You may think you already know everything about Venice, but do you? Let me reveal you some secrets: 15 funny and interesting facts about Venice that will definitely surprise you!
1. Only one female gondolier(a) in history
Feminism doesn’t seem to be strong in Venice – until just 2010, in the entire history of the city there has been no woman performing the most famous and characteristic Venetian profession. The first female gondolier (or gondoliera?) is Giorgia Boscolo – a daughter of a gondolier, who reportedly wasn’t very enthusiastic about her ambition.
2. Cursed palace
Ca’ Dario is a beautiful 15th century palace surrounded by mystery. According to the local legend, the palace is cursed: whoever lived here, died of a sudden death, committed suicide or went bankrupt.
The palace was built by a wealthy merchant Giovanni Dario in 1486 for his daughter. Unfortunately, the daughter and her husband lost their possessions and died prematurely, and that was just the beginning of a long series of deaths and ill fate surrounding the palace. The list of unfortunate owners of this house is long and scary. The place is deemed eerie by the Venetians, they lower their voices passing by it in their gondolas and boats… According to the Venetian legend, the palace was built on a templar cemetery and that’s why it was cursed from the beginning.
If you like ghosts and mystery, you can actually stay in the scary palace – it’s available on Booking! Check here to see & book. Enjoy your stay! ;)
3. Secret hidden gardens
Strolling through Venice, you keep on seeing canals, bridges and narrow streets, but almost no green areas whatsoever. However, Venice protects its secrets from the outsiders, showing its other face only to the lucky few. And that’s also the case of its gardens. Unbelievably, there are almost 500 gardens in Venice! Where? Behind the high walls lining the narrow streets and foundations – there they are, hidden green spots in all their glory, completely inaccessible for tourists.
So are we never going to admire any of these gardens? No, don’t worry. There are some you can enter to – the most central of all are located right behind Piazza San Marco and Correr Museum. They bear a proud name of the Royal Gardens – discover them here.
4. Not-so-romantic Boxers’ bridge
The Ponte dei Pugni or “Bridge of the Fists” is one of the most popular bridges in Venice, however, not for its architectural beauty. It’s due to its curious history. It’s certainly one of the most unexpected curiosities about Venice: in this romantic city, this bridge was used as a boxing ring by local mafias! It served the purpose until the year 1705 in which the confrontations were prohibited. it gives you quite a different view at Venice, right?
5. Gondolas get stuck in traffic jams
The circulation through the Venetian channels is regulated by a traffic code that is extended to all channels except Rio Novo, That’s because it is the only one that has a traffic light and the motorized boats that circulate through its waters have to navigate through the left side instead of the right as in the other canals. In the peak season, during certain hours of the day the canals may get so crowded with gondolas with tourists, that the traffic through narrow winding canals can be complicated!
6. Parking for gondolas
Gondolas have their parking lots just like cars. When the night falls and tourists are gone, the gondoliers take their gondolas to water “spaces” and neatly moor them one next to the other.
7. Fishing in the canals is not forbidden
Probably you won’t catch any fish in Canal Grande and with all those vaporettos it wouldn’t exactly be organic, but yes – it’s legal to fish in the Venetian canals. Well, you need an annual license for that, but occasionally you may see a gondolier standing in his gondola with a fishing rod ;)
8. Venice is not an island
It’s an archipelago of 117 mini-islands, some natural, some constructed. Most of them are interlinked with a system of 417 bridges, but a few are still reachable only by boat. Actually, 72 bridges of Venice are private!
9. Acqua alta can be really high
The Acqua alta is a curious phenomenon that occurs in Venice about a hundred times at the end of the year, especially between the months of November and December. The sea level rises for three or four hours, flooding part of the old town up to half a meter. At very rare times, the maximum level might exceed even 140 cm above the “standard” level of the Venetian Lagoon!
Some of the most emblematic areas of Venice, such as Piazza San Marco, become a swimming pool of Olympic proportions.
Acqua alta is a type of a high tide, so just as all the tides it is influenced by the moon – and therefore it can be calculated and predicted. Venetians have smartphone apps for Acqua Alta, just as everywhere else there are regular weather apps.
10. The tides of Venice
Venice is exposed to the sea tides twice a day. Every day. That means 730 times a year! For its inhabitants, it’s as natural as the sun and the moon. Their little islands are “swaying” on the higher or lower waters, the canals change their height. The water level changes regularly, entering through three openings in the strip of land separating the Venetian Lagoon from the sea: Lido, Malamocco and Pellestrina.
11. Don’t walk between two columns
One of the curiosities about Venice that only locals can tell you is that superstitious Venetians pay attention to never walk between the two columns with statues of the city’s patron saints: Saint Mark and Saint Theodore who guard the water’s edge byPiazza San Marco. The reason is that centuries ago, right here, between the columns there was a spot for public executions, so it’s considered bad luck to cross that spot.
12. The most narrow street
Obviously, one of the classic curiosities about Venice is the fact that the real streets of the city were the canals, and other passages and lanes were only additional. That is the reason why the paved streets are so narrow. Among many small streets, one in particular is among the world’s most narrow par excellence: it’s only 53 cm wide! Caletta Varisco feels like a covered passage, as sun rays don’t reach it, and it’s not recommended for the claustrophobic people!
13. Profession that exists only in Venice
The uniqueness of Venice is such that certain professions have only existed here and nowhere else in the world. Some included carpenters specialized in constructing the pales on which the entire city is built. Others were war boat-makers, squeraroli.
However, the most notorious world-unique profession, existing since over since ten centuries, is a gondolier. They are more than just simple oarsmen. Canals of Venice are a labyrinth, some bridges are particularly low – and the water level changes continuously with the tides, some canals are incredibly narrow. Therefore, it requires masterful skills – and a tough exam – to become a gondolier. There are only 3-4 new licenses given yearly, and there are about 400 gondoliers in total.
14. Life and death in Venice
In the city where canals are the streets, all the activities that everywhere else require a car, here are performed by boats. The activities of daily life and relevant moments are intrinsically connected to the sea.
When people in Venice get married, they make a ride on the Canal Grande, and guests follow them in boats, too. Moving in and out of a house (or better: a palace), transporting furniture – it all has to be done by boats. Transporting stock to shops, restaurants and bars is performed the same way. Police patrols the city from the boats. The only public transport in the city are water trams – vaporetto. If somebody gets sick, an ambulance boat arrives, rushing through the canals, and takes patients to the hospital by the water.
And so life goes on navigating around the canals, until the end. When a Venetian dies, the coffin is transported by a funerary boat to the cemetery. And the cemetery, like everything in Venice, lies on an island – Isola di San Michele. To let Venetians stay forever close to the water.
15. Venice is most visited… in the USA
Yes, it’s weird but true: the fake Venice in the USA is visited more than the original beauty in Italy. I’m referring here to quite famous The Venetian – luxury 5-star hotel complex in Las Vegas surrounded by fake canals with fake gondolas, fake Venetian Renaissance buildings and even fake St Mark’s Campanile.
I’ve been there and I can tell you: there is no comparison between the two “Venices”. I admit that the “Venetian” buildings in Vegas are pretty, but there is no atmophere whatsoever, because, if you’ve been to Venice you know it – the essence of Venice is not just canals and gondolas – it’s its mystery, melancholy, authenticity of its crumbling walls and the scent of the sea – all its ethereal beauty which just cannot be imitated.
More Curiosities about Venice
Read other curiosities about Venice here – discover the fascinating story of the Carnival, the macabre history of the Venetian masks and their hidden meanings.
In this city full of secrets and wonders, there are much more curiosities. Do you know some fascinating facts about Venice? Would you like to share some Venetian story? Don’t be shy, write a comment!