Venice: The life aquatic

I’ve barely posted a word about Venice since I returned two months ago — because I’m still sorting through my photos. But over the next few days I’ll give you a guided mini-tour of what I have so far. Here’s the first installment.

Life aquatic BLOG

It’s improbable that Venice should exist at all: The city is literally built on water, resting precariously on centuries-old wood pilings that the first settlers drove into the lagoon.

Venice from air 1310549 FB

Venice from air 1310547 FB

Venice is both shaped by and dependent on its lagoon, so it’s only fitting that everything moves by boat. The Grand Canal — which snakes through Venice like a giant “S” — serves as a main artery into the city.

Grand canal 1330679 FB

Canal pano 0929 to 0934 BLOG

Everything the city needs — food, construction materials, medical supplies, and even labor — arrives by boat in the morning.

Food barge 1330677 BLOG

Food barges 1330682 BLOG

But by mid-afternoon, the commercial traffic on the Grand Canal has yielded to the comparative calm of the gondolas and the tourists.

Rialto 1330450 FB

Smaller boats bring supplies deeper into the city.

Construction boat 1310954 FB

Boat delivery 1330698 BLOG

Delivery boat 1330701 BLOG

You would never guess how deftly the Venetians can steer these boats through the narrow canals if you looked only at the simple controls.

Boat controls 1310833 FB

Boat controls 1320001 BLOG

The boats in Venice come in all shapes and sizes …

Boat kinds 1330605 BLOG

Canal scene 1330187 FB

Smiley boat 1320484 BLOG

Wood boat 1310949 FB

But my favorite was this (apparently home-made) wooden kayak. It just looked so impossibly unwieldy …

Kayaks 1350375 FB

For the city’s full-time residents, life happens on the water.

Life aquatic 1330533 BLOG

This is the front door …

Facade 1310827 FB

Facade pano 1330570 to 1339572 BLOG

… and this is the Venetian equivalent of “reserved parking.”

Non lasciare barco 1310734 FB

Hope you’ve enjoyed this small introduction to Venice. Back with more soon!


  1. Thanks for posting these great and interesting photos. One thing I’ve always wondered about Venice — is the water quality bad? Does the water look icky, have an oil sheen, smell funny? Does it still have fish in it? (I was curious about the Seine too when I was there, since we Americans are so interested in river water quality.) — Pam

    • The color of the water in the photos is pretty faithful to what you’ll see in real life, Pam — in other words, a bit brackish but not disgusting. And although some of the smaller canals had a bit of an aroma to them, for the most part the water was pretty scent-free (though I’m told that’s not always true in the summer). One of the cool things about Venice is that it actually has a tide, so although the water may *look* pretty stagnant, it’s forever flowing in and out of the lagoon. That said, I’m sure it’s pretty polluted, given the heavy boat traffic it sees every day.

  2. Also, don’t those wood pilings rot at some point? And don’t the foundations of the buildings get kinda soggy and weak? The whole thing just seems so improbable and fragile indeed…Yours in wonkish questions, Pam

    • Yes, on all counts! The wood pilings are indeed rotting, the foundations are crumbling, and the entire city is slowly sinking back into the muck and the mire. I’ve been told that most buildings have at least one architect who consistently monitors their condition, but many of the locals concede that it’s a losing battle. In fact, when you think about how the city was built, it really is pretty remarkable that it exists at all — let alone that it’s lasted all these centuries.

  3. More more more ! I simply devoured every picture. !
    I went on holiday to Venice with Eldest Daughter and would you believe came back with less than 100 holiday snaps. I long to go back now that I’ve been enjoying really playing with the camera.
    One day maybe … 🙂

    • Oh, Sallyann! I very much hope you CAN go back to Venice with your camera. And soon! In the meantime, rest assured there are more photos on the way. Grin.

  4. Most interesting, on all, thanks for answering my questions! I have always thought Venice sounded like another planet. What must it be like to live in a city where you can’t….go for a walk?? Tho maybe people can, on nearby streets?

    • The main traffic (commuting, freight, and even emergency services) all happens on the water, Pam, but there are *plenty* of places for pedestrians. In fact, the absence of vehicles makes it the most walkable city in the world, to my mind. I’ll bring an aerial shot when we meet up for dinner next week, to show you. Big hug!

  5. VERY informative. I have never seen many pictures of Venice (usually a couple of buildings and a boat), so this post was like a documentary. I never thought about the supply routes.

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