When Getting Lost Is a Treat: Venice… Armchair Travel

This is number four in my armchair series on Venice where Peggy and I visited in 2013. Again, I have pulled it from my archived posts to revisit in the time of Covid 19. Enjoy.

Walking through Venice allowed us to enjoy what was unique about the city, such as this lamp.
Walking through Venice allowed us to enjoy what was unique about the city, such as this lamp.

I have always felt the best way to learn about a city is to walk its streets. Fortunately, I was traveling in Europe with companions who also loved to walk. For the most part, we skipped the tours. It isn’t that the tours are bad, you can learn a lot from them, but they are regimented and often expensive. There is no wandering off on your own, or taking longer to enjoy a particular site than the tour leader allows.

Venice is a great walking city— if you don’t mind getting lost. Streets have a tendency to take you somewhere you weren’t planning to go and come to abrupt ends. Street signs are rare. What the city does do, however, is post signs that will eventually lead to major monuments. And of course, you are on a relatively small island. How lost can you get? Besides, it isn’t like getting lost in the Alaskan wilderness. I was always very careful not to.

A good map is an important tool when walking off the beaten path (or main tourist routes). We didn't always agree on where we were or the proper route to take, however... and we all considered ourselves something of experts in map reading.
A good map is an important tool when walking off the beaten path (or main tourist routes). We didn’t always agree on where we were or the proper route to take, however. And we all considered ourselves experts in map reading. Our companions caught many photos of us studying and ‘discussing’ maps. Where’s the GPS phone ap when you need it?  (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Common sense is important.  Wandering down dark, lonely alleys can be risky at times, regardless of where you are. But in restricting your journey to major streets and walkways, you limit your opportunities to have adventures and develop a true sense of the communities you are visiting.

It is important to look around and notice the small as well as the large, the seemingly insignificant as well as what is featured in the guidebooks. Photography helps once you get beyond ‘we were there snap shots’ and allows your mind to feast on the wonderful variety that any area offers. It teaches you to see new things and to seek out what is unique. Following are various locations and objects that Peggy and I found of interest.

This photo provides a good example of our wandering off the main tourist routes of Venice without a clue where we were.
Of course, you can always stop and ask for directions…
I don't remember where I came upon this friendly looking, gargoyle-type of lion, but he was definitely worth a photo.
I don’t remember where I came upon this friendly looking, gargoyle-type of lion in Venice, but it was definitely worth a photo. It seems to have something to say. Now as I look at it again, it appears to have wings, which means it represents Venice’s patron saint, St. Mark. Look around, and you will find these fellows everywhere. If you ever find yourself in Venice with kids, you could probably keep them busy by challenging them to see how many they could find.
Venice street scene showing colorful buildings and flower boxes.
I felt this photo captured the colorful buildings and flower boxes of Venice streets. Also note the green pharmacy sign and green pharmacy lamp on the lower left.
Window flower boxes are common in Venice, Italy.
One thing you find much more of in Europe than in the US are flower boxes. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Peggy caught this photo of a large flower box. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Here’s my photo of another large flower box— without flowers. But the green was as dramatic with its striped orange backdrop.
The Hotel Iris is definitely not one of your more swank hotels in Venice... and it knows it. I looked it up online and its website headline proclaimed: Hotel Iris: A Cheap hotel in Venice. Cheap was capitalized by the hotel. I consider that truth in advertising. In the US it would be "affordable lodging."
The Hotel Iris is definitely not one of the more swank hotels in Venice— and it knows it. I looked it up online and its website headline proclaimed: Hotel Iris: A Cheap hotel in Venice. Cheap was capitalized by the hotel. I consider that truth in advertising. In the US it would be “affordable lodging.”
Starry roman numeral 24 hour clock found off of St. Marks Square in Venice Italy.
One of the advantages of a telephoto lens is it allows you to capture details you can’t normally see. I doubt we would have spotted the wild hour hand of this starred 24 hour Roman numeral clock found off of St. Mark’s Square. There’s another winged lion in the center, BTW. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I am always intrigued by what I consider as invitations, such as this stairwell in Venice. It’s saying “Come and climb up. See what’s up here.” Unfortunately, the locked iron fence said something else.
Iron gate in Venice.
Speaking of iron fences in Venice, was this one saying “Take my picture.” or “Don’t even think about climbing over!”? That’s it for today. Next up, we go window shopping in Venice and discover the long-nosed face masks that Venetian’s wore during the plague of the 1600s.

32 thoughts on “When Getting Lost Is a Treat: Venice… Armchair Travel

  1. I still use paper maps rather than GPS. It’s not reverse snobbery or technophobia — i just have a good sense of direction, and enough of a visual memory that once I’ve looked at a map, I can recall it in my mind. How much I can recall depends on the place, of course. While I might be able to call up most of Kansas, things are different in places like Venice.

    This is a nice collection of images. Of course I love the flower boxes, but that shot of Peggy in the alleyway’s good, too. As for common sense — it always needs to be balanced with uncommon sense!

    • I am basically a map person as well, Linda. The last thing I want to depend on (although I will if absolutely necessary) is a phone telling me where to go when I have’t first checked it out on a map! It has to do with overview and how one place relates to another.
      The photo of Peggy told the story much better than I could in words. So is it better to have common uncommon sense or uncommon common sense. Whatever, I’m in agreement. 🙂 –Curt

      • 🙂 When you land in Katmai National Park in Alaska, Kelly, you are greeted by a ranger who tells you about the humungous brown bears and how to behave around them. He told us we needed to talk to them if we met them on a trail and slowly back away. I did. And I am still here. I had a different discussion with the black bear in Yosemite that woke me up form a deep sleep at 4 am by standing on me. (grin)

      • OMG! I want to hear THAT story! 🙂 Katmai would be such a cool place to visit but I would be really freaked out to walk on the trails. You are very brave, Curt! A true outdoorsman in skill and spirit!

    • Thanks, much Rusha. Your comment made me think back to when I first traveled through Europe in 1967. I didn’t take photos at the time so memories are few. But I do remember things like the Acropolis and the Prado. And what’s not to love about a window box! 🙂 –Curt

  2. Lovely posts again. It always surprises me that flower-boxes don’t feature much more on balconies in Australia. With all that sun and heat, perhaps it is all too hard, but Venice, France or Italy can get pretty hot as well. Perhaps it is lack of civic pride?

    • I think an element of tradition may be involved as well, Gerard. Lots of folks have flower gardens in the US, but I seldom see flower boxes. One thing that is coming much more common is hanging plants. Peggy has them all over the place. Is that true in Australia? –Curt

    • That is so true, Annie. I get why some areas are popular, almost must-see places because of their beauty or historical interest, but people miss so much if they don’t get beyond those areas. That’s where adventure starts! –Curt

    • It’s like backpacking in popular areas, Andrew. Once you get ten miles away from the trailhead, you have left 90% of the people behind! If you know what you are up to, you can leave 99% of the people behind— and, on a really good day, 100%! 🙂 –Curt

  3. I have to admit I’ve taken to using GPS maps, downloaded as a backup to, “I think we went this way.” It’s nice to have that built in, “you are here.” When we were in Venice smart phones weren’t a thing yet, so we made a point of not getting lost. (And we didn’t have that much time on our own anyway.)

    • I know, Dave. Sort of like having digital photography. Or a word processor. Or the Internet. Or Kindle. Or… I readily use them. But I still love maps, and I still love the feel of books. 🙂 –Curt

  4. I’d love a return trip to Venice if for nothing else than to see if the water is clearer now that we tourists are visiting so fast and furiously. What a gorgeous, interesting city. And one to get lost in!

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