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Call me cheesy, but I love Venice. For many travelers the city has lost its charm, now that it is more than overrun with tourists and cruise ship day trippers, but the magic of Venice is still working on me. Every time I visit, I fall in love with the lagoon city again, and keep discovering new hidden gems on my aimless strolls around the narrow lanes. All you have to do is plan your visit right: To me, that means to stay overnight (that way you’ll have the city almost to yourself once the cruisers have left – and I love the deserted lanes and plazas especially in the morning. Make sure to take your camera out for a stroll before breakfast), and to avoid busy months like July and August and busy holidays such as Easter.
Because I am lucky enough to return to Venice later this year – I don’t think you can go on too many city breaks to Venice! -, I wanted to share 7 surprising and quirky facts about Venice with you – let’s see how many of these things you’ve heard before:
1) Venice hasn’t changed in 600 years
Of course there have been smaller changes in restaurants, shops and other institutions in the lagoon, but the city itself is still pretty much exactly the way it was 600 years ago, which is one of the reasons why Venice is such a special place. Taking a gondola through the canals and gliding by the centuries-old buildings feels almost surreal, as if you were on a movie set instead of a real, functioning place.
2) You can’t ride a bike in Venice
It is strictly forbidden to ride a bike in any part of Venice- if you’re caught on a bike, expect to pay a hefty fine. So if you’re on a bicycle trip through Italy: make sure to lock up your bike before you cross the bridge to the lagoon city. There are also absolutely no cars in Venice.
3) 177 canals, 400 bridges and 118 islands
Venice comprises of 118 islands which are connected by 400 bridges and intervened by 177 canals. Remember that these are all footbridges – the most famous ones are the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge Of Sighs.
4) The main entrances to the houses are on the canal side
While walking through the city, you might see that the entrance doors to the houses, even the majestic palace-like ones, are never as lavish as one might suspect for houses that big and pompous. That’s because the actual entrances of the houses in Venice is located on the canal side – the canals used to be the real streets of Venice, and that’s where the proper entrance doors where built.
5) Venice is sinking
The city has been steadily sinking over the past few centuries. Only at a rate of 1 to 2 millimeters per year, but those millimeters add up. Every decade, the city sits 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) lower – that’s 40 inches in a century!
6) There is only one female gondolier
That lucky lady has been working as a gondolier since 2010 and fought hard to become the first woman to do this job. Considering that only 3 to 4 new gondolier licenses are issued per year, you can see why that was such a big deal! In total, 400 gondoliers are operating in Venice today, compared to 10,000 in the 16th century. You have to have a license to operate one of the 350 gondolas in the city.
7) 20 million tourists vs. 56,000 Venetians
The amount of tourists who visit Venice every year is insane: nearly 20,000 people flock to the lagoon city! They outnumber the 56,000 inhabitants by far, especially during the summer months. In the Golden Days of Venice, the city had 140,000 inhabitants, by the way, but because it isn’t particularly easy to live in a city surrounded by water and annual flooding and to maintain the buildings, which is why many people have left over the centuries.