What could evoke a better sense of place than the canals of Venice?
More than any other single attraction, they make this city what it is, the destination of the millions of tourists who come here annually. Coursing through the piscine shape that outlines Venice, the canals flow like its lifeblood, rising and falling with the tides of the Adriatic, crossed over by the scores of bridges that connect the many neighborhoods.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off them when we first arrived. They were everything I ever imagined, beautiful, omnipresent, mysterious. They are mainly traveled by motorboats, row boats and vaporettos.
But the gondolas are still to be seen, ferrying passengers across the Grand Canal or through the city’s many smaller canals.
Gondolas “parked” in a canal
They are especially popular at night when Venice is at its romantic best. Our tour guide arranged for a nocturnal ride, complete with a singing tenor—a little stagey perhaps, but still fun.
Besides a boat of some kind, the only way to cross a canal is over one of the more than 400 bridges.
There are over 400 bridges in Venice
Among the most famous is the Rialto Bridge, the main one over the Grand Canal.
When you first try to navigate the “streets” of Venice, called calles and fondementas, you’ll likely get lost or confused. Our tour guide encouraged us to do some exploring, assuring us that if we should get “lost,” all we had to do was to look for signs posted high on the sides of buildings that point to important landmarks. We did a bit of this with the limited time we had on our own and found these directional signs to be really helpful. On one of these walks, we came across people in period costumes, presumably as part of the Historical Regatta celebrations.
Costumed participants in the Historical Regatta festivities
It would be nice to return to Venice and stay longer, to appreciate all that this gorgeous city has to offer.