“The last bus out of the city leaves at midnight.”
“Midnight. You know, in an hour. Don’t miss it or you won’t get out of here.”
“Wait, wait, WAIT! I am beyond ridiculously lost, I have no idea where I am or where I need to go…. ”
“It’s fine, just go THAT way ——> towards Rialto.”
Ahhhhh, yes, Rialto. A simple sounding bridge that all signs point to. You must be so easy to find, oh wonderful bridge O’ Rialto. And if not, there’s always a map, right? Or directions from a local??? If you’ve had the experience of trying to get out the maze of canals like I have, then you know all of the above thoughts are asinine. Complete, utter idiocy at it’s finest. Maps are useless. Signs pointing you into the approximate direction lead to dead ends. Verbal directions from a local, given they can speak your language and understand your fear of being trapped inside the sinking city without the address of where you’re staying because you so stupidly forgot to write it down before you left, is pointless. It’s the same ol’ answer anyway: “Just follow the signs that say Rialto!”
When returning to a city I’ve previously visited, I generally feel comfortable with my navigational skills; the labyrinths of Venice don’t make that comfort list. But how can something so beautiful be so evil?!? Aside from the never-ending canals, bridges and dead-end paths, the sinking city is packed with more tourists than knockoff Italian leather shops and pasta-filled restaurants combined. Add that to the humidity factor plus a plethora of flesh-eating mosquitos, and you’ve got a recipe for a disastrous time trying to get out of the place.
Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not, nor would I ever, try to convince someone not to visit Venice. If it’s on your list of places to see before you bite the big one, then you have to go. I mean, I’ve been twice myself. Just be warned of a few tiny tidbits of very important information before setting sail (or flight) for the city in the country shaped as a boot:
1.) After getting lost, repeatedly, over the course of 3-4 days, you WILL begin to think you’ve figured the city out. You will feel confident in finding your place from Rialto to San Marco. You might even try to find that great little restaurant you dined at two days ago. But chances are, you won’t find the restaurant and you sure as heck won’t find your way perfectly to the desired destination. Basically, don’t try to see Venice under a time constraint. It’s just not going to happen. Which brings up one of life’s great, unanswered questions: How the heck do tourists who frolic off the cruise ships do it??…..
2.) You will feel so confident (before you realize you’re just another lost tourist. Yes, everyone can tell by the look of frustration on your face.) that you will offer to give directional insight to another group of lost tourists, only to realize after you pointed the frantically time-constrained group into the absolute wrong direction. You finish eating your gelato feeling guilty that they will now end up missing the bus they so desperately needed to catch and also quite possibly their flight back to Tokyo. In Laymen’s terms keep all directional opinions to a minimum when “aiding” others.
3.) You will be sidetracked by hues of all sorts; like a casino filled with appealing poker tables and shiny slots, although here it will be by Murano glass and masks of all sorts. If you’re a glutton for financial punishment and have an obsessive compulsive shopping disorder, then this place aint’ for you. (I’m pretty sure I earned a free roundtrip international flight within a three-hour time frame in Venice. You’re welcome for the business, Amex.)
4.) You will be enticed to enter tourist traps. Walking down the twisting paths lined with canals, restaurant personnel fight for your business (as with numerous other European cities.) You will want to stuff your face with as much delicious pizza, seafood and pasta as you possibly can… well, if you’re anything like me that is. Instead of sitting down and spending a good chunk of your Euros, checkout the amazing, sumptuous and super cheap little grab-and-go pizza/sandwich stands. This baby was only €3!! Crab pizza stuffed with greens, conveniently rolled for ample multitasking of eating and picture-taking.
Flying rats pigeons are everywhere. If you have a consuming fear of the diseased infested messengers from the underworld flying towards your face, then by all means do not set foot in Piazza San Marco. I know you’re going to go, and you should; the square is gorgeous and especially amazing to see when it floods. Raised walkways are constructed within minutes to avoid the water below and to this day, it was one of my favorite sites of Venezia. So instead of avoiding the square, prehaps grab an umbrella to shield the pigeon crap plummeting to the ground. And by all means refrain from feeding the damn things…. you can get fined for doing so!
6.) If you’re looking for the famous Bridge of Sighs, you might walk past it. It’s that little thing hiding behind the walls painted to look like clouds. Yeah…. that one! The one that 200 people are trying to snap a photo of while blocking the flow of traffic on the bridge you’re trying to cross so you can check out the gondolas below. You might try to get a picture, too and then…. Wow! Look at that! They’ve got street artists over there, and souvenirs and food and……..
After you’ve seen the sights, eaten the food, shopped the Murano glass and leather bag stores and sat in awe at the way the sun wedges her rays between the ancient buildings, you will be reminded when a mosquito nibbles on your epidermis for the millionth time that you really need to be making your way back to the bus. And there’s really just one question left to ask yourself: