22 facts about Venice for kids (and curious adults)

Interesting 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. By the end of this article, you will know a lot about Venice and you may even feel like adding it to your Italy travel bucket list!

FAQ and facts about Venice Italy

Image of the Grand Canal in Venice with overlay text "Venice fun facts"

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Where is Venice?

Venice is a city in the North East of Italy.

It is the main city in the region of Veneto and developed over a lagoon between the rivers Po and Piave and the Adriatic sea.

How old is Venice?

The area of Venice is believd to have been inhabited since the X century BC, when a local population, the ‘Veneti’ lived here.

However, the foundation of Venice as a city is usually attached to a specific and much later event: the foundation of the first church in the city, the church of San Giacomo in Rialto, which happened on the 25th March 421.

Since then, the 25th March is considered Venice’s birthday.

What is so unique about Venice?

Venice is unique for many reasons, several of which make up these fun facts about the city.

What makes Venice truly special and what Venice is known for is that the city is built on water: houses don’t overlook roads but water canals and Venice inhabitants use boats instead of cars.

Is Venice an island?

The City of Venice is not just an island but, rather, a cluster of islands (over 100 of them!).

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 and 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.

You can purchase the Venice city pass online here

How many bridges are there in Venice Italy?

Venice has more than 100 islands connected by over 471 bridges, over 70 of which are private.

How many people live in Venice?

Venice’s population is made of over 260,000 residents. However, this small city receives over 20 million tourists per year!

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.

You can discover what to expect in sestiere and accommodation option in each one here 

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 a symbolic meaning.

The top of it represents the Doge’s hat, the 6 teeth symbolize Venice’s 6 sestieri and the 7th looking in the opposite direction represents the Giudecca island.

The lower part of the metal that meanders to the bottom of the gondola represents the grand canal.

Venice gondolas with St Marks in the background. The shape of the gondola hides symbols about the history of the city
The gondolas are packed with symbolism about the city of Venice

What is a Doge

For the a longest time, Venice was ruled 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 had chicks 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.

Venice winged lion with the inscription Pax tibi Marce Evangelista meo

Why does St Mark’s tower 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 the ‘bridge of sights’ is called this way

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!

Why are Venice streets so narrow?

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 and you often see doors opening straight onto water!

Venice is where the word ‘ciao’ originated

The Italian word ‘ciao’ comes from Venetian and originally meant ‘I am your servant’.

Over the course of the time, this polite greeting became the most common in the whole of Italy and is still now the main way to say ‘hi’ and also’ bye’ (informal)

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 the best things to buy in Venice?

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 the winter. The way to deal with it is, you guessed it, wellington boots!

The first woman who ever graduated was from Venice

Her name was Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia and she graduated on June 25th 1678 from the University of Padua.

I hope you enjoyed this short selection of fun facts about Venice. Safe travels!

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