I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Canals and campos and calles, oh my!

My plan for day one in Venice was to make my way across Santa Croce, where my hotel was located, to the Rialto bridge in San Polo, then return on a vaporetto via the Grand Canal. I also wanted to take the opportunity to visit Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, with its famous Titian altarpiece, on the way.

This didn't seem overly ambitious, but it quickly became obvious that there were a few problems. First, if I stopped to take pictures of every interesting thing I saw (like this wonderful round bridge on the right or the filming of something or other below) it would take me weeks to reach the Rialto.

The second, bigger problem is that there is no easy way for a visitor to navigate Venice. I had a map, and while that would have been useful in any ordinary city with actual streets, Venice has campos, small open plazas, linked to one another by any number of calles, most of which are narrow crowded alleys. It's impossible to judge by the width or appearance of a calle whether it actually leads anywhere. Some of the most promising ones dead end in a courtyard or a canal, while the dank, dark little street with the peeling paint and falling plaster opens up into a huge piazza with an actual name.

There are frequent signs for the Rialto, so if I had been going directly there it wouldn't have been so frustrating. But there were no signs for the Frari, and all I could do was wander until I found myself in a campo I could locate on the map, so I could figure out how far I'd gone off course, reorient myself, pick a likely calle, and try again.

And not stop for any "tipical Venetian food" on the way!

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