Getting lost in Venice ★★

Whenever the yellow signs point to some major tourist destination, go the other way instead. Put away the map. Discover the real Venice., Get lost in Venice, Venice, Italy (Photo by FTS-Ro)
Whenever the yellow signs point to some major tourist destination, go the other way instead. Put away the map. Discover the real Venice.

The fine art of getting lost in the backstreets of Venice and learning to love it

Getting lost in Venice can be a good thing, Get lost in Venice, Venice, Italy. (Photo by Marty Portier)
When you see a sign pointing to a major tourist destination, just go the other way and discover your own Venice. Of course, either way here will lead eventually to San Marco, so just pick one, wait until the next sing, then turn the wrong way!, Get lost in Venice, Venice, Italy. (Photo by Lorna Mitchell)

Pick up a good map of Venice.

OK, now put it in your daypack and pin it down with your water bottle or something, because you're not going to need it.

Since it's so darn easy to get lost in Venice, you might as well make a day of it.

My advice is to take a day trip not away from Venice itself, but away from the tourist crush of Venice. Discover the calm, beautiful, magical side of this over-packed with, the one that earned it the nickname "La Serenissima" (The Most Serene).

Venice's maze of narrow streets frustrate the navigational skills of the best of us—Venetians assure me that even they get lost repeatedly if they venture out of their own little neighborhood.

To help tourists on a tight schedule, quick routes between the key spots—San Marco, Accademia, Rialto, Ferrovia (train station)—have been established and the walls at every intersection along them are peppered with little yellow signs that point sightseers in the right direction.

To escape the crush of Venice-in-a-daytrippers, just turn right when the sign points left and within a minute you'll find yourself in a Venice where kids kick a soccer ball around a deserted campo (square), older women shelling peas sit in their doorways and conduct conversations with their neighbors across the way, locals duck into a bacaro (wine bar) to "prendere un'ombra," which translates as "take a little shade" but means "drink a glass of wine," and munch on cicchetti (cheap hors d'oeuvres).

Those signposted routes leading between the major sights are always teeming with tourists, so it comes as a surprise to step off them just a block or so and plunge into the private side of Venice, where the only sounds are church bells, kids playing soccer, and the lapping of water against canal embankments.

Set aside a few hours of your day to practice to art of Zen walking,turning left when you feel like it and avoiding at all costs the major calle and campi.

Stop for a meal in an osteria populated by locals, or pick up picnic supplies from little shops as you go and choose a scenic tiny campo or canalside riva to sit down and dig in.

When you're ready to be found again, just wander until you inevitably pop out onto a major square or street, get out that unused map, and navigate your way back to the well-known side of Venice.

Photo gallery
  • Whenever the yellow signs point to some major tourist destination, go the other way instead. Put away the map. Discover the real Venice., Get lost in Venice, Italy (Photo by FTS-Ro)
  • Getting lost in Venice can be a good thing, Get lost in Venice, Italy (Photo by Marty Portier)
  • When you see a sign pointing to a major tourist destination, just go the other way and discover your own Venice. Of course, either way here will lead eventually to San Marco, so just pick one, wait until the next sing, then turn the wrong way!, Get lost in Venice, Italy (Photo by Lorna Mitchell)

Tips

Do bring a map...

Despite what I say about how much fun it is to get lost, do make sure you bring along a good map or two.

Nothing spoils a good bout of getting lost as much as staying lost.