Venice is special and it is easy to get confused
We thought of collecting a few of the most popular, yet at times surprising for us, questions and misconceptions that visitors have about Venice. Venetians have been asked these questions hundred of times over the years by many different people, and have heard some statement or witnessed some behaviors that show a misunderstanding of the city.
All the following questions and misconceptions are absolutely legitimate and are part of traveling to foreign places: this collection is not meant to blame or make fun of people, but rather to address the most common doubts and false beliefs and try to answer them.
Surprising Questions about Venice:
Are there people living in Venice?
Yes, the population living in Venice is just under 55.000 inhabitants as of July 2016.
When does Venice close?
Even though Venice is perceived as an open-air museum, Venice is 100% a city and has no opening or closing times. Like everywhere else there are business hours for offices, shops, and activities, but when they close life goes on in the city.
Why are Venetians speaking Spanish?
Venetians do not speak Spanish. Venetians speak Italian and the Venetian dialect, which indeed sounds at times more similar to Spanish than it does to Italian! In particular, Venetian is incredibly similar to Catalan, a language spoken by 9 million people on the east coast of Spain.
Do you have schools/univeristy/hospital/police/etc. in Venice?
Yes, in Venice we have everything that you’d expect to find in a medium sized city elsewhere. What is particular is the presence of only one nightclub (which is very small and very different from usual clubs) and the fact that some services are performed with the use of boats rather than cars.
How do you move around Venice when it's rainy/very cold/very hot/very late/you're in pain/sick/etc.?
We walk. Walking is at the core of the Venetian way of life. People here are used to be walking all day, every day, in every weather condition, since childhood. In any weather condition we go to school or to work by foot, we run back home to pack our sports bag by foot, we go to our football pitch by foot, run, and by foot we stop at the supermarket on our way back home and carry back our heavy grocery bags by… hand, of course!
When does the next Acqua Alta Show take place?
Acqua Alta is not a show created for entertainment, but a natural phenomenon that Venetians learned to live with. When the Acqua Alta is particularly high, it can even cause problems (especially economic ones, by forcing the shops to close or by damaging the stored goods etc.), but shouldn’t be considered dangerous.
Misconceptions about Venice:
Seeing every rowing boat in Venice as a ``gondola``
There are indeed plenty of gondolas in Venice, but not every rowing boat is a gondola. Gondolas are a very specific type of boat, that has a precise shape and size. Gondoliers row black gondolas, and in some regatte you can see colorful gondolas. Over the centuries Venetians have created many different types of boats, dozens of which are still in use today. A gondola is only one (extremely beautiful) type of rowing boat. Calling every boat a gondola would be the same as calling every dog a Doberman or every car a Cadillac.
Kissing in front of the ``Bridge of Sighs``
This bridge connects the trial rooms in the Doge palace to the prisons, therefore its name refers to “sighs” of despair, pain, death. During the Serenissima, people sentenced to jail had to cross this bridge and died in prison soon after. Is standing in front of the equivalent of a death row in a penitentiary really the most romantic location for your kisses, love declarations or even proposals? We mean, we know relationships can be tough, but these sighs are definitely not those you’d expect to be sharing with your partner… unless you work together as we do!
Thinking of Venice's lagoon as open-waters/sea/ocean
It is common to hear visitors refer to the water surrounding Venice as sea or ocean. Venice is located in the Venetian lagoon, an enclosed area of 500 square km (49km in length and 13km in width) connected to the Adriatic Sea only by 3 natural canals. The average depth of the lagoon is… just 1,2 m! As such the depth of the waters surrounding Venice is much closer to that of a puddle, rather than the sea or the ocean!
See Venetians as ``background actors`` in a city with no private spaces
A unique city creates unique lifestyles and activities. People rowing in the canals or listening to music in their motor boats are not parades or open parties for tourists, it’s just the Venetian lifestyle. A private gate or a not fully closed door is not an invitation to enter and explore the private space of others. How would you feel if you would find strangers in your garden or inside your garage? We are aware there is no bad intention but only curiosity, yet for some, it is a daily invasion of their private spaces by strangers.
Thinking that the Acqua Alta is a consequence of rain
Acqua Alta is a higher than usual tide that will slowly rise, cover parts of Venice for a few hours, and then slowly disappear. The intensity of this phenomenon is the result of two different factors: the astronomical tide and the weather conditions. Weather conditions that play a main role in the acqua alta are intensity and the direction of the wind, and atmospheric pressure. The contribute of rain to acqua alta is extremely marginal. Acqua alta can occur on a beautiful sunny day with no rain.
Maybe we ate a bit too much pasta lately, but are we really that FAT?
“Grazie”, the Italian word for “thank you”, is pronounced “GRAHT-SEE-YEH”. Most English speakers say “graht-see” which in Italian means FAT [“grassi”, the plural of “grasso”, fat]. We found out that this mistake is not due to a difficult pronunciation, but rather the belief that “graht-see” is the correct pronunciation, so we thought of letting you know what you’re really saying… before you get slapped by a snappish person!
Common questions about Venice:
How deep are the canals in Venice?
The depth of the canals varies from canal to canal, from the height of the tide, and from the maintenance level (if the canals have recently been dredged up or not). The average depth of the vast majority of the canals is between 1,5 and 3 meters. The Canal Grande has an average depth of 5m. The Canale della Giudecca has a depth between 12m and 17m. The deepest canal is the widest of the 3 canals connecting the lagoon to the Adriatic sea, with a maximum depth of 21.5m
How old is Venice?
The first settlements and buildings in the lagoon date back to the V Century C.E., but it was in 810 C.E. that the economic and political power was definitely moved to the island of Rivo Alto, later on, known as Rialto, and more buildings started being built creating the first Venice. In 1200 years of existence, the city and its buildings changed many times over the centuries to adapt to new needs and fashion. Venice as a city is over 1200 years old; the buildings that can still be seen today are up to 800 years old.
How do you usually move around Venice?
Most of the time, Venetians prefer to move by foot. Moving by foot is the fastest and most efficient mean of transportation in Venice… if you know how to get to your destination of course! Most Venetians use public transportation when necessary, as when water must be crossed. Rowing boats are mainly used for sport or for the pleasure of rowing itself, motor boats are mainly used for transportation of goods and during days off for enjoying the lagoon.
Does every Venetian have a boat?
No, there are many families who do not have a boat. Taking a boat is a pleasurable way to enjoy the warmer months, but is not essential to living in Venice. If needed, the public transportation system in town works extremely well (apart from being overcrowded) and connects Venice to all the major islands of the lagoon 24/7.
Do venetians have a driver’s license?
Depends on what for… many Venetians have a car driving license, but the percentage is indeed less high than in other cities. The majority of the Venetians do NOT have a boat driving license because it’s required only if the motor exceeds 40HP. Speed limits in Venice are very low (5/11/20 km/h) and most boats used in Venice for leisure are light, therefore not requiring powerful engines. Does it mean that it’s a good idea for anyone to rent a boat and drive in Venice? Absolutely not! Venetians who do not have a license, still know the rules of navigation and have learned to drive in Venice since childhood.
Do you know Donna Leon/Have you read the commissario Brunetti?
Donna Leon has chosen not to be translated and published in Italian, therefore Venetians do not know her. She made this choice in order not to be known amongst Venetians, and she succeeded in that. Venetians learned about her existence and that of the “Commissario” only through the questions of her many readers all around the world that came to Venice asking about her and her works!
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