Venice is located on the far right of Italy, on a small island connected by a large bridge for trains and cars. Venice just beats Pittsburgh for the most number of bridges, with over 450 bridges connecting the various sections of land in the area, and approximately 200 natural canals.
Because Venice is surroundes by canals, lagoons, and various other waterways, the citizens must find other ways to travel throughout the city. Through my observations, boat and pedestrian transportation were the most popular and common in the city. Even along the Grand Canal, there are no sidewalks. This leads way to adapted transportation, such as boat taxis, boat “buses”, and even boat ambulances. In addition, there were a variety of gondolas in the waterways. We discovered from our tour guide Anna that originally, only the aristocratic families owned gondolas, then in the 1800s became a mode of public transportation. However, the gondolas were replaced in the 1900s by steam technology, or vaporitos (i.e. steam boats!) and now the transportation is now powered electrically. The bridge that we used to enter the town by train was built in 1849, right after Venice was taken over by the Austrian Empire. It was only recently in the 1930s expanded to accommodate cars and more trains. Before this development, there were no other modes of transportation to the city than by boat. In addition, now there are personal boats on the canals that people park on the sides next to their homes on water. These boats act similarly to how people own cars and park them on the side of the road. Essentially, the canals are the highways of the town. However, for most Venitians, taking a boat is not practical or convenient for them, mostly because they do not need to go far distances. Going for far distances is often the only time the Venetian take a boat, and otherwise they walk. Due to this, pedestrian transortation is another huge form of transportation in the city. This is why those 450+ bridges were being built- to get pedestrians across the 220 waterways without using boats for such a short distance! The most famous of the bridges is the Rialto Bridge, which stretches across the Grand Canal. In addition, because the land cannot be increased or stretched out, and in the 1500s they ran out of space. Citizens of Venice were therefore mandated to give up small amounts of their own property to create walkways for more pedestrian traffic. These small tunnels were built through the first/ground floor of their property and served to connect smaller roads as a shortcut to taking larger roads.
Because the city is surrounded by water, bringing in goods can be exceedingly difficult. Anna had explained that very often, Venetians go to the main land to get goods such as groceries because it is much easier than shopping in the grocery store that does not have the same variety. She also explained that venetians were merchants, and were the original “shipbuilders”. However, because the canals were so small, the ships could not always get in to unload the goods. Therefore, little carts would have to be used to transport the goods to the shops. This could be a reason why prices are so expensive (aside from Venice being a huge tourist location!)
As one can imagine, it would be difficult to build a city “on water”. However, the Venetians found a sturdy structure that has withstood thousands of years of wear and tear. The must always be built on small islands surrounding the water, and nothing can be built in the water. In order to build on the edge of the water, the citizens must first put piling about four to five meters down in the ground. The ground must be fortified to ensure its strength. This is then packed down this a tight layer of soil. It acts as a cement, and all air MUST be removed in order to ensure a solid foundation. After this, stones are added on top of the soil, then bricks are added on top of that. Bricks are an ideal material because they were light, flexible, and elastic, making it perfect for the ground it was built on. This base structure allowed for a sturdy structure to build whatever they desired on top.
The day trip to Venice has been my favorite part of the trip so far, and I hope to come back soon!