Saturday, February 13, 2010

44 / Finding Your Way Around Venice

The Correr Museum exhibits a large, hand drawn map of Venice, prepared in the 1500's. It is truly a work of art.

I found it interesting that this old map from the 1500's seems to tally almost exactly with the modern day map in my Venice guidebook. This is not to say that nothing has changed. As an example, the structure in which the museum is located is not actually on the older map, since this "wing" of the buildings surrounding the Piazza San Marco was constructed after the conquest of Venice by Napoleon, in 1797. The Napoleonic era structure that now houses the Museo Correr replaced another building that filled the same space.

What the old map proves, though, is that the "form" of the City has not significantly changed. It would be possible to get around Venice today following the old map.

Getting around Venice, however, is not that easy, map or not, at least not if your objective is to get to a specific place. You can't follow the proverbial "straight line." The streets are narrow, irregular, and the most important streets are canals. Getting over those canals is not possible at every intersection, and there are really only three bridges that allow you to get over the Grand Canal.

The way to find your way around Venice is to get to a main location, nearby to where you actually want to go, and then work yourself through the narrow streets and alleys starting from there. Two main landmarks are the Piazza San Marco (with its towering campanile) and the Rialto Bridge, one of the main bridges over the Grand Canal, and an important destination in itself.

Once you get the hang of it, you just look for the signs that give you a general direction to follow towards the major landmark you need to find (per Rialto, or per San Marco, or per Academia). Then, wind yourself along in the general direction you want to go. Deal with the details later.

As a philosophical system to guide life decisions, this sounds like a good idea! On a more practical level, I hope this system works when we try to attend the Barber of Seville at a theater, located somewhere in Venice, later on tonight!

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