As I’d written in a previous post, I enjoy getting lost in a foreign city and finding my way again. I like to just put away my map and wander for hours, full of intrigue and discovery. But, in my recent travels, there was one particular city that posed a navigational challenge beyond that which I’ve experienced in any other city – and that was Venezia. There, I had the Venezia Experience.
Venezia is a city full of narrow alleyways that start, end or change names or direction on a whim. It’s full of unmarked bridges over unnamed canals over which you’re forced to cross as you reach dead end after dead end. To make matters more challenging, the majority of Venezia’s more notorious landmarks are clustered in one spot on the Grand Canal in Piazza San Marco, and this left me, while I was there, with not much else with which to establish a feel for my relative location among things. Thus, unless I was standing smack dab in the middle of the piazza itself, I found myself disoriented within moments if said landmarks were not in sight.
In Venezia, I found that there was little point in using a map. If I was able to pinpoint my location within a map at all (which was rare), I often lost my bearings instantaneously as I took my eyes off of the map to continue on my way. I’ve concluded that unless you have a GPS, it’s better to just wander and hope for the best. It’s an island (and a small one at that), so there’s only so “lost” you can get.
As frustrating an experience as this sounds like, this particular navigational challenge was THE awesome of my time in Venezia. I was in the City of Bridges for 2 full days – the first of which I’d dedicated to simply getting lost. I started my day early with a lift up to the top of la Campanile di San Marco (the bell tower) for an “aerial” view of the city and a feel for what I was getting myself into. Then, for the next several hours – approximately 7, if you include a lunch and a dinner in one of a slew of Italian restaurants scattered throughout the city, as well as a brief stop into Stazione San Lucia, upon which I’d literally stumbled, to buy my train ticket to Firenze for a few days later – I wandered. I wandered with not even an ounce of direction, though I doubt I could have had it if I tried. Especially seeing as this was my first true day in the city.
Having no true destination in mind left me feeling more free to just stop and look at whatever it was along the way that interested me – be it a little souvenir shop, a gallery, a unique canal, interesting Venetian architecture or colourful and beautifully arranged confectionary shops. I was more in tune to my surroundings, and I was more involved in the Venezia Experience.
Here are my favourite of my photographs from that day: