Venice, Italy is like no other place in all the world. Venetian beauty cascades from atop the clanging San Marco bell tower all the way down into its teaming maze of canals.
Walking the narrow, twisting, cobblestone streets, I couldn’t help but stare around in silent wonder. My family, however, is anything but silent. “I’m HUNGRY!” and “When will we EAT?!” were common refrains of my younger sister and brother. We ended up eating at a charming restaurant near our neighborhood square, Campo Santo Stefano, called Trattoria De Fiora. The fresh mussels and clams practically leapt from the sea into my delicious homemade pasta. With evident joy, our waiter would saunter up to our table to inquire with a sing-songy, “Va bene?” The whole experience was authentic and memorable.
With hearts and bellies full, we stepped back into the streets. The city now had an exciting buzz, as the light was emanating from hazy streetlamps, reflected across the water in ripples. It was around 10:00 when we dragged our resisting dad to a gondola service. He claimed, “Gondolas are for tourists,” to which I giggled, “We ARE tourists!”
When we arrived, a man greeted us, decked in the quintessential white and black striped shirt and hat. Giddy with excitement, we boarded our long slender boat in anticipation of a perfect gondola ride to top our perfect night.
From around the corner, a jovial red-faced man stumbled into view, ear buds jammed up his ears. He clambered onto the boat and made his way to man the oar. Let’s just say, the boat was tipsy, and so seemed our helmsman. “What’s your name?” my mom asked, politely. “My naaaame… is Roberto,” he slurred, trilling his “r’s” in that perfectly Italian way. “Rrrebbberrrto” we parroted with nervous laughter. In truth, I was worried we would tip over or get lost, but it became quickly apparent that our guide was more than able to maneuver a 20-foot boat in the dark, even while impaired.
When we were a couple canals into our ride, I turned and saw an enormous rat not 4 feet away. It was the size of a small dog and I’m pretty sure it looked at me and winked. It was like Ratatouille 2: In Italy. My family and I went berserk, causing it to squeeze inside a sewage pipe for escape. While we were squwaking over the colossal rat we heard from behind us, “Isss noooo problemmm…. There are rats aaaaall over the world.” I turned to Roberto as he went on, defending his Venetian rats. “New York City? There are rats. Paris, Rome? More rats. Is no problem,” Roberto drawled. Truer words were never spoken.
When we docked after our hilariously lovely boat ride, the dusty light was now gone. We ambled our way back toward our flat, stopping for gelato back in Santo Stefano, of course. As we passed through the breathtaking buildings under the serene sky, I thought of Roberto’s now infamous line “There are rats all over the world.” It’s true there are rats all over the world, but the world is a beautiful place, and as unexpected as our gondola ride was, I will never forget it. After all, it’s the unexpected memories that steal their way into your heart. I smiled as I fell asleep, surrounded by the still, quiet beauty.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.