Getting from A to B Nearly All the Battle in Venice

Everyone gets lost in Venice. Tourists, definitely. But so do locals, those who’ve been here a few years or their entire lives. We’d have seen more of the canal city during our day-and-a-half stay, but we kept seeing the same streets time and time again.

We were warned by a local not to trust Google Maps, so Marilynn bought a full-size city map, in addition to those tourist maps you get in any tourism office. Didn’t help. You’d think that staying along the Grand Canal would be a great way to navigate from one part of the city to another. Good idea, except for the fact that the street along the main canal is cut apart by restaurants, fisheries and other businesses.

So here we are, wandering down one street, only to find it’s a cul-de-canal. Another street looks promising, until it twists 90 degrees, then twists again on itself. You’d think that the larger plazas that dot the city would serve as great landmarks, but you’d think wrong. We weren’t the only ones. We saw scores of people consulting maps, and I’m certain a large percentage of people staring at their phones didn’t know where the hell they were, either.

Hate to be a deliveryman

Copy editors are trained to spot the unusual, and on the first morning, after marveling at how the lingering mist clung to St. Mark’s Basilica, I was struck by the sheer number of delivery folks I saw. Other people were taking photos, and I’m looking at the goods coming in by boat, being transferred to hand trucks and two-wheeled portage vehicles and hauled up and over the steps of many canal bridges. And don’t forget the outgoing freight—mainly parcels and refuse—that has to be hauled out the way it was hauled in. No tractor-trailers here, and, as Declan rightly pointed out, we saw not a single car during our stay in Venice.

My feet were sore after half a day getting lost. Imagine missing a turn when you’ve just hauled a full load of boxes up and then down steps on either side of a canal. Oh yeah, while dodging oblivious tourists.

Touristy stuff

We did manage to see a few things, including the impressive St. Mark’s Basilica, which has more gilt on the ceilings than Catholics have guilt in their hearts. Declan and I also took the water bus to Murano, known for glass-making. We saw a master craftsman quickly make a clear vase, then turn another tube of molten glass into a stallion rearing up on its hind legs. Then we spent a couple of hours along the central canal, perusing the literally dozens of glass shops there. I assume there is some place on the island where you can buy a Coke and a bag of crisps, but it ain’t along the main drag.

We traveled to Murano while Marilynn was a guest lecturer at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Georgia State University has an exchange program with the university, and one of her students last fall is finishing up her degree at Ca’ Foscari. Before our afternoon apart, we all had lunch with her former student, as well as a GSU student who’s taking classes in Venice this spring.

We eventually got to the point where we could make it from St. Mark’s Basilica to the Grand Canal to our guest house without incident—just in time to leave for Rome.