The Venice: Interesting Facts In the northwest of Italy lies the small city of Venice. Renowned for it’s beautiful canals and historic buildings, the city is a popular spot on the tourist trail. Anyone who has visited the city will have noticed the lack of any roads, everything here is managed by the waterways, from public transport to emergency services, it’s all done by boat.
Navigating the city can be strenuous and finding yourself lost amongst the winding streets and canals is commonplace.
The city has a hugely interesting history and there are many things to be learnt, that’s why I decided to take the free walking tour from La Bussola which I can highly recommended. The tour started at 10am from Campo Santo Stefano (not far from the Pont de l’academie), lasting 3 hours.
The tour was led by a local who was full of knowledge about the city and opened my eyes to the rich culture and history on offer, I enjoyed this so much that I’ve put together this article with 22 interesting facts about Venice.
Here are 22 Venice: Interesting Facts you probably didn’t know.
- Venice is known for its bridges. There are 417 bridges in Venice, and 72 of those are private.
- Houses in Venice are numbered according to districts, not streets, making it difficult to find addresses, even for postmen. The rule of thumb is to look for a monument, shop, or landmark in close proximity.
- There are about 350 gondolas and 400 gondolieri in Venice. On average, gondolas are 11 meters long and weigh around 600 kilos.
- In 1608, the Council of Ten approved wearing masks only during the carnival. Those who broke the law were heavily punished. Punishments ranged from two years in prison to public beating and binding to the pillar of shame.
- There are 177 canals in Venice. The S-shaped Grand Canal is the biggest and splits the city in two.
- The San Marco bell tower, or campanile, was built in the 12th century and collapsed in 1902. The tower was rebuilt to be exactly the same as the previous one. It is 98.6 metres tall, making it the fifth tallest bell tower in Italy.
- Venice is sinking at the rate of 1-2 millimeters a year.
- The population of Venice has decreased from 120,000 to 60,000 in the last 50 years. Some experts believe Venice could be a ghost town by 2030 with only tourists visiting by day.
- The first woman in the world that graduated was born in Venice in 1646.
- The first public casino in the world was opened in Venice in 1638.
- There are no cars in Venice
- The ever-increasing number of tourists visiting Venice is a sore-point amongst the locals. Venice now receives over 20 million tourists per year, a figure which continues to increase. The guide explained to us that many residents believe this is unsustainable and more than the city can cope with.
- You need a professional licence to become a gondolier. After centuries where the profession was handed down from father to son, there is now a gondolier course. However only about 3 or 4 new licences are granted each year. The course involves 400 hours of training to learn the skills needed and an apprenticeship with a gondolier. Candidates must also study and take an exam on Venetian history and landmarks.
- Venice is prone to flooding when high tides occur in the Adriatic Sea usually during December and January. Combine this with the rising sea levels due to climate change and you’ll realise why Venetians are increasingly concerned. There is a siren system to warn about upcoming flooding so they can prepare but the local told me that nowadays most of them have a flood warning app too. I noticed lots of wooden walkways around the city, particularly St Marks Square, ready for flood waters.
- A gondolier can earn a salary of around €100,000. However, there are now only around 400 gondoliers in Venice, this is compared to around 10,000 in the 16th century.
- Another fact about Venice is that the narrowest street in the city, Calle Varisco, is just 53cm wide.
- A relatively unknown fact about Venice , Skateboards, Roller Skates or Bikes are not allowed. Although given the number of bridges, I can’t imagine this would help get around that much quicker anyway. Big fines are in place if you’re caught using these transport methods.
- Another interesting fact about gondolas in Venice; the outside must be painted black according to an old city law. Before this law was passed, gondoliers would decorate their gondolas to attract customers. The guide told me that all the designs would have been an eye sore, and also meant that the richest noblemen with the most to spend on decorating their gondolas would have an advantage. I noticed that many now decorate the inside with fancy materials to distinguish themselves.
- Only four bridges cross the Grand Canal
- Venetian masks aren’t just touristy souvenirs
- Marco Polo was a Venetian
- The Rialto Market is nearly 1000 years old!