Have you ever wondered how life in Venice really is? How growing up in Venice can be? We believe that the Venetian lifestyle is truly unique and offers privileged opportunities for a happy and simple life, and does so since the youngest ages.
Indeed, Venetian families are spared what’s not uncommon for parents in the rest of the world: having to worry about where, how, when, who with they can let their children play. Venice provides a safe cocoon for the development of the local youth, making it easy to argue that raising children in Venice and growing up here is a real luck. Something we won’t disagree with.
Venetians are well aware of the high safety in which Venetian children are blessed to grow up. No car accidents, no drunk drivers, no “dangerous” neighborhood, a constant check on children, since dozens of people live on the squares, and along every single street their kids might pass, make parents in Venice feel extremely safe when their child go out (even alone!) to play.
Yet, from a child perspective, there is something kids in Venice have to look out for every single day they are out playing.
Providing that you’ve explored Venice slightly off the beaten path, you probably already enjoyed the view of a group of local children playing freely and happily, in the middle of a ‘campo,’ somewhere in the city. It might even have reminded you of your young age or your (grand)kids’ childhood.
Perhaps were you even a witness of the moment of temporary frustration that a group of Venetian kids can suddenly face. Indeed, if Venice is an ideal playground for children, it is not always forgiving. Venetian kids can see their games know a terrible and frustrating end. And we believe that few are the grown-ups, in Venice, who do not recall such moments.
What do we mean? What is this mysterious enemy that children in Venice are fighting against since generations?
Well, it is water. We kid you not! In a city raising from the water, surrounded by water, whose streets are made of water, the big enemy had to be water, of course! Every Venetian child knows it -but not for the reasons you might imagine.
Venice is part of Italy, and as you most likely already know, the national sport in our country is the hugely popular football. Football is by far the most played game by adults and children alike. And Venice, for once, is no exception to the rule: when there is no school every “campo” (square, in Venetian) becomes the perfect pitch for children to play.
But you know, the ball is round. The stones of the walls and pavements of the squares in Venice are bouncy. And, even if it hurts to admit: we’re not all Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.(Accepting the latter might take all of your childhood, but at some points, in your 30s, you usually get it or, alternatively, you end up blaming your childhood football coach who never understood you, but this is another story).
Anyway, all of these reasons combined, the ball, the stones, your (lack of) talent, make it very likely for the ball to fall into the water of the canals.
If you’ve been in Venice and looked at a canal without traffic, you’d have noticed something which is typical of the local water: it is almost entirely still.
Now imagine yourself having kicked your ball in this water, the still water of the canal, with barely any current. The ball floats there, still and quiet, calling you. Just there, almost not moving, in plain sight but always a few centimeters away from your reach. You’ll climb on the nearest moored boat, or go as far as your can on the edge of the fondamenta, to try to grab it with your hands. You’ll try next with your legs to increase your reach, you’ll go looking around for objects like an umbrella or a broomstick, but it just won’t work. The struggle is real, trust us, we’ve got some experience with it.
But then the savior will arrive. He might not know it. He might think he’s just living his everyday life, finishing the last deliveries with his transportation boat, or heading out in the lagoon for his day off. But to you, he’s a heavenly present, a gift from God, and you and your friends will start yelling like seagulls to catch his attention and beg him to get the ball out of the water and throw it to you.
He will do so, delivering you from what felt like a never-ending struggle before carrying on with his day, his mind busy with adult concerns. To you, he’s been the hero of the day… or of the following 15 minutes if you’re indeed a terrible player!
Is it the only ‘unfortunate’ event related to the local waters happening to Venetian children, you wonder? Are balls the only things that kids lose in the canals? Do kids in Venice fall in the water?
Frankly, we have no memory of any child ever falling into a canal, nor have we ever heard any such story. To our knowledge, children can be walking, running, riding a bike, racing on scooters or rollerblading along a canal but they never – in the vast majority, as we’re sure it must have happened in some very rare occasions- happen to fall into a canal. It must be an instinct, as we assume that is much more natural for a child to stop before reaching the edge of a “fondamenta”, a street along a canal in Venice, than it is to look left and right before crossing a street in a city.
The relationship of the Venetian children with the local waters doesn’t stop here. Children in Venice learn to live with their “enemy” and to make the best out of it.
While walking around the more residential districts of Venice – Cannaregio and Castello for example- on boiling summer days, it might happen that you see kids undressing and jumping into a canal to have fun and cool down.
With the water being, unfortunately, not close as clean as it used to be, and the traffic on the canals having increased a lot, seeing children jumping off a bridge is an event which doesn’t happen as much as it used to in the past. If you ever get a chance to speak with a Venetian born in the first half of the 19th century, try and ask him or her about it, you’ll soon understand that many remember the times when children, and even some adults, would dive in the canals on hot and humid summer days…
So, if one day you’re lucky enough to witness one of the rare occasions in which Venetian kids jump into a canal, we recommend that you grab your camera and get a shot as fast as you can! But please remember that it is completely illegal and unacceptable for adults & visitors to dive into the canals – actually, even Venetian children should not do so, but, who does mind kids having a bit of fun in their city, under their parents watch? If you fancy a dip, you can do as the Venetians do: make your way to the Lido island and enjoy a bath in the Adriatic sea!
That’s it, we’re leaving you on this, with the most joyful image for us, that of happy Venetian kids enjoying fully their childhood, the way Venetians have done for generations, in the city we all love, Venice.
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