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by boot or by boat

Let’s play a little game.

  • One city – Venice
  • Seven questions
  • Two possible answers each time: by boot or by boat.


1. What’s the best way to get lost?
By foot. Venice is comprised of roughly 120 islands (the precise number depends on how you define an island), and 391 bridges. If you don’t get lost at least once, you’re kind of missing the point. Also, Google maps doesn’t work that well in Venice. So ditch the map, and trust your snout.

2. What’s the best way to get around during acqua alta (high tide)?
By foot. Grab a good pair of Wellington boots, and you’re good to go. The busiest parts of the city create fixed routes with elevated boardwalks that you can walk on so as to not get your feet wet. The public boat routes are usually altered by the high tide and also private boats can’t do much: depending on the level of the water, they can’t dock in certain places, and they can’t go down certain canals as they might not be able to pass under a bridge.

3. How is the mail delivered in Venice?
By foot.

4. How is garbage collected in Venice?
By boat and by foot. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the city does differentiate its waste (paper, metal, and glass), which is collected on specific days of the week. Several boats, their bellies filled with garbage, serve each neighborhood. You can walk your waste bags there yourself, or a person will come and collect them from your house.

5. What’s the easiest way to get around the city when travelling with kids?
By boat. You can easily carry your stroller onto the public boats, and even on the traghetti, the public gondolas that cross the Grand Canal from one side to the other. If you decide to walk, when you get to a bridge, you’ll want to cross it like the Venetians do: you go up the bridge backwards, tilting the stroller towards you on its back wheels, and pulling it up, step by step. At the top of the bridge, you’ll turn around, so that you’ll face forward going down. It’s a balancing act. Sure, the danger of re-enacting the famous scene from Battleship Potemkin at every bridge is always lurking, and the bigger the bridge, the bigger the chance…

6. How do you get to the hospital?
By boat and by foot. There’s an ambulance boat, but sometimes it’s just faster to walk to the hospital yourself. By the way, Venice’s hospital — Santi Giovanni e Paolo — is one of the prettiest in the world. If you happen to find yourself in this part of town, it’s worth popping in for a visit (even if you’re not sick).

7. How do Venetians prefer to move around in the city?
By foot and by boat. Venetians love to walk and do so more than most city-dwellers. You walk to the grocery store, and you walk to get a drink (which makes drinking very safe, if you can remember your way home). You walk to school, and you walk to work. They’ll take a public boat if they have to, but they tend to avoid peak hours, when the boats are too crowded. They do however like to hop in their boats and escape to other parts of the lagoon whenever they can, fishing, swimming, or just enjoying the solitude and contemplating the placid stillness of the salt marshes.

Lu has recently moved back to Venice from Rome with her young family. Contact her her with your questions on La Serenissima.

If you don't get lost at least once, you're kind of missing the point.

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