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Venturing Venice: A Visitor's Manual

Jul 14, 2008
Venice + tourists = getting lost. This equation is, more often than not, a gospel truth that visitors would gladly corroborate. Most tourists would wander into shady lanes, over picturesque bridges, into a narrow alley, then over another bridge while staring at their map in a futile attempt to make sense of the magnificent labyrinth that is Venice. For a tourist, being hopelessly lost is but normal. The sooner you embrace this fact, the sooner you can loosen up and immerse yourself in the wonder that greets you in every corner.

The Language and the People

Scusa mi, dov e' ...? (Excuse me, where is...?)This is a phrase that every visitor must learn by heart. Venetians are inherently amicable so you will have no problem asking for directions. Being lost has its advantages too. In this scenario, you get to have colourful dialogues with the locals. You need not have a perfect Italian grammar (or accent) to be able to start a conversation. Most locals speak English, often times better than the tourists'. So don't fret. Venetians rarely mind being asked for instructions or directions.

Hidden Beauty

You are lost. And you will probably stay lost for the majority of your time in Venice. But as you make you way through the city maze, you are assured to find hidden gems scattered all around. It may be one of the centuries-old churches tucked away in various sections of the city; or one of those antiquated houses with intricate door carvings; or even an elderly Venetian greeting you with a smile. No matter what it may be, it appears that one cannot wander far without seeing something interesting

The Food

You will never go hungry in Venice. The problem is, there is a difference between wanting and actually being capable of getting what you want. Here is the deal: establishments positioned within a ten-minute radius from the Piazza San Marco cost a lot. If you are on a tight budget, walk. You will definitely find sustenance---tons of pizzeria and gelato parlors lined at the back alleys and corners of Venice that is delicious and affordable. Another issue worth mentioning is the space. Do not make an effort to eat your snack in the establishment seated at the table facing the Piazza. Dining in this manner is a sure wallet-burning headache. Prices radically spike when you sit down in a pizzeria, gelato parlor, or in any establishment for that matter.

The Sights (Must See)

First up is the Basilica di San Marco. This structure ranks as one of the world's most outstanding examples of Byzantine architecture. Within its walls, well, plastered on its walls (ceilings and floors included) are breathtaking mosaics. The entrance to the cathedral is free but if you want to have a commanding view of the piazza, you may opt to pay a small fee and make your way up the narrow stairs to the roof top. Remember to dress appropriately. This is a place of worship and not merely a tourist attraction. For another view, you could also visit the campanile or the bell tower. This too can be accessed for a small fee.

Then there is the Doge's Palace, situated just off the piazza. It was constructed as a residence for early Venetian rulers called Doges. There is an entrance fee, which connotes little queue. Unlike in the free entrance of the Basilica, the sight of people queuing is a permanent fixture. The Rialto Bridge, one of the few bridges that cross the Grand Canal, is a tourist magnet. Getting to see the view from the edge is either unattainable or uncomfortable.

Also, do drop by the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. The first one is known for its glass-making, the second is renowned for its lace, and lastly, Torcello, which is chiefly a nature reserve though it has a small church covered with mosaics (like that of the Basilica di San Marco).

With these sights and the winding calles (streets), being lost is easy. But remember, Venice is not that huge. If you keep on walking, sooner or later you will get to the place where you ought to be.
About the Author
This article was written by Benedict Yossarian. If you are interested in property in Italy Benedict recommends Homes and Villas Abroad
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