Walking in Venice
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:
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:
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:
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):
A second yellow sign indicates the route to 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.):
It'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:
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.