Getting lost is a wonderful thing. Unless of course you ARE actually lost and then the panic sets in. But it’s a nice thing to glorify, isn’t it?
One of the things I had heard before coming to Venice was that to truly appreciate the wonder that is Venezia, one must get lost. A romantic idea, right? The answer is yes, it is amazing to see all these hidden alleys and shops and, well, the local’s Venice. Until of course it’s so dark you can’t read a map or sign, you’re tired, you’re hungry and you’re sure you’ve seen that church five times now. But that’s ok because you’re becoming more acquainted with the real Venice, isn’t it?
Well, yes, but my advice is that you learn more about the place then go and get yourself lost. Get lost like you’re in a classroom studying quantum physics. Just know a little bit about the place first – you’ll notice more of the little things and probably appreciate it a little more.
My advice is ultimately that you join a “free” walking tour. Generally they are run by local students who make money from tips generated by the tour. You get info, they get money and everybody wins. Plus, since they live off tips they are more likely to want to impress you. Or at least that is what I have found.
In fact, I don’t think that I would have enjoyed my time in Venice a fraction as much as I did if not for the tour I did. Yes, it went for 4 and a half hours. Before you gasp (or after – depending on whether you are a fast gasper), I promise you that it felt way, way more like a two hour tour. And that is someone who can’t sit though a lot of movies at home. My family and I took the tour first thing on our first full day and it was probably the best thing we did in Venice, and accentuated everything else.
Some of the things we had glimpsed the night before started making sense. Those weird picnic
tables lying everywhere? Oh those are for tourists and their suitcases to walk on when the flood season starts. Yes, Venice FLOODS (properly floods) for half a year and locals bring out their knee-high boots. We happened to only miss these floods by a day in the end.
While you’re at it, why don’t you take a walk to San Marco’s square? Just be sure not to walk between the two tall columns or you will be cursed. Yes that is a nice thing for superstitious people to know, luckily we found out in time. No Venetian would walk between them. And one of the pillars around the side of the church presents a fun challenge – prisoners about to be executed between the two columns (hence the curse) would be given the opportunity to be set free – if and only if – they could make their way around the column without their feet touching the ground. But here are the catches: you must have your back to the wall and your hands cuffed behind your back. There’s no way you will do it though because while there are like ten pillars supporting the church around the side, this one is a bit closer to the edge than the others. I tried multiple times but failed miserably.
All in all, what I’m getting at is that walking tours – or at least brushing up on your knowledge of a place before you go there – can be invaluable. I learned so much in a short time and it truly enriched my Venetian experience.