How and Why to Get Lost in Venice

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It’s not uncommon to hear the same things when you read about Venice. Although Venice is a unique city that has inspired writers for centuries, it is difficult (if not impossible!) to find anything new about the city. It is important to get lost when you are in Venice, as this advice is repeated often, even on this site.

This sounds, I have to admit, strange advice. This is not very useful advice. Tourists have done well getting lost for centuries without any instruction. It is a common and well-respected piece of advice for tourists in Venice.

It all comes down to this:

There is a distinction between “taking wrong turns” and “getting lost”. This is a crucial distinction in Venice.

The film ends with a wonderful scene in which Debra Winger’s character, after having escaped from her desert captors, meets a man at a Tangier bar. She has been to the desert for so long that it is now a part of her. He asks her if she is lost. She responds with a deep breathy “Yes,” and smiles the whole time.

This is not how lost tourists travel from train station to hotel carrying their luggage. This is how you can feel if you let go of the limitations of what you see and allow the world to surround you. Completely.

There’s something seductive about getting lost in Venice.

On more than one occasion I have thought that if ever I wanted to completely lose myself, I would move to Venice. I feel like I could forget my name and it wouldn’t bother. Although I don’t believe you have to move to Venice in order to feel its pull, I think it is important to be open to the possibility. To do this, you need to let go of yourself and get lost in Venice.

Here’s how to do it.

What might be on a list in Venice’s canal city? These are my suggestions for things to do in Venice.

Spend at LEAST 1 Night

Day-trippers can feel the lure of Venice and get lost. However, it is difficult to surrender to the experience if your mind is always on getting back to your ship or train station in time. Spend at least one night, and if you can, more, on the islands, not the Venetian mainland.

To me, this is imperative.

Take the Map Away

Like any other city, Venice has its own street address system. However, they are almost useless unless the locals know the city. A street address in Venice is typically a number and the name the sestiere, not a street.

Also, a map of Venice is not necessary.

It’s almost impossible to lose yourself on the islands once you’re there. After all, you’ll eventually find water and turn around. You don’t need a map to get around Venice. There are also directional signs all over Venice that point you to San Marco or Rialto.

It’s the best thing about not using a map is that you are more likely to find things that you don’t think exist elsewhere.

Do not look at the clock!

My fellow Americans, who are often short on time and use less, know how precious it is. Venice offers the perfect opportunity for you to relax and have no agenda. It also allows you to wander aimlessly in Italy at your own pace.

Get up as soon as you get up. Eat whenever you feel hungry. You should sleep when you are tired. Wander aimlessly the rest of your day. This is a small piece of happiness that children on summer vacation and retirees usually experience every day. Enjoy it.

This will be impossible if you are only in Venice for a day, so I have already mentioned the importance of spending at least one night in Venice.

Be a leader and leave the crowd behind

Venice is always crowded. Even during what is called “low season”, it’s always crowded. This is especially true since Carnevale Venice’s main festival, which takes place in winter, is also a major event. This bit of advice may seem difficult to follow.

You’d be surprised.

Many travelers only walk one or two main arterials between the cruise port or train station to reach the Rialto Bridge or St. Mark’s Square, and back again. Surprisingly, that’s all. You can walk away from these streets in any direction, but you shouldn’t cross into a canal. This will take you to almost empty squares where you can hear the hum of people just a few blocks away.

This was in early June, peak tourist season. I assumed that my quiet Venice corners would be bustling the first time I tried it. Even though it was June, a perfect sunny day, and there were a lot of people out at the train station, I was still alone. It was not hyperbolic, but it was utterly alone.

It’s true, I will say it again: if you have a tight schedule, getting off the beaten path can feel dangerous. This is not the time to do such stupidity. You have the luxury of 36 to 48 hours to explore Venice and find the quiet spot you want. This will be something you’ll treasure for many years.

Spot the Locals

For decades, Venice’s population has been steadily declining. This is the number of people actually living and working in the city. Foreign investors are buying up dilapidated villas in Venice to turn them into vacation rental properties. It’s possible to walk around Venice and learn languages from all corners of the globe.

Yet? Venice is still home to people. They need to do all the normal things that a person living in a town needs to do. They shop at the grocery store, buy nuts and bolts at a hardware store, drop off letters, take out trash and call the fire department. They live a full life.

One way to get lost in Venice is to make it a scavenger hunt. Locate a supermarket in Venice. Locate a hardware shop. Keep an eye out for the police boats and the fire department, as they are boats in Venice. Tourists will not often need to visit certain places, even though they are common encounters with locals. These are the places to look for.

This tip extends to the fact that Italian speakers or Venetian speakers are more likely to be found in restaurants. If you notice locals frequenting cafes and restaurants, then you’re probably onto something.

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2 Responses to “How (and why) to Get Lost In Venice”

  • Denise:

    Yes,yes, yes,

    Venice would be my favorite place in the world, no matter how crowded it is! It doesn’t matter what, you have to wander and get lost. Just enjoy it!

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