By Rick Lotzkar
If you haven’t been lost you haven’t really been to Venice. Narrow walkways twist and wind through this most organic of cities leading everywhere and nowhere at the same time. If you don’t get lost, you’re not trying. Ironically if you ask directions in Venice the answer is always the same. “Diritto, sempre diritto” or “Straight ahead, always straight ahead”. The reality is something less than direct, but the advice is worthwhile all the same. Turn by turn directions are useless in this meandering urban maze while steaming forward in a constant general direction will usually lead you to your goal.
When seeking your way in Venice, look up. A network of small yellow signs set high on the buildings will point you to the main attractions. Travelers scan the brickwork like bush trackers trying to pick up the trail of some elusive prey. The city can still sometimes have a little laugh at their expense. It is not unheard of for a single sign at a crossroads to point in both directions for the same destination. Apparently all roads lead to Piazza San Marco.
When you find yourself lost, don’t panic. There are no bad neighborhoods in Venice. No gangs of Venetian street toughs wait to fall upon the hapless traveler who wanders into their midst. You may even find the quiet side of the city, the hidden Venice. Tranquil canals and shady backstreets that open on broad empty squares unimproved by souvenir stands and mask shops. A string of washing left to dry in the sun and a central stone well are the only decorations and a small boy endlessly practicing with a ball and imagining himself a futbol hero the only activity. Take some time to drink it in before returning to the hectic pace of the beaten path. Lost moments like this will remind you why they call this place the Most Serene Republic.