There's something which occurs quite often in Venice, but not many people want to admit it. I guess it's a bit embarrassing for persons to admit that they're not quite the super travelers which their peers think them to be, but it happens. It's very easy to get lost in Venice and thousands of travelers experience this every year.
Yes, there are signs plastered everywhere for visitors who prefer to walk their way around the floating city by means of bridges. These signs indicate for tourists to turn right or left at the end of an alley, while being shepherded in the right direction. However, these signs aren't around every corner, and this is where the opportunity presents itself to get lost.
When my friend Jennifer and I lost our way, we didn't even realize it for at least ten minutes. We were so distracted by the beauty which surrounded us, it took us quite a while to notice that the hoards of visitors were gone, and we were now in what seemed to be a residential area of the floating city.
We were no longer surrounded by souvenir shops and stalls touting postcards. All of the brightly clothed tourists had disappeared from around us, and we were the only persons armed with cameras. We never felt scared, but we preferred the comfort of being around others while in a foreign city.
We tried to backtrack the route from which we came, but undoubtedly ended up taking a different turn along the way. We thought we could find our way back if we stuck to the canals, however this proved futile, when all of the vaporetto stations we found were totally abandoned. I believe that we would've been less concerned if the day was still young, but unfortunately, dusk had started to drift in.
Trying not to panic, we quickly marched along another canal, hoping to find the touristy section of Venice before the last of the sunlight dispersed into darkness. We kept an eye out for locals who we hoped knew sufficient English to help us with directions, but everyone was holed up in their homes, with flickering candlelight behind heavy curtains being the only indication that persons were indeed nearby.
Finally we came upon a vaporetto station, which although empty, featured a detailed map. After identifying our location, we realized that we had strayed quite a far distance from central Venice. Removing a piece of paper from my day bag, I wrote down the different landmarks which we needed to find in order to make our way back. All the while, our valued sunlight grew dimmer.
In my opinion, it took forever to maneuver through the labyrinth of alleys and bridges, tracking one statue or fountain after another before we finally saw souvenir shops begin to appear. Afterwards, we saw a trickle of tourists which turned into a full stream of colourfully clad individuals.
Words can scarcely explain the relief which we felt after being engulfed in the crowd. While this experience is one that visitors can look back and smile about, it can be downright nerve-racking while you're in the middle of it.
I recommend future travelers who are interested in venturing through Venice on their own to pack a proper map of the city along with a fully charged flashlight. Venice is a great place for independent visitors, but always keep track of where you are to avoid being lost in this urban maze.