“I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you find that you're not, I hope you find the strength to start all over again.” - Eric Roth

Saint Mark's Basilica is one of Italy's most spectacular church's and certainly the most famous church in Venice. If I was staying a short distance away from such an important piece of Italian history (and arguably the best known example of Byzantine architecture) why hadn't I visited yet? Tourist season is only just beginning in Europe but the lines are absurd! As my funds whittle down, I've adapted the motto, "If it's free it's for me" and there is no entrance fee to tour the Basilica, so off I went.

The line to enter the Basilica, though winding and seemingly endless, only took about 20 minutes to get through. The entire time I was in line I kept repeating in my head, cover your shoulders, cover your shoulders..... I pulled on a sweater before entering the massive doors to find a security guard asking, "Do you have anything to cover your legs?" I was so concerend about my top half that it occured to me that a historical church wouldn't approve of my short shorts. The security guard gave me a drape, the size of a yoga mat and instructed me to wrap it around my waist. As I shuffled through the church, feeling like I just got out of the shower, the security guard called from behind me, "Bella, it'sa justa like the Dolce and Gabana!"

Which, to me, translated to, you look like an asshole. Thanks for the entertainment.

After my basilica fiasco, I headed straight to the harbor. There was a boat docking next to a lengthy sign (writen in Italian) with the brief English summary, Island tour. I bought a 20 Euro ticket, not knowing if the islands were off of Venice or on the other side of Europe, and boarded the small boat. I realize this isn't the most intelligent way to avoid a crowd, but traveling alone gives you the freedom to make last minute decisions. I'm grateful for that.

I think it's important to give credit where credit is due, which is why I give thanks to Italy for some staples: Spaghetti, red wine, gelato, Mario & Luigi....

After my spontaneous island-hopping tour, I've added even more to my list, including glass, leather & lace!

The first stop was Murano, an island famous for glass making. I watched 2 Italian brothers make a vase & a glass horse. I still can't wrap my head around how they crafted the firey glass with such intricate detail. The wander of this craft makes you feel like you've witnessed a magic trick, rather than a trade.

Next was Torcello. I visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, roamed beautiful gardens & listened to an accordian player on the canal. There are currently 12 inhabitants on Torcello & I'm sure they never have to leave the island since tourists frequent their shops throughout the day.

The final stop was Burano. This was my favorite island. It's characterized by the bright houses of Fisherman (some say the color of the house tells which type of Fisherman lives inside). It's also THE place to buy hand-sewn lace.

As is usually the case, the best tour you will ever get is from the locals. For this, I had Andrea. He taught me about historical places in hidden alleys, famous architecture from his boat in the canal and where to find the best food in Venice, from open-air markets to the best pizza in town.

Venice was never a part of my plans & it turned out to be one of my favorite stops.