Things to do when in Venice:
Eat a lot of gelato.
Get a map and plot out all sights you want to see in this labyrinth.
Bring the map and get lost anyway.
Eat more gelato and everything will be okay.
As I got off the platform in Venezia Santa Lucia, I had to struggle to keep from jumping up and down as I got an eyeful of Venice. Busy waterway streets, gondoliers bedecked in stripes and straw hats — it was unreal, a whimsical pace of life defying the logical world as I knew it. It was perfect.
Apparently, the last thing you would want to bring to Venice is a plan. This was fine with me — my only working strategy was to stroll all day, steer clear of the pricey gondolas and get wonderfully lost in the passageways of Venice. As I made my way from Campo San Margherita to Piazza San Marco, I stumbled from one courtyard to another, got wowed by ornate churches, drooled in front of pastry shops and pizzerias and tried on countless Murano trinkets. No doubt about it, I was smitten, floored, in love with Venice and its quirkiness.
The bubble lasted until nightfall. Two hours after deciding to head back to Campo San Margherita, I was utterly lost and nowhere near my hostel. I’m usually a decent navigator, but Venice was kicking my ass. I would stop at shops to ask for directions, only to be lost again just two minutes later. It got so bad that three times while sparring with my map, I wanted to cry.
Finally, the streets got a bit familiar, and I finally found my way back to homebase. I was so flustered that I was trying to unlock the apartment next door! Another backpacker was just on his way in as well and opened the right door for me. We chatted a bit about my misadventures, and telling that I could use a drink, he invited me for a night out with fellow backpackers.
These guys, they were pros — they traversed the alleys effortlessly like it was their own neighborhood. They reassured me that that these first-day getting-lost blunders happened to everyone, and I gain my smile back.
It would be on the day I leave the floating wonderland that I realize the trick to exploring Venice. The key is to never rush — which made perfect sense for this fairy-tale city. Little by little, let the city unfold. The more you wander aimlessly, the more it becomes familiar. Eventually, it will begin to trust you with its secrets, and you start to figure out how things work. It’s all part of the magic — this is Venice, after all.
More pics, you say? Then shimmy over here: 2012-09 Venice: Picasa Album