Things to know about Venice
Venice is considered to be the most romantic city in the world and is doing well with Paris for the title of City of Love. This is no wonder, because although more than 250.000 people live here, there are no cars in the whole city. Also no mopeds, bicycles or scooters. Everything that moves moves either on foot or by boat. Can you imagine anything more romantic in our hectic times? Venice is also bursting with art, culture and history. It is not just a city! For many years it was the centre of the Venetian Empire, from which adventurers and sailors set out to explore the whole world, where trade flourished and where many a far-reaching political decision was taken that still influences us today.
In short: Those who visit the north of Italy cannot avoid Venice. You can believe us, because we have really tried. And now, four years after we decided that this city is not for us, we still ended up here. And yes, it is indeed the first big city where we can really understand the immense hype that is being made about it. As abstract and insane as the city is, it is also fascinating. So if you are undecided whether it is worth the effort and expense to take a short trip or a city trip to Venice, we can say with a clear conscience: "Yes! It is definitely worth it!"
Venice - the most curious city in the world
Before we give you an overview of the most beautiful sights and a few tips on how you can visit Venice without having to spend your entire fortune, we would like to introduce this extraordinary city to you in a short portrait. Because it really deserves it.
The special thing about Venice is that it is not only fascinating because of what you can see here, but above all because of what you can't see.
When was Venice founded?
The Venice of today was once a lagoon landscape with more than 180 small, mainly swampy islands that were actually nearly not usable. But the human being would not be the human being if he would not have this almost insatiable desire to always settle exactly there where his habitat has actually already ended. Thus, already in the fourth century A.D., a partial drainage and settlement of the said islands took place.
The first settlers
At first, only a few small groups retreated to this place and took possession of the few solid pieces of land. Others built small pile villages in the swamp, as we know them from Lake Constance or other regions. Eventually these settlements grew together more and more into a whole. When it really became a city, nobody knows anymore, but according to the legend, the official foundation of the city of Venice fell on April 25, 421 - the day of St. Mark. According to this, it is then also no coincidence that the biggest and most famous square of the city is the Piazza San Marco.
If one realizes that Venice is completely built on wooden pillars that are partly located right in the sea and/or in the lagoon and partly on 118 small, swampy islands, then this is already very impressive. If one also realizes that this city and the respective, quite daring construction at the oldest places is already approximately 1600 years old, then this gives a completely new light to the matter. Sure, the pillars have been exchanged in the meantime and also the buildings are not the same anymore, but the city itself looks back on such a long history.
Life in the sea - beautiful and problematic
We ourselves reached the city by boat from the sea side. The thing that makes specially this location so unique for Venice is that the actual sea is kept away from the Italian coast by several long narrow islands. Thereby, a lagoon is formed in which the waves are clearly smaller and the fluctuations are more predictable than it would be the case in front of an open coast. This is the only way the city could stay in the sea at all, although it is partly only a few centimetres above sea level. And no, the concept is not really sensible or safe. This is why Venice is regularly flooded and then almost unvisitable for pedestrians. Thus, in many side alleyways there are always planks and a kind of boxes that can be built up to a raised footbridge in case of emergency. Only two days before our arrival what this also still was necessary.
Heiko remembered that many years ago he had been here once with his girlfriend and had also experienced a flood. Up to a certain point this had been quite adventurous and had definitely had its charm. But then they noticed that the flood had also affected the sewage system. This in turn resulted in not only fish and seabirds swimming in the canals and through the alleys, but also large amounts of excrement. The romantic mood had thus been slightly dampened.
How many people live in Venice?
But today we were lucky! We could not have caught a better day for our visit to Venice. It was sunny and warm, but most people did not yet trust the peace. This is why there were clearly less tourists in the city than usual. Venice itself has a total of approximately 260.000 inhabitants, but from which approximately 182.000 live in the city districts at the mainland and only approximately 60.000 in the historical city centre that we know as the real Venice. Further 30.000 live scattered in the other islands in the lagoon.
How many tourists visit Venice per year?
Now hold on! According to rough and very conservative estimates, at least 30.million tourists come to the city every year. But only those who officially stay over night in Venice are considered. Those who anchor with their cruise ship in front of the coast and return there in the evening do not appear in these statistics.
More tourism than you could ever imagine
But from these ships alone, some of them alone, around 1.6 million passengers arrive in the city of love at one go! People, that is, who are thrown out of here stay for half a day to a maximum of one day and then disappear again. If this is the case, the masses must be systematically guided through the alleys. Otherwise nothing will work at all.
Neither do the statistics include the people who come from the country by bus, train or car and who also return in the evening, as the overnight stays off the coast are considerably cheaper than in the Venetian old town. Also this number should again clearly exceed the number of overnight guests. And finally, in the oldtown there is a whole series of private and therewith unofficial bed and breakfasts, apartments and guest rooms in which people can also stay over night without appearing in any statistics.
Overturism als größte Bedrohung für die Stadt
If you take all this into account, you will come across a quantity of tourists that is absolutely unimaginable. Officially, therefore, there is already talk of overtourism, which is already considered a serious threat by experts. Also the last real Venetians that still live on the island despair of it. Of course, they need tourism, as it is their source of income. But at the same time they would not mind if one could still live in their town without being trampled or stared to death.
Even Unesco, which declared Venice a World Heritage Site in 1987, is worried and threatens to revoke the status of "cultural heritage" and put the city on the blacklist for "endangered heritage of humanity". Economically, this would be a clear disadvantage, but it could save the city from ruin.
When will Venice fall?
A pros pros doom! This has been prophesied to Venice for more than a hundred years. But until a few years ago, this had nothing to do with tourism but much more with the substructure of the city. According to the measurements of the scientists, Venice is slowly but surely sinking and will probably disappear some time in the sea.
When this happens is not known, but on average, the city sinks further down by 2,7 mm per year. A development that does not give much hope. On the other hand, the curious city has managed to survive the last 1600 years, even though, according to historical records, around 400 A.D. it was about 1.9 m below the water level that the More here has had since 1897. In other words: if you believe our scientists, Venice actually went under long ago. But everybody who was once there can still claim with certainty that the city still exists. So somehow, she somehow always gets her head out of the noose.
Visit Venice by boat
There are several ways to get to Venice from the peninsula that starts at Lido de Jesolo and ends at a place called Tre-Porti. Which one makes the most sense depends a little on how long you want to stay and how much you want to travel by boat in total.
If you, like us, only need a one-way trip, a small boat company called "Doge" is a good option, where the one-way trip is a little cheaper than the regular water taxis, but with these you have the possibility to buy day or multi-day tickets, with which you can also visit the other islands in the lagoon of Venice. Everybody who has more than one day time should take advantage of this. Those who are for the first time in Venice and have only one day time can save this. As already in the main island with the oldtown there is already so much to see that it is impossible to do it in one day.
Is Venice handicapped accessible?
With our ship we arrived a little north of the Markusplatz and had to make our way from here through the city to our overnight monastery. Thereby, we got to feel at our own body why there were neither motorbikes nor bicycles nor anything else in Venice that went without being in the water. Alone on the way to the Dominican monastery there were 8 bridges on our way. So every time we had to lift our cars about one usual floor up and then down again.
So one can definitely say that Venice is not handicapped accessible. With a wheelchair you can't get 50 meters far here. The only reasonable solution for people who cannot walk seemed to be the boats. If one can leave his wheelchair and maybe even fold it, one can get in here, let oneself be navigated through the city during the day and get out at the really interesting points from time to time. But of course this is not without its problems either.
Unsuitable for pilgrim carts
For our part, we were glad when we were able to place our wagons safely and protected with the Dominican friars. Without the additional ballast the city tour was simply so much more relaxed. But now that we knew from our own experience what it meant to have to carry loads through this city, we were able to appreciate the work of the luggage transporter boys much more. As there is nothing drivable in Venice, everything has to be transported on foot. Starting with the suitcases of the tourists, the contents of the shop shelves up to the furnishing of the apartments in case of a move.
For this purpose, there were the load guys who carried a very special kind of trolley with them that somehow seemed to be a mixture of wheelbarrow and handcart. The special thing about them was that they had two long poles that were aligned to the front and at the end of which there were small wheels. With their help and a skilful technique one could easily drive up the stairs with the small trolleys without having to turn around. This made the transport much more effective.