Getting lost in Venice really is the way to go. With that said, for our next stop, at the crack of dawn, we hopped on the train from Florence for a day trip of directionless adventure in the city of floating streets and beautiful buildings.
The main streets alone are worth hours of wandering, but have a tendency to get a bit busy once the cruise ships and other tourist hit the town for the day with the same idea. Diving into the back alleys to breath a bit and explore the hidden details is highly encouraged (and twice has resulted in some of the most memorable days I have ever had while exploring on a holiday!)
There is no shortage of character, colours, design, decorations, textures, art, history, etc, to see beyond the main streets. Winding through the passages on a scavenger hunt to spot some of the many carvings and stone statues adorning the historic walls, the architecture of the buildings and brickwork archways, window shutters and gardens on the balconies, even the street art graffiti all adds to the magic that can be found everywhere in Venice.
However, if you are not planning on getting lost while in Venice, or have somewhere you need to be, it is recommended to get a paper map for getting around. We found this out the first time we visited ten years ago. The streets can be narrow, winding and quite random. That, combined with the buildings being tall, seems to result in signals not being very good for GPS, or in our case, our Google Maps print off giving us a “close enough” location.
In Venice, a few blocks away can still be tricky to navigate. If an old British man wouldn’t have stopped to help us find our way, we could have potentially spent hours getting to our hotel, if we would have ended up finding it at all.
Just take that alleyway, make a left, cross the little bridge, go under that arch, make a right at the mask shop and hope you don’t cross the wrong little bridge in the confusion and maybe, just maybe, you are now at the apparently unmarked hotel.
Paper maps are great for getting help from strangers with some smiling and pointing.
Ever since our first trip, we have always wanted to return to see the Carnival of Venice. This trip was planned around attending a trade show in Florence, so it was a lucky coincidence that we caught the very beginning of the festival. Unluckily, it was before the opening ceremony, so there wasn’t a lot of action on the streets yet. However, that didn’t stop us from having fun with it anyways, getting our own masks, and although it was nothing like the pictures and videos we saw of the festival while in full swing, there were still a couple of extravagantly costumed people roaming the streets.
I’m not too big on going to restaurants while traveling. I prefer the experience of shopping and prepping my own food from markets and grocery stores more, and my wallet agrees. However, I can not deny that snacks are the best! So, while in Venice, it would seem like a crime not to reward ourselves with some mulled wine from one of the local cafes and a traditional fritter. The pistachio ones are the best! If you’re not sure how to decide where is a good place to go, just do what we did and follow the group of old Italian men smoking to see which cafe they go into to get their drinks and lunch from.
Don’t get me wrong, museums and galleries are neat and all, but sometimes it’s nice to just go and wander for a day. Besides, our itinerary involved plenty of that stuff for when we planned on hitting up Rome and the Vatican next.
Anyways, that’s my favourite thing to do in Venice, what’s yours? Stay tuned for more Italy and don’t forget to check out the previous post on A Night Walk Through the Streets of Florence.