Venice’s Storied Canals, Gondolas and Bridges… Armchair Travel

I am continuing to dip back into my archives for armchair travel in the time of Covid-19. This is my third post in a series of five on Venice where Peggy and I travelled in 2013.

Remember the old Frank Sinatra hit song “Love and Marriage Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage.” Venice’s canals and gondolas are like that. It is hard to imagine one without the other. Also, it is hard to imagine gondolas without tourists. I suspect that most of them are docked in this time of Covid-19. In fact, satellite photos show the canals to be surprisingly clean. Even jellyfish have returned to take advantage of the tourist free waters! While Venetians may miss the tourist dollars, they, too, are appreciating their tourist free city. The government is searching for ways to reduce the dependence on tourist dollars— and the number of tourists. Gondolas aren’t about to go away, but there may be far fewer of them in the future.

I shot this photo from the Rialto Bridge looking down on the Grand Canal.
I shot this photo from the Rialto Bridge looking down on the Grand Canal.

It is impossible to think of Venice without thinking of canals and romantic gondolas with singing gondoliers. Or possibly your vision of Venice is of fast boats with roaring engines and good guys/bad guys chasing each other with guns blazing as depicted in any number of movies.

A gondolier works his boat on cold, rough waters in the Grand Canal as his passengers enjoy the ride, bundled up in warm clothes.
A gondolier works his boat on cold, rough waters in the Grand Canal as his passengers enjoy the ride, bundled up in warm clothes.

We were in off-season, however. Only a few hardy tourists braved the cold for gondola rides and no movies were being made. The canals had reverted to their primary role as transportation corridors, a role which they have played for a thousand years.

This is a sight you wouldn't see during the summer when these gondolas would be filled with tourists. I thought of the gathered gondolas as a gondola parking lot.
This is a sight you wouldn’t see during the summer when these gondolas would be filled with tourists. I thought of the gathered gondolas as a gondola parking lot. You may note that they are all black. You can thank a 17th Century Doge for that. He mandated that they all be painted the same color.
Luxury accommodations gondola style.
Luxury accommodations gondola style. Expect to pay big bucks/euros for a ride in this one.
Peggy took this photo of parked gondolas looking from Venice proper across at the island of La Giudecca
Peggy took this photo of parked gondolas looking from Venice proper across at the island of La Giudecca. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

We chose to walk on the carless streets that parallel the canals and cross over them on bridges that have as much personality of the canals and provide intriguing glimpses of life along the canals. The highlight of our journey was the famous Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal but the smaller canals, known as rivers, provided more intimate views.

This photo shows the famed Rialto Bridge that served for centuries as the only bridge across the Grand Canal, which snakes its way through Venice as the major transportation corridor.
This photo shows the famed Rialto Bridge that served for centuries as the only bridge across the Grand Canal, which snakes its way through Venice as the major transportation corridor.
The more recent Accademia Bridge across the Grand Canal has a totally different look and construction.
The more recent Accademia Bridge across the Grand Canal has a totally different look and construction. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I took this photo from the other side of the Accademia Bridge to capture the parked gondolas and the boat taxi that is crossing under the bridge.
I took this photo from the other side of the Accademia Bridge to capture the parked gondolas and the boat taxi that is crossing under the bridge.
Smaller canals, known as rivers in Venice, provide a more intimate view of life in the city. The buildings here were built by wealthy Venetians when Venice was a major world power controlling trade between the East and the West. Houses then, as now, were a symbol of wealth and power.
Smaller canals, known as rivers in Venice, provide a more intimate view of life in the city. The buildings here were built by wealthy Venetians when Venice was a major world power controlling trade between the East and the West. Houses then, as now, were a symbol of wealth and power.
Peggy captured this interesting entrance way. I assume it would have been taller in the early years before sinking and global warming.
Peggy captured this interesting entrance way. I assume it would have been taller in the early years before sinking and global warming.
Flower/plant boxes are found throughout the city. I liked how these were next to the canal.
Flower/plant boxes are found throughout the city. I liked how these were next to the canal.
I'll conclude with this reflection shot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I’ll conclude with this reflection shot. Think of this as how Venice might look with far fewer tourists. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT POST: We get lost in Venice.

18 thoughts on “Venice’s Storied Canals, Gondolas and Bridges… Armchair Travel

  1. Venice’s problem with tourists is one shared by Galveston. There are plenty of locals who bemoan the changes brought to Galveston by the cruise lines, and there are plenty of people (like me) who check the cruise line schedule to see if one of those 5,000 passenger behemoths is in port before heading down to the Island. While most of the cruise line passengers use the city only as a point of arrival and departure, it still can cause chaos.

    • When Peggy and I were staying in Puerto Vallarta, we did the same thing, Linda. If the cruise ships were in port, we avoided going into town. And we certainly didn’t buy anything. The locals knew that tourists were advised that they should bargain for obtaining things at half price, so the vendors immediately doubled the prices! –Curt

  2. I have read articles about how clean the Venice canals have become and even the spotting of a dolphin! It will be interesting to see what happens in Venice as tourism gradually returns.

    • I wouldn’t bet on it, Sue but there is serious attention being given to reduce the number of tourists visiting at any given time. I think we see more and more of this, assuming other ways can be found to replace tourist dollars. –Curt

  3. Curt, I am cleaning out old files including a box of jokes and came across this today.
    John asks Jane “How did you learn to swim so well?’ Jane: “I was a call girl in Venice.”
    I threw it out. 😃

  4. A beautiful city with such a rich history and architecture. It seems like there was a sweet gift in you being able to visit it during a period with less tourists, when you could connect more with the feel of the city, the canals, bridges and gondolas. I’ve heard that the residents and city council want to find a way to curtail tourism after Covid in order to protect the city. I hope they find a way to make this happen. I read about them wanting to have more eco friendly tourism although I have no idea what this might look like. My understanding is that tourism is like the number one source of financial revenue for the city.

  5. My wife and I visited Venice on our first tour together, well before marriage. It was October, and chilly, and she was still getting used to waiting around for some fool with a camera. Your pictures bring back a lot of memories.

    • I remember back before I became one of those ‘fools,’ Dave. Traveling anywhere with my father who loved photography drove me nuts. 🙂 Now, of course, I think back on all of the beautiful, wild, and exotic places I visited and kick myself for not having any photos. For example, I think I took all of about 20 photos when I traveled 2500 mile through East Africa in a VW beetle in 1967. Now, one zebra would be worth at least that many! –Curt

  6. This could almost have been taken in lockdown, like beauty in time of Corona. With or without the tourists, it’s too much or too little …

    • Venice would be beautiful under any circumstances, Dina, but we were ever so glad to catch it with limited tourists. Peggy and I were watching a movie last nigh that had scenes of Venice during tourist season. It was wall to wall people. –Curt

      • Frightening! And then a wall of 🚢 in the back. I remember reading „Mit Frau Meyer durch die Wüste“, hilarious and alarming, some 35 years ago about travelling and a 🚌 to Venice. My only visit to Venice was end of February, after the carnival and it was absolutely wonderful. Very moody wintery scenes and not many people at all. 🙏🏻

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