Saturday, January 3, 2009
I live in the most beautiful and most romantic city in the world: Venice. Millions of tourists come here every year, crowding St. Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge, and the streets in between. Tourists can be seen trying to find their way in this medieval city, staring at their maps, looking up at the street signs, and back at their maps. Sometimes the frustration is obvious when couples, who should be enjoying such a romantic city, angrily argue over which way to go. This frustration is compounded by the bustle of the place. Locals are rushing about, trying to get through the throngs of gawking and window shopping tourists, rudely bumping into people, and exhibiting their own frustration. Add to this delivery men and garbage men pushing carts (there are no cars, and they must get things over bridges) through the masses, a day in Venice can seem hectic. Because relatively few of these millions venture away from the central tourist-choked streets to see the real Venice, people often come away with a bad impression. This is a shame. Once you get away from the touristy sections, Venice is uncrowded, interesting, and moves at a much slower pace.
Now, there are sights in Venice that once should certainly see, and which involve dealing with crowds. St. Mark’s, the Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto Bridge, the Rialto Market, and certain of the museums. These places are necessarily crowded and difficult to move around, but by all means see them. If, however, you come to Venice and don’t venture away from these areas, you may be unhappy with your time here. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make your experience in Venice much more enjoyable.
Often the hotels give out small maps of Venice for free. On these maps are indicated in yellow the main paths from one sight to the other. One should generally look at these yellow lines as streets to avoid. Instead, try to find another way to get to the sights. Also, it is better to go early in the morning to see certain sights, as they are not crowded until midmorning, and in the summer it is a cooler time of day. Consider as well going at night. Venice is safe at all hours of the night, it is cooler, less crowded, and in some ways more interesting.
Consider hiring a private tour guide, particularly if you have only a short time in Venice. A lot of people come to Venice for only a day, or take a day trip from someplace like Florence. Other people are in Venice either to meet their cruise ship, or to spend a day or so after a cruise. These people would benefit from taking a private tour so they can see Venice in an easy relaxed manner, and at their own pace, and without the frustration of trying to find their way on a map. At the same time, such a tour will give you some history and lore, take you off the beaten path, and make your time in Venice infinitely more pleasant.
Don’t try to fit too much into one day, and don’t over schedule. Being a tourist is tiring work; leave time open to do whatever comes to your mind. Sit at a café in a little square (campo), relax, drink some wine, and watch Venice go by.
Whether you come to Venice for a day or for a month, and whether you take a tour or simply meander on your own through the magical streets of Venice, take it easy and savor it. Take your time, look at the details, watch the people drink in its beauty. This is the best way - the slow way.
Visit my website for lots of useful information about Venice and tours of Venice.