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Finding Venice’s Secret Code

I’m always looking for a secret code when I travel. This is about a perspective, a unique and personal way to look at a place, and it is a bit contrarian as well. If most people traveling are paying attention to the monuments, I’m usually trying to figure out how the locals live, what makes them tick.

Finding the secret code is also about discovering the perfect light at a perfect hour in a forgotten corner–those moments that can transform a trip. This means that the secret code I’m trying to break lies as much within me as it does the place I am visiting. Venice is one of the most meaningful cities I’ve visited throughout my travels. The way I adore Venice probably says something about my “travel attitude.”

Most of us, and it was certainly my case, grow up with a very particular idea of Venice–as if the city existed only on a postcard. And those were certainly my expectations when I arrived for the first time last year. Having read many complaints about the city in online forums, it is fair to say that Venice seemed like a faded postcard before I arrived.

Yet this view of Venice vanished quickly, almost upon landing. It is true that most people kept looking up at the monuments while moving as fast as they could across the city in order to ‘punch-in’ at every designated landmark. And I could quickly see how difficult and challenging this endless touring could get–probably the main complaint online.

As I continued to try and understand the city, the obvious came up:  a wonderful world with a vibrant life takes place on the water. The magic of a place is revealed when you realize that everything required to sustain the people of this island city must be taken in and out by water. The challenges of this reality greatly impacts the residents and the Venetian culture. While many visitors were staring at an ancient church, I was transfixed by the garbage boat. Really, what does it mean that all garbage has to be hauled away by boat? How does this affect the rhythm of life? How about the meaning of life? The Venice I experienced was livable, sustainable, respectful, and quiet. I wish I was a better writer in order to explain what I’m trying to say, but if and when you visit Venice, you too may see it with your own eyes. What ever you do, make sure to avoid the theme park version of this enchanting city and, instead, search for the the aspects of Venice life that makes this place tick. 

More Tips about Venice:

Where to Stay in Venice

20 Top Things to Do in Venice

Written by Sonia Gil for

Sonia Gil hosts a weekly original web travel series called Sonia’s Travels with episodes shot in Mexico, Italy, Berlin and Paris. Each trip turns into a series of shows in which Sonia offers a small idea or tip about a place and the people who live there. New Episodes Premiere Every Thursday at 12 noon (9:00 am Pacific) and new Vlogs every Monday.

Mark Schaaf

Wednesday 2nd of May 2012

One of the reasons I enjoy Venice so much is that I don't plan too much when there. I go to a few places I really want to see and the rest of the time I just wonder around and see what comes up. I am always amazed at just how many neat things I keep finding as I wondered around. Other cities have so many big attractions that I plan almost everything but Venice is just a joy to wonder. 


Thursday 29th of March 2012

Loved your angle for this story and the excellent video. Ah...yes, Venice is simply magic!

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