One of the joys of traveling is getting beneath the surface of a place to an intimate knowledge of its rhythms and rituals. That's what Samantha Durell gives the visitors she walks through the streets of Venice. "Everyone has the same questions," she says. "'What is this place, where do these people live, how do they live, what are they really like?' My gift is that for the next four or five hours you will be a Venetian, because you're with me." Durell moved here from New York in 1988 and began studying not only the city's history, art, and architecture but its customs and etiquette (which she's happy to explain). Now, depending on your interests, she'll take you to magnificent palazzi, to places filled with great art that tourists rarely see, or to ateliers where artisans craft one-of-a kind pieces. The biggest advantage of walking with her, though, is being invited in by her friends to see hidden treasures: a private garden bordering a canal, a courtyard with 13th-century wells. Or being invited aboard a sailboat for a ride if another of her friends sails by.
A photographer and a former caterer, Durell offers routes keyed to unusual photo opportunities, as well as food walks that include picking up the best ingredients and then bringing them back to her apartment to learn to cook local dishes. Walks, $250-$400 for two to four. $ Call 212-873-1964.
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