Gondolas on the channels of Venice

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

Venice without water would be like Sahara without sand. The charm of this old Italian city flows with the waters of its unusual streets. Because canals are the real roads here, taken by Police boats, ambulance boats or public transportation boats that replace buses and subway system. But what everybody loves to see are not the fast moving engine boats, but the iconic gondolas, slowly moved by a long stick, pushed to the bottom of the channels by a standing sailor. A ride in a gondola at sunset, though a bit cliche, still sounds like one of the best love declaration, especially when the couple also enjoys a bottle of Italian wine together.

Some even fulfill a life fantasy and get married in Venice to get some romantic wedding pictures. But the noisy Italian weddings with traditional music and a line of boats packed with guests are something even more spectacular.

The intricate channel system of Venice is just a small part of the Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed water space of 550 square kilometers. Unlike other cities, who emerge from a center and expand in size with time, Venice was formed by the expansion and unification of numerous islands. Step by step, the locals took the effort of gaining new land by creating channels which could be blocked and turn into dams. The city was likened with an inverted forest, as grids of full length tree logs were stuck in the muddy soil to make it stable enough to support the foundation of a few stores high brick buildings.

Around the buildings there remained space to walk, that would resemble a typical street. And when two such neighborhoods got close enough, bridges were built to continue these unusual streets. Sometimes, the bridges were in a diagonal line, to connect two streets that were not meant to meet each other from the beginning. All bridges are with steps or have an arch shape to allow for boats to pass underneath. They are usually pedestrian size so cars are not to be seen anywhere in the historic city of Venice, just in the large parking near the round about at the end of the large car bridge that connects the lagoon to the mainland. Buses have their end of the line here and parking is not allowed.

Every day, the level of water in the canals drops and increases with the tide that brings water from and to the Adriatic See. Some composing islands are completely artificial, while many other areas are dried and reclaimed from the see. The aim was to dry the marshes and raise them above the level the water gets during high tides. During rainy seasons however, the water level grows significantly and sidewalks and public squares like Saint Mark’s are covered in tens of centimeters of water.

Shaped like a letter S, the Canal Grande is the largest channel of historic Venice, connecting Piazza San Marco with the railroad station and the outside lagoon. Above it is the iconic Rialto Bridge, that used to be the only connection between the two halves of city divided by Grand Canal. It was built in the end of 16 century and around it can be admired palaces as old as 13 century. A boat race takes place each year in the first Sunday of September, event known as Regatta Storica (Historic Regatta).

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