15 Surprising Facts About Venice 2022

Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th. We’ll take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Venice that you may not have known.

1. Venice Was “Born” With The First Stone in The Church of San Giacomo Di Rialto

421 March 25 is considered the founding day of Venice when the first stone of the church of San Giacomo di Rialto (San Giacometto) was laid.

This is stated in Altinate – the Latin chronicle of the founding of the city, and then it is mentioned by the Venetian historian Marin Sanudo, who in 1514 reported a great fire on the Rialto Bridge:

“It was the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto, the first church built in Venice on March 25, 421, as our chronicles report.”

2. Venice Was Built on a Tree

Venice was built on a tree |

These breathtaking plazas and sumptuous buildings are even more impressive when you look around and see it all rising out of the water.

How was the city built on such a “liquid” foundation? Before Venice could become what we know today, the area was a muddy, swampy lagoon.

To transform it into the floating city it is today, early settlers had to drain the lagoon and dig canals. Wooden posts or logs were placed in them to level the surface and form a barrier that rested on the hard clay below. Then wooden platforms were erected on the pillars and stones were laid.

Venetian buildings were built on such foundations. How has the tree survived over the years? In fact, there is little oxygen in the water around Venice, so microorganisms do not have favorable conditions for the decomposition of wood.

In addition, the wood has absorbed salt and other minerals that make it hard like stone.

3. The Canals of Venice are up to 17 m Deep

The canals of Venice are up to 17 m deep | facts about Venice

The depth of Venice’s waterways is difficult to determine, as the water is usually opaque. The depth of the canals varies, but most of them are between 1.5 and 2 m deep, depending on the ebb and flow and whether any work is being done.

The Grand Canal is the main canal in central Venice, known as the Palazzo, with a depth of 5 meters. It stretches for two and a half kilometers and has more than 170 buildings.

The characteristic S-shape is considered ancient, its origins date back to Roman times when people lived in houses on stilts. Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th.

Venice has canals even deeper. Canale Della Giudecca, the waterway that separates Venice from Giudecca Island, has a depth of 12-17 meters.

4. Venice Has Some of The Narrowest Streets in The World

Venice has some of the narrowest streets in the world | facts about Venice

You are guaranteed a great view no matter where you walk in Venice. Caletta Varisco measures only 53 cm across. This is definitely not a route for a walk with a loved one. Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th. We’ll take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Venice that you may not have known.

5. Venice Has Been Self-Governing For 1,100 years

Venice has been independent for over a millennium. Known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice since 697, its autonomy finally ended when Napoleon took control of it in 1797. France and Austria fought for power until the city finally became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866 under King Victor Emmanuel II.

Prior to this, Venice dominated most of the Mediterranean and traded with West Asia, peaking in the 16th century. Islands such as Crete and Cyprus were ruled by Venice, which also had great influence in the city of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul).

Thanks to its relief, Venice became an empire that had to survive through trade and shipbuilding. She could not rely on agriculture, therefore, with a good knowledge of business, Venice became one of the richest cities. Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th.

6. Gondoliers on The Brink of Extinction

Since motorized transport is prohibited in the historic center of Venice, you will have to explore the sights on foot or in the famous romantic gondola.

Both boats and the professionals who operate them are disappearing. To become a gondolier you need a professional license and only three or four licenses are issued per year. It requires 400 hours of study to complete, as well as an exam in the history and architecture of Venice.

facts about Venice

Unsurprisingly, the number of gondolas is declining. In the 17th and 18th centuries, waterways filled up to 10,000 gondolas. Currently, only about 400 of them are still in use – and almost all of them are used for tourism purposes.

7. There is Only One Official Female Gondolier

Since the profession of a gondolier has historically been passed down from father to son, women have never had the opportunity to pursue this profession. Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th.

Almost a thousand years later, when the profession was exclusively male, Georgia Boscolo, the daughter of a gondolier, became the first licensed gondolier in Venice in 2010.

However, this does not mean that there are no other women in Venice who row or even build boats.

8. The Venetians Invented Quarantine

The Venetians invented quarantine | facts about Venice

Since Venice built its empire on sea trade, ships moored in the city could bring disease with them, and epidemics followed.

To prevent this from happening, the ships had to stay at sea for 40 days – hence the word “quarantine” (40 in Italian – Quaranta). Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th. We’ll take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Venice that you may not have known.

In 1348, the Venetian government introduced a quarantine, after which people and goods arriving in the city were transferred to an isolated island. If the Venetians were exposed to the plague, they were sent there along with their families.

If they were infected, they ended up on a separate island full of infected people. If the signs of infection were gone after 40 days, they could come back.

9. Venetian Masks Were illegal

On the eve of the February carnival, Venetian masks are a symbol of the city and its holidays. These can range from inexpensive plastic to intricate artwork that sells for thousands of euros.

Historically, however, these masks have had much less to do with street fairs. They were worn in the city to hide the identity of people who took part in events not approved by the Church in the days leading up to Lent.

They were sometimes worn to hide illegal activities; in other cases, it was about much less despicable, but still unacceptable behavior, such as romantic encounters. For this reason, they were considered illegal at various times in Venice’s history.

The popularity of masks grew so much that in the 17th and 18th centuries the elite began to wear them so often that the government had to restrict their use. A law was passed allowing the mask to be worn for only three months a year, from Christmas to Lent.

16 surprising facts about Venice

Sometimes masked actions were prohibited. In the 13th century, the favorite pastime of the Venetians was to throw eggs filled with perfume at passers-by.

However, encouraged by the mask’s anonymity, people began tossing eggs filled with ink. This led to the introduction in 1268 of a law prohibiting masked people from throwing eggs.

10. Sometimes Wearing Venetian Masks Was Mandatory

In certain social situations, wearing a mask has even become mandatory in Venice. When women got married, they had to wear a mask, for example, when visiting a theater.

At this stage of their marital status, masks served more as a sign of modesty than a signal of seduction. Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th. We’ll take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Venice that you may not have known.

Some masks were even an indispensable piece of equipment for doctors – an early form of personal protective equipment. The plague doctor’s mask with a long, sinister beak has reappeared in our time of pandemics.

Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th. We’ll take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Venice that you may not have known. facts about Venice

However, it initially allowed doctors to treat people suffering from the plague. The beak was filled with aromatic herbs to block the unpleasant odors of the infected, and the eye holes were covered with something like glass.

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11. Venice Has Its Own Language

Some linguists argue that Venetian is actually a completely separate language and not a dialect of Italian.

facts about Venice

Henry James describes the Venetian language in his 1909 essay book, The Italian Clock, as “a delightful chatty language that helps them turn Venetian life into one long conversation.”

“There is something especially humane in this language with its soft elites, strange transpositions, sympathetic disregard for consonants and other things,” the author writes. Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th.

The Venetian language is full of Latin influences, but also has Greek and Arabic roots due to the history of trade relations. Traces of these languages ​​can be seen in words such as “fork” – forchetta in Italian, but piròn in Venetian, similar to the Greek word piruni.

Other Venetian words that can be heard in the city include bacaro (bar), vin (wine), bicier (glass), ancuo (today), and schei (money).

12. Venetians May Disappear By 2030

Venetians may disappear by 2030 | facts about Venice

Local residents are leaving the city. 30 years ago, about 120 thousand people lived in the historical center of the city, and today there are less than 60 thousand. Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th.

Venice is visited by 30 million tourists every year (despite the pandemic), the city is gradually losing its roots and its language. If the trend continues, some experts predict that there will be no more residents in Venice by 2030.

13. The Government Has Been Trying To Prevent The Flooding of Venice Since 1973

The government has been trying to prevent the flooding of Venice since 1973 | facts about Venice

Venice’s precarious position is deteriorating. Average estimates show that the city sinks by 1-2 mm every year, and the situation is aggravated by acqua alta – literally “flooding”.Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th. We’ll take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Venice that you may not have known.

It is believed that climate change, water extraction, and the shift of the Adriatic plates, on which Venice is located, are driving the city towards flooding.

Almost five decades ago, floods began to occur more frequently and in shorter periods of time. In 1973, the Italian government passed a law for Venice, recognizing the city’s vulnerability and the urgent need to protect the lagoon from environmental disasters.

Officials have ordered a barrier system known as MOSE – Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico – consisting of 78 gates that can be raised to contain the tide and protect Venice’s fragile lagoon and the city itself.

Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th. We’ll take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Venice that you may not have known.

After decades of controversy and rising costs, the long-awaited flood dam was first commissioned in October 2020 and has successfully contained the tide.

14. Of The More Than 400 Bridges in Venice, Only Four Cross The Grand Canal

Of the more than 400 bridges in Venice, only four cross the Grand Canal facts about Venice | facts about Venice

Given that the Grand Canal is the aquatic heart of the city, it is surprising that only a few bridges in the city cross it.

These include the wooden Ponte del Accademia near the Accademia Gallery, the Ponte degli Scalzi near the train station, the modern Ponte di Calatrava a Venezia and the main protagonist of the program, the great old Rialto Bridge.

15. The Rialto Bridge Appears in Shakespeare

This famous bridge has a very ancient history that dates back to 1591. It was the first permanent bridge built in Venice and provided, as it does today, access from Piazza Rialto to the San Marco and San Polo areas.

This architectural icon of Venice appears frequently in literature and art. She is mentioned in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice when one of the characters asks, “What’s new in Rialto?”

Although it is believed that Shakespeare never visited this city – or any other place in Italy – the reputation of the bridge as a place to meet and discuss the latest rumors was already known to the English playwright. Venice celebrates its 1600th anniversary on March 25th.

16. Venice is Shaped Like a Fish

Venice is shaped like a fish | facts about Venice

You may not know this if you have not looked at Venice from above. Who could have guessed that the city would turn from a swampy lagoon into a fish?

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