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Walking in Venice

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Gondolier on Ponte di Santa Maria Mater Domini

ABOVE: A gondolier on the Ponte Santa Maria Mater Domini.

Signs in streets and squares

Venice is filled with visual cues that can help lost tourists find themselves, if only they know where to look.

For an example, we'll take you to the Campo Santa Maria Mater Domani, a small square within a few minutes' walk of the Rialto Bridge:

Campo Santa Maria Mater Domini Venice

By looking around the square, you can can see a number of signs on the walls of the buildings.

The signs below tell you the name of the square ("Campo S. Maria Mater Domini") and show that you're in the parrochia or parish of S. Cassan (Venetian dialect for "San Cassiano"), a larger church in the vicinity:

Campo Santa Maria Mater Domani

Nearby, a sign tells you (in dialect) that you're in the sestiere or district of Santa Croce, which will help to narrow down your choices if you look at a map:

Sestiere di Santa Croce sign in Venice

Another sign points to a street that will take you to the railroad station and the Piazzale Roma (In this case, the left-pointing arrows that were added are legitimate, because either route works):

Ferrovia and Piazzale Roma signs

A second yellow sign indicates the route to Rialto and San Marco:

Sign for Rialto and San Marco

If you're looking for specific streets after leaving the square, you'll also see signs, but you need to be careful and distinguish between variations on the street name (e.g. "calle" for street, "sotoportego" for "tunnel" or "covered street," "rio terà" for "street built on a filled-in canal," "ramo" for a "small branch of a street," etc.):

Rio Tera de le CarampaneSotoportego Carampane

CarampaneIt's also worth noting that some streets in different parts of Venice have the same name, and in at least one case that we know of, two parallel streets (the two Calli delle Oche near the Campo San Giacomo dall'Orio) share a name. This can be useful to know when you're looking for a specific address.

Speaking of addresses, Venetian addresses aren't consecutive street numbers, and they're almost meaningless without a directory that identifies addresses such as "San Polo 1541" by location.

If you're heading for a hotel, apartment, or B&B, you'll need precise directions, because the house number won't do you any good untl you're almost at the door:

Venice house numberSan Polo house number

And there you have it: How to navigate around Venice in a nutshell. If you get lost, don't worry--you'll hit a major canal or the Lagoon before you go too far afield, and Venetians are generally willing to give directions, although the often-heard "sempre dritto" ("go straight") shouldn't be taken literally in a city where even direct routes have twists and turns every few meters.

Our capsule advice: Carry a map (but don't rely on it too heavily), look for signs, and when in doubt, follow the crowd.

Back to: Finding Your Way in Venice - Introduction


In this article:
Walking in Venice
Buying and using Venice maps
Directional signs
Signs in streets and squares

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