Remember that horrible movie starring Kevin Costner where he developed gills and shot at pirates and everybody moved around on boats and it seemed like it would never end?
That’s not what Venice is like at all.
Despite being one of the most touristy destinations in the world, Venice manages to retain its quiet charm and the inevitable romance of a city built on water. I mean come on, I dare you to yawn while wandering around the quiet back-street canals, meandering over small wrought iron bridges, and watching Venetians hang their laundry out to dry.
It’s a city built on WATER!
And among the throngs of zip-off khaki-pants (the personal bane of my existence) and camera lenses, there is a genuine community of people who go about their daily tasks that seldom involve donning the elaborate Venetian masks on display to attend a grand masquerade. Well, maybe once a year at Carnival.
Which makes me wonder about the mundane planning challenges of a city built on water…
Bigger than you might think, the city stretches across 117 small islands in the saltwater Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. With a population of around 60,000 in the historic centre, this is a dense community crammed with buildings that appear to float magically upon the water.
In fact most buildings are constructed on closely spaced wood piles, which under water (in the absence of oxygen), does not decay. Rather it is petrified as a result of the constant flow of mineral-rich water around and through it, so that it becomes a stone-like structure (those clever Venetians!). The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach the much harder layer of compressed clay. Incredibly, most of these piles are still intact after centuries of submersion.
Conclusion: building inspections must be a bitch.
However Venice is still under threat of sinking entirely.
Originally caused by artesian wells built in the 20th century, the practice has since been banned. Yet the city remains threatened by frequent low-level floods that rise to a height of several centimetres over its quays, regularly following certain tides. In many old houses the former staircases used to unload goods are now flooded, rendering the former ground floor uninhabitable.
While some recent studies have suggested that Venice is no longer sinking, JFL didn’t want to take any chances and insisted we make haste this summer. So we did.
And fell in love with the art (Venice Biennale!), the food (umm, it’s Italy), the architecture (it’s built on WATER!) and the ambiance of a unique city in this small world of ours.
A small sampling of a true waterworld.