The touristic hotspots of the Rialto Bridge, the Grand Canal, and even the enormous St. Marks’ Square are a bit underwhelming overall, and more frustrating than fun (think the obscene crowds of Times Square without as much to ogle). It’s the absurd alleyways with their sudden turns, girth-defying narrowness, and innumerable bridges over blue-green canals where the magic and adventure are born. Getting lost in the winding, impossible-to-navigate alleys is a given (in a single day I saw two maps shredded in despair, and a voice navigation system outright give up), but this should be your true goal anyway. Meandering the paths less traveled without a destination, you’ll discover randomly open palazzos with enchanting courtyards, better food, scenic spots to rest, and far more of the color you’ve seen in photos of the storied city. Abandon the guidebooks and tourist traps or you’ll leave disappointed and disillusioned. Follow your whim and you’ll have a personal experience worth the journey.
Surprisingly small and easily seen in a day, the best way to visit Venice is from a neighboring village or city. A high frequency train system provides access to and from multiple nearby destinations several times daily; choose a central location like Verona, where you can reach Venice or Milan in an hour, as well as any number of charming villages on Lake Garda. You’ll have a much comfortable, relaxing, and affordable stay elsewhere, and you’ll still be able to cross Venice off your bucket list. After all, everyone should see it; it just doesn’t warrant more than a day or two on its own.
My host in this region was Riccardo Fraccaroli, 43, who lives in the unfathomably picturesque village of Lazise, just outside Verona. It’s a lakefront town with a resort feel, boasting plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars hugged by old castle walls. Here, Riccardo reveals the northern Italians’ blasé attitude toward sexuality, and encourages visitors to the region to base their vacations in Lazise.
Out Traveler: How long have you lived in Lazise?
Riccardo Fraccaroli: I was born here. It’s hard to find a true native here, but you found one!
How long have you been out?
I don’t know. I think 20 years. It was nothing special.
How is it for a gay person to get along in this village?
Normal. Nobody cares. The people don’t really mind—they don’t care about the private lives of other people as long as you don’t do anything wrong. Italians are not so close-minded about sexuality. There’s not a gay community, or nightlife, or anything like that here, though. You’re just a regular person.
Your favorite restaurant in Lazise?
Oreste. Its specialty is seafood and the food is great. The service is also great—they’re so friendly.
One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here?
It’s an amazing place that’s close to everything. So close to Venice and from Milan. Here, you can have a relaxing place to stay with mountains, beaches, cities and towns nearby. It’s all here.