Venice is indeed one of the most beautiful cities in the world — it has romantic scenery, historic buildings, and serene canals. The “sinking city” as we know it, built on a Mediterranean lagoon, can provide an adventurous romp through Italy’s architectural and cultural history.
The greatest joy of Venice is getting lost.
The greatest frustration, too — maps are often inadequate, and street numbers incomprehensible, rendering addresses practically useless. The easiest way to get places is to follow the ubiquitous signs “PER SAN MARCO” (to San Marco, the big piazza), “PER RIALTO” (to the Rialto bridge), or “ALLA FERROVIA” (to the train station). This type of navigation requires knowing, roughly, the area where you’d like to go, but it will set you on the right track after a meander.
If you do allow yourself to wander away from the main tourist paths, you can easily find yourself alone in a back alley where you can imagine what it may be like to be a Venetian local.
If possible, avoid peak season and holidays
Venice sees about an average 60,000 visitors a day. During peak season, visitors easily outnumber residents on any given day. Peak season is from around end of June to mid-September. We were there late September and not only were the crowds' sort of bearable the weather was also perfect. It was still packed at Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Basilica but that is to be expected... After all, this is Venice.
On our first day in Venice, we took some time to explore quieter back alleys and canals. Inevitably one can not completely avoid the major tourist areas but it's great to see another side of this beautiful city.