Before I ever went to Venice, I was told that the best way to experience the city was to get lost. “You can’t get too lost,” people would tell me, “because you always end up back at the water.” Which I did, at plenty of dead ends where I could have walked into a canal, or at the Fondamente Nove or Grand Canal or Bacino. But it was wonderful to explore the city this way, and for my first few trips, I loved not knowing the city and just wandering aimlessly, coming upon new calli, campi or canali. Not having a map, or having a map that was essentially useless, made the city that much more mysterious, romantic, alluring. This was one of the things I loved about Venice.
I remember when I was trying to write the walking directions for Seductive Venice, to help my readers get from one Casanova location to the next, I sat at home with various maps and books spread out on the table, trying to piece together a trail. At one point I tried Google Earth to see if a bird’s eye view would help me figure it out. Because Venice is such a wonky city, with few streets that run in a straight line for more than a few yards, the Google Earth maps were useless. “Streets” on their maps ran through the middle of buildings. Lines didn’t line up. I wasn’t able to write my walking directions until I got to Venice the next summer, bought a copy of Calli, Campi, e Canali, and started walking around on my own.
Well, now it’s all laid out for us. Google has sent its team of intrepid backpack-camera-toting youth to the city of water, and they’ve mapped it all out. Here’s the one minute taste:
Want to see more? Google has it all. They even have little itineraries for you, for those who want adventure, or history, or romance. (Warning, romance = gelato and prison). You can travel by foot, by little boat, by bigger boat (vaporetto) and even get some 360 views. You can even go inside Florian’s without the proper Carnevale costume prerequisite. Here you go:
Now, this isn’t actually too revolutionary. Veniceconnected.com has offered 360 street and water views for a while. (I have a friend who always checks out her apartment before she goes so she’ll know what building to look for.) Try it out:
But now that I’ve gushed, can I rant? Did we just lose something magical about this city by making it so accessible? Will I pine less for Venice if I can tour it virtually when I sit in front of my computer? Sure, I can still wander aimlessly–anyone can wander aimlessly–but I bet fewer people will. More travelers will pull out their smart phone and look at it to see where they are, rather than looking at where they are. Not all travelers, but more. That makes me sad.
My friend Becca said that walking around Venice is like being in a land of postcards. Everywhere she looked, she saw another remarkable view. I hope that the convenience of Google Venice doesn’t replace the wonder of wandering.