not.

Throughout our stay, the food was taking a bit longer than expected so they decided to provide us with complimentary bruschetta. We were very surprised at the level of hospitality they were providing us and were a bit shocked at how nice they were being. As a side note…. Michael and I have been travelling at this point for 4 months now and never received this type of “special” treatment. This is when the light bulb should have occurred.

Only about 5 minutes later, our meals came out and the waiter did a special performance while cleaning the 3 fish dishes. We all received our meals and were very happy with the taste and quality. After we had finished, we were then provided with complimentary lemon cello shots. (Side note again… Michael and I had not have this happen to us before) We were very happy with the overall experience and then asked for the bill.

This is where it started to become very strange as the waiter looked at me odd when I asked for the bill and then when he gave it to me, he brought along another waiter and waited for me to see the amount. We anticipated that the bill would be at the most 80 Euros……. When I opened the bill. My mouth dropped and my eyes almost popped out of my face! Our total bill came to 270 EUROS!!!!! We immediately all started to analyse the bill and tried to understand what happened as it was all in Italian. We called the waiter over who became very defensive and very mean. He said that the fish was expensive. We began to argue that the menu said the fish was 6.99 Euro’s and that the bill couldn’t possibly be right. He then said “yeah, it’s 6.99 Euro’s per 100 GRAMS!!!!!” They purposely withheld this information from us even after consistently asking them to clarify the fish special of the day. This was just complete nonsense with the intention of ripping off tourists. We were very upset, dished out the money and really was left with a sour taste in our mouth!

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We tried not to let this get us down, but just be warned that Venice is such a big tourist trap these days that you need to be really really careful not to get ripped off.

Lake Como

The following day Lydia had to go back to Sydney, so we had to say our goodbyes. It was so great having her around so we were really sad when she left. It was almost like a movie where she hopped onto a water ferry and waved us goodbye as we stood on the pier watching her sail under the Rialto Bridge.

The rest of the family headed to Lake Como which was another long drive, but such a beautiful drive. We have heard such great things about the area so we were very excited. We were staying at a B&B in Lecco. This was definitely a cute area, but in the future I would want to stay closer to Bellagio or Varenna. We had to drive through the windy tiny streets to get to a main town whenever we wanted to do something which was a bit of a hassle.

That afternoon we headed to Varenna which was the nearest main town. It was so picturesque with the colourful houses and restaurants overlooking Lake Como. The mountains on the other side of the Lake were breathtaking and looked just like a post card. The beauty of this area was unreal. After a few hours of strolling around the town, we headed back to Lecco and went to a restaurant which was recommended by the B&B owner. This was the best meal we have had while travelling with the family after the wedding. It was very delicious, innovative and well-priced! Good prices are so hard to find during the peak season in peak destinations!

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The coolest part of this restaurant was seeing the fisherman outside.

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The next morning we woke up to one of the best breakfast’s we had on this trip. The B&B owner is renowned for his homemade crepe’s which we all got to indulge in for our breakfast. Then, we headed out on the ferry to Bellagio. This was my favourite town in Lake Como! It’s a bit more developed with a lot of shops, restaurants and beautiful sidewalks where you can admire the view. We spent a few hours just relaxing and taking a stroll around the area before we headed to Mennagio. This was a bit smaller of a town where we had a nice lunch and also explored the area for a bit. Lake Como is one of those places that you should go if you want to purely relax and enjoy yourself. There isn’t too many activities to do other than shopping and going on the ferries which is just the perfect thing to do on a relaxing holiday. Michael and I loved Lake Como so much that we decided to fit in an extra day into our plans to see it again.

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Geneva

That afternoon we headed on another long road-trip to Geneva. Now this drive is VERY EXPENSIVE as we paid nearly 100 Euros in tolls, but it is the MOST BEAUTIFUL DRIVE EVER!!! The drive from Lake Como to Geneva is full of jaw-dropping moments. Now, I didn’t drive so I just got to really sit there and take in the beautiful sites. I think that if I had to drive the steep windy roads I would have fainted so thank goodness Michael was driving. We went through numerous tunnels and were basically on the side of a cliff the entire time. It was absolutely stunning!!!

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So we arrived to our hotel which we booked right next to the airport as the family was flying back to Portland early in the morning. This was such a sad moment as we all knew that our trip together was coming to an end. We were in an airport hotel with no food around so we decided to go to McDonald’s and all huddled in one room sharing stories of our trip. The next morning Michael and I had to say goodbye which was one of the hardest things we had to do on this trip. It was like a fairy-tale travelling with both sides of our families and getting married in Croatia. We had anticipated these adventures with family for months and it was all coming to an end. We knew that we had each other which would get us through it.

We were on our own again, but excited to explore more of Europe for another 4 months!!