When you think of Venice, water and gondolas are probably the first things to come to mind. And yes, this is a city that was built on water and the gondolas do still transport tourists in particular around the city.
However, there is much more to Venice than gondola rides – it is home to the one of most desired wines in the world, it is about to celebrate its 1600th birthday and much more – find out more interesting and fun facts about Venice in this post.
31 Facts About Venice
Table of Contents
- 31 Facts About Venice
- 1. The history of Venice starts when settlers first arrived on the islands around 402 A.D
- 2. Venice dates back to 421 AD
- 3. Venice is celebrating its 1600th anniversary in 2021.
- 4. Venice was originally a swamp.
- 5. Venice still stands on its Original Foundations
- 6. Venice won’t be flooding for much longer.
- 7. Venice is sinking
- 8. Venice is an archipelago
- 9. Don’t bother bringing your GPS to Venice
- 10. Venice is divided into 6 districts, with one square, 148 churches, 438 bridges connecting its regions
- 11. Venice has 3,000 streets.
- 12. Venice holds a masquerade ball every year called Ballo Del Doge
- 13. Venice is the house of artisans
- 14. Venice is home to one of the most sought after wines in the world
- 15. Venice was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe.
- 16. 72 of the bridges in Venice are privately owned.
- 17. Venice, including its lagoon, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
- 18. Venice was a part of the first-ever air raid.
- 19. The main method of transport in Venice is the Vaporetto.
- 20. Take Gondolier off your career aspirations list.
- 21. Venice has the oldest film festival in the world
- 22. St Mark’s Square is the largest in Venice.
- 23. Venetian Gondolas weigh 600 kgs on average
- 24. Venice experiences high tides 430 times a year
- 25. The world’s first female graduate was born in Venice
- 26. The World’s first Public Casino was in Venice
- 27. It is illegal to cycle, skateboard or rollerskate in Venice.
- 28. All Gondolas in Venice must be black
- 29. Venice was once a country
- 30. Masks weren’t just for show
- 31. There has only been one female gondolier
- 5 Tips on How to Visit Venice like a local:
- Boutique Hotels in Venice
- 1. Gritti Palace San Marco
- 2. Ai Reali Costello
- 3. Ca’ Sagredo Cannaregio
- 4. Ca’ Pisani Dorsodoru
- 5. Palazzina Grassi San Marco
1. The history of Venice starts when settlers first arrived on the islands around 402 A.D
They were fleeing from and trying to protect themselves against conquerors.
2. Venice dates back to 421 AD
According to legend and the diaries of Venetian historian Marin Sanudo, the foundation of Venice was laid in the year 421 on March 25th.
3. Venice is celebrating its 1600th anniversary in 2021.
From March 25th, 2021 to at least March of 2022, the people of Venice will be celebrating its 1600th anniversary. At noon on this day, the first stone of the San Giacomo di Rialto church, also known as San Giacometto, was set into place and is still the longest-standing building in Venezia.
The celebration for this special anniversary will last for around a year, but details for events have yet to be announced due to the uncertainty of Covid-19 in the region. If you are traveling to Venice this year, you might get lucky to be a part of this historic anniversary.
One of the celebrations being a light show that has been running since early December on the Rialto bridge. The light show brings scenes from Venetian history to life and was a teaser for the celebrations coming in 2021.
It displays important historical moments and figures such as famous architect, Antonio da Ponte, and painter, Canaletto.
On March 25th in 2021, there was a special virtual mass celebrated in St Mark’s Basilica, churches rang their bells simultaneously around the city, and released a documentary that gave a look back at the 1600 years of history.
4. Venice was originally a swamp.
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5. Venice still stands on its Original Foundations
To help strengthen the islands the Venetians drained them of water, protected the fragile environment, and enlarged them. To do so, they came up with the idea to dig hundreds of canals to drain the water, and they strengthened the banks with wood pilings.
For the foundations of their buildings, the Venetians used wood pilings very similar to the ones they used for the banks. To create the foundations of the buildings, thousands of wooden piles were pounded into the mud. These piles were packed so tightly together, they were touching. After, they cut the tops and created solid platforms in which they would build their homes.
Many of the buildings today are still resting on the same piles of wood that were laid there 1000 years ago. This is because the wood was underwater and, surprisingly, it did not rot.
6. Venice won’t be flooding for much longer.
In 2020 Venice activated its new tidal barrier, called MOSE, trying to fight back against an “acqua alta,” the famous flooding of Venice Islands. In its first action, MOSE, performed better than expected and blocked a 129-cm tide which kept the lowest-lying part of the city, Piazza San Marco, completely dry.
Due to the success of this first deployment, it has since been used multiple more times and has been just as effective. The Venice floods haven’t captivated the city since its implementation. Expect for an unfortunate forecasting mistake which led to the MOSE not being activated in time for a 138-cm tide last December.
The tidal barrier is still within the experimental phase and will not be complete until the end of this year.
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7. Venice is sinking
Over the years, the foundation of mud and wood that Venice was built on has been slowly pushed downward, pressing out water and tamping down the soil. Along with the high tides of “acqua alta,” this has caused a gradual sinking of Venice.
Over the past 100 years, the city has sunk about 9 inches, and some experts have warned that the effects of global warming will result in the rise of sea levels.
8. Venice is an archipelago
There are 118 islands in the Venetian lagoon. Since there are so many islands in the Venetian lagoon, numerous islands separate from the main island and center of the city to visit.
- One of the islands is Burano, a fishing village known for its colorful and picturesque houses, where you can enjoy the freshly caught seafood straight from the lagoon.
- Murano, drawing in visitors by fairy is famous for its amazing history of blowing glass. Tourists come for their local goods and the Museo del Vetro.
- Venice’s most quiet island, with only a few residents, Torcello, is popular for the Basilica and its ancient buildings.
9. Don’t bother bringing your GPS to Venice
The main Island of Venice looks like labyrinth and is very easy to get lost if you are not paying attention. It is suggested to not use google maps or any other GPS service as they are unable to track movements around the tiny alleys and canals that cross the islands, however, if you follow street signs you can easily get anywhere.
10. Venice is divided into 6 districts, with one square, 148 churches, 438 bridges connecting its regions
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11. Venice has 3,000 streets.
These small streets, called Calli, are famous around the world and are well-known for their uniqueness.
The smallest calli, called Calle Varisco, is a whopping 53cm wide.
12. Venice holds a masquerade ball every year called Ballo Del Doge
The Ballo del Doge is a very exclusive masquerade ball put on in the heart of Venice every year during the Carnival of Venice. Guests show up dressed in historical costumes, are surrounded by art, history, and fantasy, becoming an active part of one of the greatest Carnival parties ever seen.
Each party every year, the setting, artists, performances, and costumes change according to the new theme. Attendees live through the carnival and get experience exquisite art firsthand. Definitely, a new thing to add to your bucket list if you are a lover of the fine arts or Italian culture.
Ballo del Doge did not take place in 2020, however for those traveling to Venice is possible to arrange a private visit to the costume lab and see artisans at work. Additionally, for those planning a luxury event in Italy there are countless beautiful palazzos and settings that could be explored.
13. Venice is the house of artisans
In September 2021, the city will host Homo Faber, celebrating the best of European and Japanese craftsmanship. The Homo Faber event shows off the “living treasures” of Europe and Japan, with 15 exhibitions showcasing master artisans and exceptional artwork curated by a world-class team of leaders that their fields of design, architecture, and curation.
This is an international cultural event that celebrates Europe’s and Japan’s human skills and links contemporary, traditional, and rare craftsmanship to the world of design.
Here you can watch Japanese and European master artisans at work in live demonstrations, go behind the scenes to witness the unique creative processes behind fine craftsmanship, be immersed in a new innovative approach, and get inspired by expert voices.
14. Venice is home to one of the most sought after wines in the world
The Venetian lagoon is home to one of the most sought-after wines in the world, Venissa. Made with Darona grapes and a unique production process, on a “Vigna Murata” that dates back to 1100, Venissa was named “the best wine in the world” by VinePair, in 2016.
This elegant wine almost went extinct in 1966 when the great flood hit the Mazzorbo island, destroying the historic vineyards. Since then, only one family makes the special wine, producing only 3000 bottles a year making it extremely rare. This is the same wine Venetian royalty drank over 500 years ago, adding to its already historical resume.
15. Venice was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe.
Thanks to ship building and its unique location, for a time Venice was one of the most well off cities in the world. This is what resulted in the building of the beautiful palaces that we can still see today.
16. 72 of the bridges in Venice are privately owned.
17. Venice, including its lagoon, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
18. Venice was a part of the first-ever air raid.
The first air raid in the world was was in August of 1849. Austria sent balloons containing bombs over Venice.
19. The main method of transport in Venice is the Vaporetto.
Venice’s public transport system revolves around its canals and the Vaporetto boats that carry passengers all over the city. Tourists and locals mix on these boats, particularly on the famous Vaporetto Line 1 which stops at every station on the Grand Canal.
20. Take Gondolier off your career aspirations list.
To be a gondolier, you must have been born in Venice. There are only 425 gondolier licenses in Venice and they are highly sought after. 400 hours of training is required to become a gondolier.
21. Venice has the oldest film festival in the world
The Venice Film Festival started in 1932 and is the oldest in the world.
22. St Mark’s Square is the largest in Venice.
Piazza San Marco or St Mark’s Square is the largest square in the city.
23. Venetian Gondolas weigh 600 kgs on average
Gondolas in Venice are on average of 11 meters high and 600 kgs in weight. They require eight different types of wood and each part of the boat represents a part of the city.
24. Venice experiences high tides 430 times a year
The number of high tides is due the city’s exposure to the ocean.
25. The world’s first female graduate was born in Venice
Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Loredan Piscopia was born in Venice in 1646. She graduated in Venice with a PhD and became the first woman to graduate.
26. The World’s first Public Casino was in Venice
In 1638, the Great Council of Venice opened the world’s first public casino in Ridotto for the carnival season.
27. It is illegal to cycle, skateboard or rollerskate in Venice.
If caught you will incur a fine.
28. All Gondolas in Venice must be black
In earlier times Gondolas could be any colour. However, for some time now black has been the only exterior colour allowed. Some gondoliers do decorate the inside of their boats.
29. Venice was once a country
Between the end of the seventh century and 1797 it was the Republic of Venice and very wealthy.
30. Masks weren’t just for show
The Carnival of Venice is associated with beautiful and ornate masks. However, masks did not become associated with the Venice carnival because they were part of attendee’s outfits.
It is believed that the masks became popular due to the Black Death plague. I am sure we can now all understand how masks could quickly become essential to day to day life.
31. There has only been one female gondolier
The first female gondolier only took up the pole in 2010. Before that there had never been a female gondolier. Giorgia Boscolo is the daughter of a gondolier.
5 Tips on How to Visit Venice like a local:
- Get there by train, the train station is well connected to main Italian cities and gets you to the center of the city
- Do not rely on google Maps, streets are tiny, and GPS will not be able to geolocate you – buy a map instead
- Plan your trip in advance and buy tickets online, the best times to visit Venice – avoid Summer weekends and Film festival week in September as the city gets crowded and pricy!
- Visit the St Mark’s Basilica and then explore the different “sestrieri”.
Get lost in the little alleys around the Island, there are so many things to discover
- Do not order pizza in Venice and opt for a seafood plate instead!
- If you want to mingle with the locals, head to Calle della Misericordia at 18.00 for the “aperitivo” (happy hour time). Pick your favorite “bacaro” (traditional bar), order an “ombra de vin e dei cicchetti”, which is a glass of wine and finger food. Or why not try Venice’s famous Bellini cocktail? The perfect choice before dinner for a real Aperitivo Italian style!
Boutique Hotels in Venice
Why not sleep in a landmark in Venice? Several of Venice’s beautiful palaces have been turned into boutique hotels.
1. Gritti Palace San Marco
Overlooking the Grand Canal, this is a hotel with a view! A 15th-century palazzo it became a luxury hotel in 1895. The suites have stunning views and have been home to guests like Ernest Hemingway and Somerset Maugham. And don’t miss the restaurant seating on the Grand Canal.
2. Ai Reali Costello
One of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, this refurbished ancient palace has a fantastic location in the heart of Venice and a spa. Ai Reali Costello Venice has canopied beds, a marble staircase, and parquet floors.
3. Ca’ Sagredo Cannaregio
Purchased in the 1700s by the Cannaregio family, this Venetian palazzo was filled with Renaissance paintings and artworks. Today it is an award-winning and beautiful hotel with 42 stunning rooms on the Grand Canal.
4. Ca’ Pisani Dorsodoru
This 29 room boutique hotel is located in a beautiful merchant’s house but it is very much modern design when you step inside. Ca Pisani is the perfect hotel if you would like the history and a beautiful exterior with modern design and comforts inside.
5. Palazzina Grassi San Marco
Another example of a classic Venetian palace on the outside and ultra-modern interior design within but in this case, the interiors were designed by Philippe Starck. The key design theme at Palazzina Grassi is white which runs through the beautiful yet playful interior.
This Facts about Venice guest post was written by The Italian Planners, a great option if you’re looking for a special experience or food and wine tours in Italy. They organize Venice kayak tours and a private visit to the Vigna Murata, the vegetable garden, followed by a special Venissa wine tasting.
For a Venice romantic getaway, The Italian Planners recommend arriving on the island at sunset, enjoying a fabulous meal at a Michelin star restaurant on the island, and maybe staying in one of 5 luxury suites on the resort. All of this can be organised by The Italian Planners.
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