Venice has to be one of my favourite cities in the world. I love the uniqueness of the lagoon city, its rich history, the connection to my family and, of course, the pathos that I feel when I observe the beauty of a city that was once glorious and powerful.
Because of this, it pains me to hear from people that have visited Venice that they did not enjoy their time there because it was too touristy, crowded, and smelly. I will admit that Venice can be these things, and it certainly is if you visit on a day trip and all you do is walk from the station to San Marco along the Strada Nuova, with the obligatory stop at the Rialto along the way. You’d feel slightly uneasy at the extravagant price for a gondola ride, or even a plate of pasta, and god forbid what you’d think if you ever decided to sit down for a relaxing coffee al fresco in the Piazza San Marco. Sure, you’ll admit that the medieval, gold mosaic ceilings of Saint Mark’s cathedral are beautiful, but when you’re pressed in amongst throngs of selfie-stick toting tourists on a boardwalk inside the cathedral because high tide has made the thing under water, you probably wish you were elsewhere.
The travesty about all this is that these people are so close to the Venice I love. All they need to do to get there is to cross a canal or take two stops on the vaporetto. For me, the Venice I love is the quiet Venice, of walking through narrow alleyways and crossing silent canals until you happen upon a beautiful piazza, of glimpses into walled gardens and hidden courtyards, of a Spritz at the bar followed by a cicchetto. It is setting out with the intention to get lost and the willingness to open your mind to truly observe all that you see. (Thankfully, being a series of islands, even if you don’t know where you are, you’re never far from an important landmark to guide you back on track.)
I would urge every visitor to Venice to seek out the city that exists outside the linear route from the station to San Marco. The memories you create of your stay in this mysterious, majestic city will be all the richer for it.