A city with no cars, no diesel buses, with a rich maze of alleyways and squares that interconnect with one another. By all means, line up to go inside the Basilica, feed the pigeons at the Piazza, take a picture at the Bridge of Sighs. But Venice is more that that. Venice is where every street and square leads to another alley, another square, another new place to explore. Just go without a map and without a fear of getting lost. Eventually you’ll come out into a bigger street or square and you’d know where you are.
Venice is where all the senses are fully occupied, sight, sound, smell, taste. During the summer the canals tend to have a distinctive, perhaps even stinky, smell. But that’s what makes this city unique. Everyday life goes on under our noses, gondolas may take tourists on the romance of a lifetime, but the vaporettis run 24 hours and are the lifeblood of locals. To cruise down the Grand Canal on a sparsely occupied vaporetti is just as fulfilling as the equivalent gondola ride. Cross the canal on the rickety standing-room only traghetti which are old gondolas. Buy souvenirs from the small shops everywhere selling the unique masks, or colourful glassware, or beautifully handcrafted notebooks.
Visit the Rialto Bridge of course, but don’t miss the Rialto markets where stalls groan under the weight of foods on sale. Try squid ink pasta at a small osteria, or make a meal out of cicchetti (Italian version of tapas) at a small bacarro. Try the melt-in-your-mouth varieties of smooth creamy gelato. Sit at a café and sip bitter, strong coffee. What else is there, what else?