Guidebook Get lost in the labyrinth of Venice’s backstreets

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Get lost in the labyrinth of Venice’s backstreets

“Venice is a walking city,” says Reid’s Italy. “With narrow alleys and no cars, buses, or even scooters, there simply is no other way to get around.” And what’s the best way to navigate this carless maze? “When you see a sign pointing to a major tourist destination, just go the other way and discover your own Venice.” Venice has a system of street addresses, notes Italy Explained, but they are “almost totally useless unless you know the city like a local does.” That’s because a street address in Venice typically constitutes a number and the name of the sestiere, not a street name -- “in other words, there’s very little point to having a map in Venice at all.” But by not consulting a map “you’re much more apt to stumble upon things you’ll think of as ‘discoveries’ or ‘hidden gems’.”  

“When you’re in Venice it’s important to get lost,” says Italy Explained. “What it comes down to is this: There’s a difference between ‘taking wrong turn’ and ‘getting lost’ … and it’s a really important difference in Venice.” A good general rule,” advises Condé Nast Traveller, is that if you don't get lost in Venice “you're not doing it right.” That’s because “there’s no better way to explore the lovely maze of Venice than in a haze of mild confusion.” But there’s a downside of getting lost, of course: “It takes longer than you'd expect to get anywhere,” notes Condé Nast Traveller.

"Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice, there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors," complained 19th-century novelist Henry James. Venice is a hugely popular destination; with crowds often thronging the hot spots. For those looking to escape, pick up Jo Ann Titmarsh’s Venice Walks from On Foot Guides, which describes ten walks through Venice highlighting good restaurants, shops and attractions along the way.

Lovers of crime novels, particularly those detailing the adventures of Donna Leon’s famous Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti, can trace the police commissioner’s steps on a suspenseful trip around the city, like Matthew Hoffman did for The Independent. Hoffman bases his itinerary on Toni Sepeda’s helpful walking guide Brunetti’s Venice: Walks Through the Novel, which uses atmospheric excerpts from the novel to lead you through the streets. Just make sure you wear decent walking shoes, “These murders happen all over the city, so it will be a long walk,” cautions The Venice Insider.

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