Blog posts

Daily life in flooded Venice

How locals spend their days in flooded Venice?

During the last period of floods, I stayed in Venice for a weekend. This time I decided to observe the locals as they were attending their daily business. To get a better feeling of the dynamics of the city on water. To see what locals are up to, you need to visit the remote parts away from tourist attractions.

Services

If you don’t want to pay a fortune for the food, you better go to the outskirts of the city where the local’s shop. There you can find typical grocery stores with human-friendly prices. When there observe a bit the life around you.

In the morning on my way to the city center I bumped into this fine gentlemen:

Post delivery in Venice. Yes by boat then by hand.

Yes, he was delivering Amazone packages. Not by a van but by a trolly. Later on, I stumbled upon the boat that delivers the boxes around the city. The dispatchers then distribute packages around the city on foot.

If you look carefully, you’ll see that locals spend most of their mornings resupplying their shop/restaurant reserves.

Street sellers are preparing their “original” female bags for selling in the back allies. Yup, the street seller, parked himself on the doorsteps of a cemetery. Then stuffed the “original” Guccy bags with the old paper. So they would have more volume. Look nicer.

Transport

In Venice, you have two options on how to move around. Either you walk or take the boat. In a lot of cases, walking is a lot faster. The city itself is not particularly friendly for elderly people with all the bridges and walking involved.

I really love wandering around the less crowded city parts and observe. Though you better not be claustrophobic if you plan to explore the remote places of the city. Allys like this one are at every corner:

A typical narrow street in Venice.

Getting lost

People often tell me how easy it is to get lost in Venice. Sure, if you are there for the first time, it will feel completely chaotic. To navigate around, I try to keep in my head where the main buildings are. Rialto bridge, Canal Grande, and San Marco square, for example.

I sure get lost all the time, but not completely. As long as you keep the direction, you’ll wash up on a know tourist attraction pretty soon. If you want to move from Rialto to San Marco square at night, just follow the lights of street shops and the crowd of people. Shops will guide you from one attraction to the other.

Houses

Venice gives you the feeling that the city is held together by glue and duck tape. The city is slowly falling apart. It will never be entirely fixable. It looks quite ugly. Yet when you look around and think you realize that just the fact that a city like Venice exists is a marvel.

Houses are built on top of wooden pillars. On top of the pillars is a layer of stone that is resistive to the rising and falling saltwater. On top of that are bare brick walls.

Before I stayed in a hotel in Venice or anywhere in Italy, I thought that Italy was just ugly. But I’m always blown away how nicely decorated the interiors of apartments and houses are. The only consistent pretty part on the outer side of the buildings in Venice are green wooden window covers.

Flood prevention

That Venice is getting flooded is probably not news to you, but there are attempts to stop the flooding all along. One effort is the project, Moses. Project’s planning began in 1987. The idea is to deploy a system of flood gates to block the rising water. In should be completed by the end of 2021.

There’s another crazy idea that’s still in the planning phase. By injecting water under the sea bed of Venice, they want to elevate the entire city for 25cm. I’m curious if this one will ever pass the planning stage :)

Venetians

At first, I was a bit confused. Locals were nicely dressed at every moment of the day. During the high tide, everyone was wearing high fishing boots. Yet they were moving around gracefully. Well dressed weather there were floods or not:

Classy Venetians well dressed. There’s water?

Then in the evening, when water was gone, everyone would be walking around in fancy shoes. Locals clearly knew the dynamics of the water in the city in and out. They are accustomed to the water because they were doing their daily chores without a second thought. Chatting in the middle of the flooded street, walking dogs, …

I’ve got to get some eggs. Who minds the water.

In the remote parts, you’ll also notice that the locals know each other pretty well. Since everything in this city happens on foot, people keep running into each other.

Stay tuned

This time I had a room with a view on a canal. So a guy drives up in his boat. Fishing boots, full rain gear, … yet stylish. He tucks the boat, throws his duffle bag to the shoar, and off to the flooded streets. James Bond-style.

I never look that well when in my rain gear :) Next time I’ll try to do a better job. Fishing boots and a tie Plus the rest …

Stay tuned for the rest of the series in the upcoming weeks:

Get the weekly experiment newsletter to your inbox: