Last Updated on May 15, 2023
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, Italy, 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. I am sharing my best Venice travel tips in this article.
In today’s article, I am sharing 15 surprising and quirky Venice facts with you – let’s see how many of these things you’ve heard before.
15 Surprising Facts About Venice
There are no cars in Venice
No cars whatsoever – all you hear when you walk the empty streets at night is the clicking sound of high heels.
Venice has 170 canals
Instead of streets, Venice is interspersed by canals – 170 of them.
Venice has over 400 bridges
To cross these canals, inhabitants have over 400 bridges connecting the different parts of the island. Remember that these are all footbridges – the most famous ones are the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge Of Sighs.
Venice is made up of 115 little islands
To be exact, I should say islands or archipelago instead of island, because Venice is made up by 115 (give or take) tiny little islands.
Venice has over 200 churches
This is an amazing fact considering the compact size of Venice!
The city of chimneys
The number of churches might not be all that surprising considering Italy is a strictly Catholic country, but did you know that there are 7,000 chimneys in all forms and sizes in Venice?
Venice has almost as many bell towers as churches
And then there are the bell towers – a whopping 170 of them! San Marco is the most famous one, and you can enjoy vistas over Venice from the top. Well worth the €8 admission, in my opinion!
San Marco Campanile is a replica
Speaking of the famous bell tower: this is actually a replica of the original one! The first one collapsed in 1902. The current one was built to look like exactly like the original one.
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.
You can’t ride a bike in Venice
One of the most fascinating Venice facts: 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.
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.
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!
400 gondoliers are offering their services in Venice
For the 400 gondoliers the visitor numbers are great – they never have to worry about losing their job! But today’s number is tiny compared to the 10,000 gondoliers that were active in Venice in the 16th century. To operate one of the 350 gondolas in the city, you MUST have a license.
Are all gondoliers men?
Until 2009, there were ZERO female gondoliers. Giorgia Boscolo was the first woman to work as a gondolier, and she 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! Other than Giorgia Boscolo, the only other known female gondolier is currently Alex Hai (born female, identifying transgender).
20 million tourists vs. 56,000 Venetians
The amount of tourists who visit Venice every year is insane: nearly 20 million people flock to the lagoon city! They outnumber the roughly 58,000 inhabitants on the man island by far, especially during the summer months. In the Golden Days of Venice, the city had considerably more 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.