I have a really great sense of direction and an understanding of where I am in space. I often think about my location from an aerial perspective, especially when I am some place new. When I close my eyes, the map of my location appears in my mind’s eye, allowing me to settle into my new environment and find my way. I make all kinds of journeys this way, traversing up and down streets, mountainsides and pathways.
Venice challenges every fiber of the above statement. Typically if my instinct tells me to turn right (destra) or left (sinistra), in Venice, it’s likely the other way. Often what looks straight on a map is really a number of small turns to the left and right, so when zoomed out, appears to be a straight line. There are all kinds of signs throughout the city, golden ochre signs with names of bridges, or landmarks or destinations to help the lost soul navigate. Venice is good for lost souls, it forces you to trust all kinds of things you would normally not trust or do. For example,
- If your supreme map reading skills tell you to turn right at the third street, turn right, even if it looks like that street is a dead end alley.
- If your every instinct tells you to turn left, but you see a sign that says you should go in the opposite direction, follow the sign. (Unless, of course, you want an adventure. )
- Don’t be afraid when you find yourself alone, at night, in a dark alley. Every road is a dark alley. Trust it. Going through it might lead you to the most amazing view, path or destination. Venice is one of the safest cities around.
- You know that feeling of mild panic when you realize you are lost? Let it become your friend, if you can be with it, it will open up all kinds of things for you.
- When you become a certain age, keep an extra pair of reading glasses in your coat pocket. Reading a map of Venice is nearly impossible anyways, and at night, without glasses, you are doomed.
- If you see a bright light down a street you haven’t taken before, go towards it. You never know what you may find. And you will be surprised. Sometimes those “detours” actually are faster ways to get to your actual destination, or at the very least just as scenic.
- There are many, many, many ways to get to the same destination. Some are direct, others are tranquil. Some avoid obstacles, like acqua alta when it happens or the evening rush hour. And others are well, just variety and keep your mind alert for new things.
Many times signs for Scuola di San Rocco has helped me find my way back to one of the main thoroughfares when I am just wanting to get home from some place at night and not looking for a wander or an adventure.Every time that happens, I think of my friend Robin whose maiden name is Roch–and ever since I’ve started traveling I’ve gone to Roch and Rocco churches and have said a prayer for her. This trip there have been many of those…that sign saves me a couple of times a week! These ways of wandering in Venice spin around in my head and my sketchbook, with the hope of becoming something in the next few weeks. I’m nearly at my half-way point in Venice, and it’s time to get serious about what I want to accomplish here. More about that soon!