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November 2010

Six Secrets of Venice


The most glorious sanctuary in Venice is Santa Maria Assunta ai Gesuiti.  Most of the interior surfaces of this Baroque Jesuit church are covered in an intricately carved pattern of green and white marble. This stunning feat of craftsmanship is enough to make you overlook the Tintoretto and Titian paintings on the walls. Risk a trip to Hell by snapping a forbidden photo then drop a couple of euros in the collection box to assuage your guilt.


Dodge the aggressive shop keepers and head straight for Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato.  This church may be older than San Marco though its elaborate mosaic floors have been spared the damage caused by constant visitors and the heaving high waters of St. Marks Square.  The odd opening hours may also have something to do with its wonderful state of preservation.


Live the high life, or at least appear to by quaffing copious quantities of Prosecco, the Italian version of champagne. It’s dry and crisp, and the bubbles are so festive. For another cheap treat, order the house wine when dining out.  More often than not it’s delicious.


On Strada Nuova,  buy a lantern with glass the pale pink of Venetian street lights. Don’t worry about getting it home. You’ll leave the shop carrying what looks like a wasp’s nest on steroids.  Your lamp will be swathed in enough bubble wrap to be sent by catapult and still arrive intact.


Browse through rooms of Abstraction, Futurism and Cubism in The Peggy Guggenheim Collection. It’s like first aid for modern art lovers suffering from an overdose of Baroque and Renaissance talent.  This one storey palazzo looks like a modest bungalow amidst its splendid multi-storied neighbours along the Grand Canal.


St. Mark’s Square and The Grand Canal aren’t the only shows in town.  Skip the tourist hoards and join the locals on the promenade Zattere al Ponte Lungo facing the Giudecca Canal.  Order a Venetian Spritz (Prosecco & Campari) at a quay-side café or meander off the beaten path and enjoy the dreamlike beauty in the maze of smaller canals.

© 2010 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


The Perfect Travel Map


Anyone who has ever used a free tourist map quickly learns  it’s only worth what you paid for it.  You’ll make the most of your time and travel dollars with a pocket-sized atlas filled with useful information, not glossy advertisements.  Here are some of the best.


L’Indispensable’s “Paris par Arrondissement” classifies the city by arrondissement, or neighbourhood, which is essential for carefree meandering. Though updates are published regularly, I still use my 1998 copy paired with a current RATP map for the Métro (subway).  or at most newsstands and bookstores in Paris.


Best selling “London A-Z” is both an atlas and a guide book. Clear, detailed maps of the city centre and nearby areas are broken into grids for easy reference.  The central underground (Tube) route is on the outside back cover. A downloadable edition, “London Visitors’ and Tube Pocket A-Z Map” converts the paper version for your Windows based pocket PC.


Nancy Chandler’s maps look like what a diligent friend might bring back after a trip to Thailand.  Brightly annotated with highlighters and rainbow ink, there is a method to her psychedelic madness as hotels, shops and markets appear in different colours. A separate compact guide details everything from accommodation to transportation.  Worth ordering ahead of time.


Part of Venice’s charm is in getting lost, or so I like to remind my husband after we round another corner to nowhere.  It’s true that maps aren’t much use in this beautiful, maze-like city. Once you’re familiar with the Grand Canal, use the vaparetto or water bus stations to get your bearings and follow the signs.  The yellow markers are official, the rest are placed by helpful Venetians.

  If we’re renting a car, a road atlas is essential, otherwise I pair a city map with a transit route guide. My husband likes to bring a map of the entire country, which usually provides other entertaining information.

 Get your hands on a real map ahead of time and get your bearings as soon as you arrive, jet lag notwithstanding. For the best maps for other destinations, see what the experts, like Frommer’s, Lonely Planet or Condé Nast Traveler recommend.

© 2010 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.