You’re going to get lost in Venice,
just accept it and enjoy it.
This was the advice I remember most from reading Rick Steve’s book on the floating city. And while my overconfidence in my map reading skills lead me to be dubious about this advice, it proved to be 100% correct. You WILL get lost in Venice, but if you let go and relax, you might find some beautiful places you’d never expect.
You can plan and you can have a general idea, but it is inevitable that you will take a wrong turn in Venice. The walkable streets are narrow, not much wider than a sidewalk in America at some points, often with weathered buildings reaching up to the sky on either side. And of course, the other streets… are water. In this city made of islands, canals both large and small wind through the city in an endless maze of water. While over 400 bridges dot the city, not every canal is crossable when you need it to be and it is likely that your sidewalk may end abruptly in a canal with no where else to go but back the way you came.
But this is the beauty of Venice. You’re on an island, so truly, you can’t get too lost. Eventually, if you walk far enough, the water will stop you somewhere.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go all willy nilly and just wander the city. I used my phone and printed maps as often as I could but those don’t always work. With high buildings and a ton of people also using their phones, your google maps is likely to get confused or even not work at all. And while paper maps don’t suffer from lack of satellite communication, they can still be just as confusing when you see a street on the map but it is really no wider than a doorway.
The first time I went to Venice I had more of a mission, less time and less travel experience I played is safe and got semi lost but never travelled to far from the hotel and St Mark’s Square. The second time I went to Venice, I tried to truly keep the idea of getting lost in the forefront of my mind. I had no true plans other than a desire to see Murano island, show Zoe the Doge’s Palace and have an evening drink in St Mark’s Square while listening to a live orchestra. So we did a bit of planning on how to get places, but we also did a lot of wandering. We took several wrong turns but that often lead to delicious meals, amazing bars and cocktails and a ton of fun window shopping.
The moral of my story is, let yourself go when you’re there. Don’t get so wrapped up in trying to figure out where to go or where you are that you miss the beauty that is all around you. When you are walking down a street, look in the windows instead of at a map, you might find the perfect souvenir. When you cross bridges, look on both sides as you might end up with the most beautiful photo of your trip. When you pass little alleyway streets, look down them. You might end up finding a great hole in the wall restaurant with the best food imaginable.