Venice was very much like what I thought it would be and better. I wasn't prepared for how much I would love all the back alleyways, all the small bridges where you can experience total silence for a long time before seeing anyone.
It's not as confusing as you may think. We only got turned around once and we didn't have to use a map. Once you get out of the San Marco area you'll find the real neighbourhoods with local cafes and restaurants with their much more reasonable prices. It was refreshing not to hear the sound of lawn mowers and cars. We didn't realize how significant that would be until we came home.
Sure, we did the tourist trap thing and ate (not the best food) by the Rialto bridge and paid through our noses for the privilege. One of which is being entertained by the traffic chaos of multiple commuter ferries, gondolas, private boats all come within inches of each other, criss crossing the canal all over the place. There is no right of way, traffic lanes or no wake zones in Venice that we were able to see.
One time, we saw a fire boat tear down the middle of all that, creating such wake that the water splashed up on the sides of the restaurant seating. The gondoliers all hunkered down the best they could to avoid having themselves and their guests dumped on the water. You know you are in Italy. Imagine Rome traffic but on water! It was great fun. D and I were grinning ear to ear and shaking our heads.
Our first ferry ride was captained by a trainee whom I got quite impatient with because all he was concerned about doing was singing and dancing to tunes on the radio instead of watching for available docks. His trainer didn't seemed concerned.
Loading docks were on a first come first serve basis and we sat there in the water for almost 20 min watching other more assertive boats get the available spots as soon as another boat would back out. I wanted to go up there and take over! All our other rides were captained by seasoned fellows who just pushed their way into spots. I loved it!
Over all, there are surprisingly ample opportunities to get off the beaten path in Venice. The food wasn't as bad as some tour books would lead you to believe. And like most cities, you pay more in the areas where everyone goes. As this was our first immersion in the city, we paid more. The next time will cost less as we will be renting an apartment in one of our favourite districts.
I am so glad D and I got to experience this together. Incidentally, we haven't gotten a real answer to D's time off without pay question. They are still investigating. Guess this particular manager has never been asked that before. We are staying hopeful.