Throw Away the Map !

Welcome to Venice.  Now, get lost!  Literally, that is…

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If I can share one piece of advice about visiting Venice, it would be to forget the map and simply get lost in Venice’s labyrinth of winding streets, foot bridges, stairs going up and down and around, leading you to dead ends or hidden churches, or yet more mysterious passageways to peak through and follow as well.

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To me, that is the best way to discover Venice.  I spent a day or two simply roaming around the city, taking it all in.  I will admit, I first tried to follow along on a map, but quickly realized that was not happening.  Streets with no names, at least half the name missing, or the street just entirely missing from map. The same street name in 5 different neighborhoods, plus miniscule streets that seem like they gave birth to more and more tiny streets. Of course there is no room on the map! It wasn’t as much fun as simply walking with my head up and eyes wide open, camera in hand, following this bit of canal or that bit of sidewalk (which tends to end all of a sudden), winding around this corner or going through that arch, taking a narrow street this way, that way, and always wondering where it might lead. But always knowing that it?s leading in the right direction: to a new discovery. A new street or a beautiful and colorful facade of a building, or better yet – a pasticceria, gelateria or funky little shop specializing in harmonicas, gelato equipment, hand-sculpted wooden toys, wax stamps or carnival masks.  All of which I saw.

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Every now and then, I would ask a friendly waiter at a bar or one hanging out in front of his restaurant (ready to extend a personal invitation to all who pass) to show me on a map where I was.  Then I could pretend to get a lay of the land, or start to familiarize myself with the area – whether it be the bustling streets around the Rialto marketplace, the old Jewish ghetto of Cannaregio, the quiet canals of Dorsoduro, or the more lively areas of San Polo and Santa Croce.  Or at least once when I needed no guidance, San Marco Square!

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For now, feel free to get lost in my photos of the streets and steps, and soon you?ll find yourself reading here about some of the discoveries I made, most of all in those pasticcerias and gelaterias, but of course!

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I have a question.  What if you actually have to be somewhere specific?  If you have been to Venice, please tell us how you find your way around!  Any advice?

15 Responses to “Throw Away the Map !”

  1. Aprille - The Muddled! says:

    That is some insight I wish I had. While I have seen a good bit of western Europe I have not made it to Italy yet. Good for you exploring!

  2. Michelle says:

    There is a book which helps you look up specific number addresses to find out which alley they’re actually on… Otherwise, you just figure out where the closest landmark (church, etc.) is, navigate to there, and then ask somebody!

    You’re in a wonderful place! Enjoy!!!

  3. Lani says:

    I am totally lost in the sights and sounds of Venice. I just love the idea of wandering around and finding yourself in a spot that is just so fascinating. You actually cannot ever get lost because you really don’t care where you go, right?
    Each way is full of its own personality….. Your photos have brought me back to fabulous memories! THANK YOU THANK YOU FOR MY TRIP THROUGH MEMORY LANE….

  4. jkiel says:

    Che belle foto! 🙂
    You are right, the best way to see Venice is to get lost, and get away from the tourist areas… then you’ll find a lot of gems – architecture, food and people. If you can be there late evening, the light is magical too!
    Have fun for me, no, I’m not jealous at all………

  5. Solo Road Trip says:

    Love the idea of going ANYWHERE/EVERYWHERE without a map. It’s a travesty that we MUST at times actually find ourselves somewhere in particular. The pettiness of being on time and somewhere specific SO gets in the way of the true pleasures of life and the accompanying excitement of the exploration of the unknown. I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to Venice, given my list of must-see’s and do’s, but in the vein of your post, I vote to travel for the rest of my days without a map. AND I’ll live Venice through YOU. — Tammie

  6. Solo Road Trip says:

    P.S. Kerrin, my friend, exactly, where in the world are you right now??

  7. Steve says:

    Now that’s great photography! I wasn’t just looking at pictures of Venice (nor the typically familiar ones), I really felt like i was just strolling around the city, in and out of the streets with you. Loved the walk. Loved the perspective of a truly unique city. Mille grazie!

  8. michele says:

    you captured the essence of venice…i have not been in years but you totally brought me back to this mysterious and beautiful city. ciao

  9. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    I went to Venice about 15 years ago now. You really captured it well. I remember the gelato (had a few flavours over a few days!), and getting charged a ‘music tax’ while sipping coffee in San Marco Square. It is quite a city. You’ve brought back a few memories. Good ones. Thank you! 🙂

  10. Virginia says:

    Oh wow, what great photos. I’ve absolutely got to go to Venice now. And as for getting lost… I can do that!

  11. jen laceda says:

    Hi Kerrin,
    My “get lost” experience in Venice is here.
    As you can see, I totally agree about ditching the map!

    I really miss Venice. I lost (haha, lost) all my photos of Venice during our honeymoon because we were robbed in Prague. Obviosuly, the camera was the first to go. Apparently, these days, it’s more valuable than cash, credit card or passport. So, no tangible memories of Venice, except in my head.

  12. Kerrin says:

    Michelle, thanks for letting us all know about that book. Definitely a good purchase for any future trip to Venice !

    jkiel, you are so right – the evenings change the city completely. The lighting is beautiful. And during the day too – the sun that creeps in to those tiny alleys and the play on shadows is fascinating too.

    Tammie, wonderfully stated ! Here’s to travel everywhere and anywhere without a map! To losing ourselves in cities all over the world, and to finding new sights and smells – and tastes too of course.

    Julia, that music tax you had to pay is crazy! No way to say you weren’t listening, huh?! Stay tuned for the next post on gelato… I too tasted more than a few flavors in just a day or two!

    Jen, thanks so much for sharing your Venice experience – we are totally on the same page. Great writing and photos too – you said it best, “sans map is de rigueur” ! Meanwhile, so sorry to hear about what happened in Prague – and on your honeymoon no less. But hey, sometimes memories that we know only exist in our minds can be even stronger and last longer. I hope so for you and your husband.

  13. Shaun says:

    Diarised to go in about 2 months time and looking forward to it. Great photos as always…

  14. Amanda says:

    The only specific place I ever had to be was back at the train station, so I would just follow all the yellow “Ferrovia —->” signs scattered around the city. Following these signs doesn’t necessarily send you on a direct route back to the train station, nor in a timely manner, but they never failed to get me where I needed to be.

  15. Georgina says:

    I have a feeling that vaporetto timetables work back to front – if you have to be at a place at 7:30 they tell you when to leave your stop in order to arrive in time. Otherwise – take note of the number of the shop you are searching for. “Cannaregio 3843” sounds crazy to a Londoner used to “10 High Street” but the numbers really work. Just find a number and follow along. This worked for us, especially in a city where often the shops don’t seem to have names!
    I recommend visiting Venice in winter. We were there just 10 days ago. It snowed and there was hardly anyone around. Brilliant. Came home with chocolate, nougat, and pasta (chocolate flavoured pasta anyone?). And a wonderful silk scarf.

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