Venice, City of Canals

“Venice, it’s temples and palaces did seem like fabrics of enchantment piled to heaven.” Percy Bysshe Shelly

Welcome to Venice, Italy where more than 150 canals meander through the city’s historic center.  The most famous is the Grand Canal.  Lined on either side by palaces, churches, hotels, and other public buildings in Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles, the Grand Canal measures slightly more the two miles long, 100 – 225 feet wide, and has an average depth of 17 feet.

The canals are the “streets” of Venice. Boats are the transportation choice as automobiles are banned throughout much of the city.  Motorized vaporetti, the public-transit water buses and private water taxis carry passengers, while barges bring the delivery of goods throughout the city.  From time to time, siren-equipped boats belonging to the police, fire, and emergency medical services traverse the Grand Canal at high speed.

In the busyness of a vibrant city, the traditional poled gondolas grace the waterways with the elegance of a past time where mystery, romance and intrigue entice us with adventures.  

The Gondola dates to the 11th century.  It began as rowboat that has evolved over the last 1,000 years to the ornate and streamlined form of today.   The gondola structure is asymmetrical, designed specifically to accommodate one oarsman using a single oar for ease of navigation along the narrow Venetian canals.

Venice has many names: “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City”, and “City of Canals.  To experience the richness of its beauty, architecture, art and history, the gondola is waiting for you. 

To go out in a gondola at night is to reconstruct in one’s imagination the true Venice, the Venice of the past alive with romance, elopements, abductions, revenged passions, intrigues, adulteries, denouncements, unaccountable deaths, gambling, lute-playing and singing.’” Peggy Guggenheim

61 Thoughts

  1. I’ve been to this beautiful city of 400 bridges many times. It remains one of my top favourites cities, going back to the early sixties, when Piazza San Marco had fantastic restaurants all around the piazza. At night they were all lite up most with live music groups with operetta singers. Unfortunately that kind of living and personalized Italiano entertainment is long gone, but as the saying goes, the memory lingers on…

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    1. Yes – the memory does linger on, in memory, in books – there is a mythology that surrounds Venice. What wonderful experiences you had on your visits. I imagine each season has a different flavor. I was reading that, while anyone can ride in a gondola these days, there was a time when only the nobility were able to travel around Venice in a gondola. You can imagine the competition that came out of this. I understand that the nobility began decorating their gondolas with elaborate designs to signal their power, wealth and influence. I was reading in the website “Venezia Autentica” that is costs around 40,000 euros to complete a gondola.

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  2. Venice is a wonderful city. If it weren’t for all those pesky tourists! 😉 And don’t get me started on the cruise ships on the Grand Canal, though I believe the largest ones are no longer permitted.

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    1. I was looking at the tourist statistics for Venice. In 2019, more than 4.7 million inbound travelers visited the City of Canals. In 2020, total tourist arrivals in Venice dropped to 1.4 million. https://www.statista.com/statistics/732616/leading-countries-visiting-venice-italy/ I read that these past months have allowed Venice to reevaluate their tourist strategies, which is a good thing!

      It seems that you and I were in the category of pesky tourists! LOL. Your comment prompted me to look into why we like to travel. After all, there are marvelous travelogues that come to our screens, but that isn’t the same. It seems that travel takes us out of our comfort zones and inspires us to see, taste and try new things. It is the experience we crave. In the end, it is not the things we collect, but the experiences we lived. Many thanks for your visit and your comments – very much appreciated.

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      1. Of course we’re pesky tourists! And what this pesky tourist has discovered is that there are so many cities and sites which are – so far – just off the radar, and well worth our time to discover and enjoy. And added to that is the thrill of having found a secret, and added to that stash of experiences.

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      2. I laughed out loud when I read your first sentence!!! I just found an article that discussed a “travel” survey. It I seem that we want to travel in 2022 for reasons of mental wellness. Travel is slowly opening up, but people are still cautious. “But the research shows that all the cancelled plans, lack of socializing and time isolated may have made people more likely to embrace experiences more fully if they do decide to go on a trip.”https://apple.news/AUXQOTifwRoqv3Q7BSGLWEQ

        Well said about traveling places that are off the radar. I agree wholeheartedly!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. “Around me are the stars and waters, —
      Worlds mirrored in the ocean”
      Lord Byron, Palazzo Lioni

      Thank you for joining me in Venice! I was looking up all of the poets who visited Venice. It seems that there is an artistic and creative energy that surround this magnificent city.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Venice, dear Rebecca, is one of my most loved ctities for its whole surrounding and for all the artistic works!:) I, however, prefered to visit and enjoy it in winter time and enshrouded by fog, because there were far less tourists! All the best and many thanks for your presentation:)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Klausbernd mentioned the fog as well, Martina, so there must be a marvelous sense of mystery that comes with the winter season. We went in spring and already the heat of summer was knocking on the door. I am now going to do research into all of the artists that painted the beauty of Venice. Isn’t it wonderful when one idea leads to another idea to explore. I continue to learn and learn and learn.

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      1. You know, Rebecca, when I saw your post about Venice, my good feelings I had, when we visited the city in November/December with fog, came up and I was even happy to see that Klausbernd also experienced it in this way and I considered it to be an important advice for future tourists!
        You may also have seen during these last months and months that learning is not that easy and that one has to read about or study a subject many times, before really getting the problem!
        In this sense, I wish you alle the best!

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      2. I share your thoughts on learning – it isn’t easy and sometimes it is by trial and error. My mother Frances, say that learning must continue as we age. It keeps our minds active and open to fresh ideas and perspective. This year, I am going to restart learning the recorder, an instrument that was popular within the Renaissance and Baroque periods. If I am consistent in devoting 15 minutes a day to this project, I think progress will be made. Venice in the wintertime would be amazing, especially with the fog lingering along the canals. Mystical!!

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      3. Your mother is certainly right, but to become wise seems to me even more important!
        I wish you much joy with your recorder. My husband and daughter always played it on Christmas. I therefore wish you a mystical Christmas!

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  4. Lovely post, Rebecca. Venice is such a beautiful city. I’ve had the privilege of visiting it twice. Never rode in a gondola, but my wife and I did take a 4 a.m. ride in a private water taxi to the airport through a very quiet city. It was beyond memorable.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I confess that I did not have a gondola ride either. My brothers have had and still have careers in public transit. When we travel, we always use public transit to meet local people. So we used the Vaporetto water bus system, which was a great way to experience authentic Venice. I was reading up vaperettos and discovered that they first appeared in 1881. Of course there was some concern re: competition from the gondoliers and hotel boatman. There was a healthy debate, the outcome being that the gondoliers were the ones who continued with the smaller waterways. Did you know that at their heyday in the 1800’s there were 10,000 gondolas. I am certain that Henry James used them when he was in Venice!

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      1. Fascinating information, Rebecca! And Henry James must indeed have been on a gondola or three while in Venice. He should have written a novella called “The Turn of the Oar.” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. How wonderful to be able to return to Venice a second time. I have enjoyed visited your side of the world through your amazing photography, Rudi. Always a joy to stop by your place.

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  5. Dear Rebecca,
    we love Venice and especially in autumn when the fog crawls in from the channels. It’s so romantic.
    Do you know the crime novels by Donna Leone? They all play in Venice.
    With big hugs from the
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I found the books and have downloaded three: “Dressed for Death”, “Friends in High Places” and “Though a Glass, Darkly. Thank you so much for the introduction to a new author. We visited Venice in spring. I was excited to find that we were staying in a small hotel on the street where Giovanni Caboto and his son, Sebastian, lived. Venetians believe that Caboto is credited with discovering Newfoundland while exploring the West in the service of England’s King Henry VII in 1497. Canadians know him at Joh Cabot. In Venice, every step taken has a story! Sending much love and many hugs to my dear friends, The Fab Four of Cley.

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    1. You are the epitome of a romantic, Liz. How do buildings withstand all that water? I was asking the same question myself – so great minds do think alike. I found a great explanation. It seems that “Venice’s buildings were built on top of more than 10 million tree trunks. These were forced down into the ground to create a stable and robust platform to build on top of. This prevents the buildings from sinking into the marshland, which is a volatile environment.” And why doesn’t the wood rot, you may ask. The salty mud that surrounds the tree trunks has preserved the wood and prevented it from rotting. Do check out this link – it is quite fascinating. The city’s main threat is from rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

      https://lowkeyarchitecture.com/how-was-venice-built-and-can-the-city-be-saved/

      Liked by 6 people

  6. Hello Rebecca, what a delightful post about Venice. I learned about this beautiful city as a girl when I read What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge. Her romance starts in Venice and it just captivated me. Another book for your list to go with Anne and Emily [smile – read comment over at Dave’s].

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    1. I read that comment, Robbie!! Many thanks. Actually it was Dave Astor who reminded me to revisit our Venice adventure of 2011(hard to believe that 10 years have passed) when he suggested Henry James’s The Aspern Papers, which spirited me back into a different century, when gondolas were more plentiful. Here is a quote to entice you to read The Asper Papers: “Hypocrisy, duplicity are my only chance. I am sorry for it, but for Jeffrey Aspern’s sake I would do worse still.”

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  7. The poet Shelly lived in Rome for awhile, but he obviously visited Venice. We traveled there in July 1999. It was so hot and humid in the city, we purchased an oscillating fan so we could endure without air conditioning, and then sold it in Positano to an eager hotelier. The Peggy Guggenheim museum is along one of the waterways as I recall. Of course, it is!

    Thanks for bringing back glorious memories, Lady Budd.

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    1. I can only imagine how hot it must have been for you, Marian! YIKES!! But what an amazing travel journey from Venice to Positano. We visited Venice in early May when the temperatures were in the 90’s! Many thanks for your visit and comments – very much appreciated.

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  8. Thank you so much, dear Rebecca, for this short trip through the canals of this beautiful and unique city. Many years ago, I spent my summer holidays there, and I remember that I had to think of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice so often.

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    1. I am delighted that you joined me in Venice, Deborah. Now, I can make a confession. We did not take a Venice tour in a gondola, although I did follow them through the streets and over bridges. Instead, we walked through the city following the canals. I wanted to get lost in Venice. And we did get lost!! You would be interested to know that gondolas are handmade using 8 different types of wood: fir,oak, cherry, walnut, elm, mahogany, larch and lime. They are composed of 280 pieces. I did not know this until I was looking up the history. Many thanks for your visit and comments!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, Mary Jo!! Venice is an extraordinary city. My greatest joy was to talk with the locals and practice my Italian language which is minimal, but every one was very gracious and said I spoke their language beautifully. An interesting point about living and visiting. There was something very calming about Venice. While most people have visions of tourists descending on the city, there were many areas where locals gathered for coffee and dinner and there were markets scattered throughout the city where locals met to discuss the events of the day. Every morning we would hear the school bell ring – not like ours, but like a church bell – that called children to school. Fathers would take their children to school before going to work. Family life was vibrant, the local parks filled with laughter. The weather was sunshine and warm. Living there would be very interesting. But I would miss my home in the midst of a rainforest.

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  9. This is one of my favorite cities! You only need to step away from the main streets and you feel free to wander and imagine you’ve stepped into the past. If you stay late and the tourists have gone it seems more mysterious… This is a lovely post Rebecca!

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    1. I agree – there are so many wonderful places to roam. We stayed in an area where we were able to connect with locals who were very gracious in sharing their city with us. Venice attracts tourism because it is a symbol of extraordinary history, art, architecture and stories. While there was concern about the number of tourists, the Covid19 disruption has allowed Venice to introduce new strategies on how to engage a more authentic travel experiences. Venezia Autentica’s goal is. “With Venezia Autentica it’s easy to have a better and more meaningful experience of Venice while positively impacting the life of the locals.” https://veneziaautentica.com/

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    1. I now confess that I did not have a gondola ride although I followed them through the canals. What I remember most about our Venice adventure was the wonderful people who lived in the local where we stayed. Every morning, we would hear the sound of bells call the children to school. The fathers would walk their children to school before they went to work. There was a park nearby where I met up with some women with their young children. They helped me practice my limited Italian language. It was wonderful to hear the laughter of children!! We did get lost in Venice as one street and bridge enticed us to go further until we had no idea where we were.

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      1. Here’s a little background on our adventure, Diana. (There is always more to any story, isn’t’ there? LOL) When we first arrived in Venice, I lifted my luggage and did something to my back. I was in pain for 2 days before one of the locals told me to go see the “pharmacia” What an amazing experience. In Italy, pharmacists can provide a higher level of medical assistance than in Canada. The pharmacist was so kind and helpful. Anyway, I would not have been able to climb into a gondola, so I enjoyed them from a distance. Hopefully, next time…

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  10. Rebecca, your beautiful reflections / information about Venice has warmed my heart and eased a bit my sadness at the lack of travel these years. The city sounds magical and it is a wonder how it can exist. It’s been a joy reading some of the comments and Diana’s sums it up perfectly, I feel. ‘worldbuilding at its finest’ Exactly! I think it is a shame how the bigger cruise liners are once again allowed into its historical heart!

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    1. I am delighted that you joined me in Venice. There is a creative energy that pervades the area. I have been reading about the cruise liners, which has been a concern for many, especially since climate change is impacting Venice’s water levels. There was a cruise ship ban, which gave Venice time to consider a sustainable way in which to accommodate their tourist industry. This is an article that provides some background:

      “This is only the first step of a concrete path; next autumn will find us committed to giving a sustainable future to the cruise sector in Venice. This is all done by keeping in mind that a vast community was largely damaged in terms of jobs in a very complex historical framework for our port, in which it is essential to operate in an organized manner, and by joining forces.’https://www.seatrade-cruise.com/ports-destinations/venice-back-landing-cruise-ships

      I share your sadness that travel has been curtailed. But I understand that when I travel I increase my personal carbon footprint. That is why I love being involved in a vibrant blogging community. I travel through the eyes of my blogger friends. Many thanks for your visit and comments.

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  11. What a miracle of a city! It’s beauty is made extremely rich, by all of the areas it has progressed through.
    When were you there?
    It seems you have travelled far and wide, and have a lot of footage!
    You have shared some fabulous places with us! Thank you, Rebecca!

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    1. There is feeling of stories that came when we walked along the canal. Every step held ancient stories, and long memories. Our visit was in 2011 and the photos/videos were taken on a camera that had 12 pixels. I’m surprised that they turned out as well as they did. What I like most about photographs is that they crystallize moments and allow us to go back in time to relive those precious memories. I have missed travel but as Don reminded me, “If we stand still, the world will come to us.” How true those words our when we have friends that span the globe. Sending hugs

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  12. Although we share a border, I have not yet made it to Italy. It is on the list. I have been to Holland and Belgium several times and Holland seems to have canals at every turn. For day trips, I usually go to Spain or another part of France. Perhaps one day the curtain of Covid will be lifted and we can travel more safely.

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    1. I am delighted that you joined me virtually in Venice. I just read your adventures and am looking forward to entering 2022 together. The first time we went to Italy was in 2004 when we attended a Italian language school in a small town in Marche. It was the most remarkable month and I felt like I had come home. I believe that travel will come back, but in the meantime, I will travel to France virtually via your blog!

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