Fun facts about Venice for kids and curious adults. Do you know why Venice roads are so narrow? And what symbols hide in the peculiar shape of the gondolas? Here some facts and curiosities about Venice, Italy.
If you are into fun facts and trivia, Venice is a bit of a treat. With symbols and hidden meaning pretty much at every corner, you can spend a lifetime in Venice and still not truly know all about this very special city.
The following are some of the facts we learned during our last stay.
Fun facts about Venice Italy
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Is Venice an island
The City of Venice is not just an island but, rather, comprises many. There is the Historic centre, the outer islands of Lido, Murano and Burano (plus a few more smaller ones), and the areas of Mestre, Marghera, Chirignago, Favaro Veneto.
How many canals in Venice
Venice is famous for being a city on water and indeed, the city has over 170 canals.
The largest of all is the ‘Canal Grande ‘ (lit. the big canal) which crosses the city forming an S shape. Venice canals divide up the city of Venice is over 18 islands, connected by 417 bridges. 72 of them are privately owned!
Venice is not the city with most canals in Europe
While Venice is famous for such a high number of canals, there are other cities in Europe that ‘beat her’ in this sense. Amsterdam has more canals than Venice and, even more unexpectedly maybe, Hamburg Germany has more canals than Venice and Amsterdam together!
What are Venice canals for
Venice canals are waterways and therefore serve for the movement for people and goods.
If you take the bus in Venice, it will be a water bus: in Italian it is called ‘vaporino’ or ‘vaporetto’ and it is a great way to cover long distances otherwise tiring on foot.
The water bus is part of Venice public transport system and you can get tickets before boarding at the vending machine available at many stops or online in advance.
What are Venice neighborhoods called
Venice is divided into 6 main areas that date back to medieval times. They are called Cannaregio, Santa Croce, San Polo, San Marco, Dorsoduro and Castello.
Since there are 6 of them, there are called ‘sestieri’ (from the Latin word for six) and are still used for modern addresses.
What is special about the Venetian gondola
Venice is famous for a traditional type of boat called ‘gondola’.
It is narrow, black and pointy and has a metal prow called ‘ferro’ (lit. Iron). The ‘ferro’ shape has symbolic meaning. The top of it represent the Doge‘s hat, the 6 teeth symbolize Venice’s 6 sestieri and the 7th looking in the opposite direction represent the Giudecca island.
The lower part of the metal that meanders to the bottom of the gondola represents the grand canal.
What is a Doge
For the a longest time, Venice was rules by Dogi, the maximum authority over the city. Venice elected its first Doge in 697 AD while the last Doge was Ludovico Manin, who remained in power until 1797, when Napoleon conquered Venice.
How long did the Republic of Venice last?
The Republic of Venice lasted for over 1000 years and comprised of territories as far as Istria, Dalmatia, of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. Its trading routes spanned up to China and India, thanks to Marco Polo who was from here.
The arch enemy of Venice was Genoa, another important maritime power, with which Venice fought for many years over the control of the trading routes
The symbolism of the canal grande
If you look a the map of Venice, you may see that the canal grande resembles a snake. This similarity in shape was noted already in medieval times and with some worry: the snake evoked the idea of negative forces and the Venetians had to come up with a solution to make sure the city was protected from them.
The solution was found in the construction of a church. On the tail of the serpent you now have the church of St George, the snake slayer!
Venice only has one square
Venice only has one piazza, Piazza St Marco. All the other ‘squares’ are called ‘campo’ or ‘campiello’. Some are vast (Campo Santa Maria Formosa) and some are tiny but they are all very atmospheric.
Roads also have peculiar names in Venice that go well beyond the usual ‘strada’ or ‘via’ that you find in other cities. The Venetians are pretty creating with their street names and some you may encounter are ‘fondamenta’, ca’, calle, rio, piscina and many more!
Why are there so many pigeons in Venice
In Piazza San Marco there are lots of pigeons. Some people love them, some people hate them but they have a history. One legend says that Doge Enrico Dandolo sent 2 pigeons to Venice to announce Venice’s victory over Constantinople.
The population, happy for the announcement, adopted the birds and took care of them so well, the two pigeons has chick and created a massive colony!
Whether this is true or not, make sure you don’t feed the pigeons as it is now illegal.
The peculiar story of Venice’s winged lion
Another animal with huge importance for Venice is a mythological one, the winged lion. It is the symbol of the city and you can see it in many places but nowhere as clearly as in Piazza San Marco.
The lion has a lifted paw and a book with the words ‘Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meo‘ which is Latin for ‘Peace be with you Marco, my evangelist’.
In some paintings the lion carries a sword: this usually means the paintings date back to a time when Venice was at war.
Why does St Mark’s have 5 bells
St Marco’s bell tower has 5 bells each of them with a different job: one was to mark 12 o’clock, one for announcing death sentences, one the start and finish time for workers in the arsenale, one to announce senator’s meetings and one tell Venetian’s aristocrats to hurry up and get to the doge’s palace.
Why ‘bridge of sights’
One of the most famous sights in Venice is the Ponte dei Sospiri or ‘bridge of sights’. This bridge used to connect the tribunal with the prison and owes it name to prisoner who used to ‘sigh’ as they headed to their imprisonment after conviction!
Venice has very narrow streets
One of the main characteristics of Venice are the city’s incredibly narrow streets: the narrowest was is only 53 cm wide! the reason for this is that roads never needed to be wide, in Venice, since the main routes of communications were the canals. This is also why the main entrance to most old houses is the water side of the building!
Venice is where the word ‘ciao’ originated
The Italian word ‘ciao’ comes from Venetian and originally meant ‘I am your servant’.
Venice houses are top heavy
Some houses in Venice are larger at the top than at the bottom and windows often stick out onto the road. The name of this peculiar architectural feature is ‘barbacani’ and it is frequent in Venice in an attempt to gain living space without making narrow roads even narrower.
What are Venice’s main crafts
Venice is famous for several crafts and in particular lace (made on the island of Burano) and glass (made in the island of Murano). You can visit the workshops and you can even try do it yourself with specialised guides.
What is acqua alta
Water in Venice is subject to tides and sometimes it raises up to such an extent to flood the roads. This phenomenon is called’ aqua alta’ and it is a regular enough occurrence in winter. The way to deal with it is, you guessed it, wellington boots!
Hhe first woman who ever graduated was from Venice
Her name was Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia and she graduated on June 25 1678 from the University of Padua.
I hope you enjoyed this short selection of fun facts about Venice. Safe travels!
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