I’ve been in love with Venice from the very first time I visited. It is such a strange and wondrous place—the twisting alleys and slender bridges so secretive and seductive, the rippling waterways so quiet and romantic. There’s plenty of tips for how to best enjoy your Venice trip out there—from negotiating the price of your gondola ride to finding the best place for risotto. But my favorite piece of advice to give those planning a trip to Venice is much, much simpler.
The best tip I can give you for Venice? Get lost.
That’s it. Get lost. In my humble opinion, Venice is not a city that should be planned for—the personality of the city doesn’t lend itself to checking off a litany of must-see sights. I prefer to go with no agenda—or, if one, to keep it very loose. Eat gelato. Find live music. People-watch in a piazza. Treat your planning more like a scavenger hunt, and this floating city your hunting grounds.
Venice is considered one of the safest cities in Europe, so beyond the usual tourist scams and pickpockets, you don’t have much to worry about. And it’s relatively compact so you won’t get so lost you can’t get found again. With that to reassure you, start your day with no plan. Simply walk out of your accommodation and start walking. Follow the alleyways to their furthest points, and enjoy the little secrets and textures—the gritty walls, the thick jade shade of the water, the homey touches glanced through passing windows.
Stop when you want to. You’ll find when you go off the beaten path, the prices will adjust accordingly. (Here it helps to have at least a tiny bit of Italian—enough, at least, to say thank you). On my first trip to Venice, as a young student first experiencing Europe, I wanted to go, go, go. See, see, see. I remember stopping at a tiny restaurant near the Lido harbor and asking the owner for a piece of lasagna. I’d just bought some wine and wanted to take the lasagna with me on a picnic to the next stop on my list. The owner was an old, squat little man dressed in a black and white striped shirt, a neon yellow vest, and a hat, and had just minutes earlier, been enjoying a glass of wine on the terrace with two equally old, squat little men. Now he stared at me, utterly aghast. The lasagna? To go?!? Out of the question. I nearly murdered his grandmother just by suggesting it! He prodded me towards a table and gave me a glass for my wine. “Wait.” About thirteen minutes later, I had a piping hot, thick and cheesy slice of lasagna on a plate, and let me tell you—it was the best damn lasagna of my life.
I don’t remember the name of this spot, or even where exactly it was. I do remember that story though, every time I start to get stressed about seeing all the sights or taking enough pictures. We’ve gotten so concerned with capturing, we’ve waylaid experiencing. And Venice is so glorious to experience.
The beauty of getting lost is that instead of finding packed piazzas full of other tourists, each clamoring for the same photo of the same thing—you’ll find stunning little tableaus and moments that feel as though they were just waiting for you to discover.
Who knows? Maybe they were.
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