The canals of Venice: nobody knows that…

The canals of Venice are famous all over the world. But what is exactly a canal? What are the most important ones? Why is a canal different from a rio? How can Venetians move through these streets of water without crushing into each others? The world of this original Venice water-streets is very peculiar and it is worth spending a few minutes to get to know it better: keep on reading!

Venice is basically 5 kilometres long and it is composed by 124 islands, 178 canals and rio (the plural is rii) and 438 bridges. The canali are the main and the larger water-streets of Venice, they are about ten and they are all navigable. The rii are smaller and they are not always water-ways. The most famous canals are the Canal Grande - which flows throughout Venice and finishes at the Bacino di San Marco, the Canale di Cannaregio – which links the Canal Grande with the northern part of the city and the Canale della Giudecca – which divides the Giudecca Island from the Sestiere di Dorsoduro.

Except from these four and a few ones external to the city, all the other water streets of Venice are not canals but they are rii which can be natural or artificial: the first ones have little bends and they have a more natural run while the second ones are recognisable because they are always very straight. However, al the rio are narrower than the canals and they are not all navigable.

If you have a gondola or a motor boat and you would like to cross over the beautiful canals of Venice, you must know that the traffic on the water has its rules: and very strict ones! First of all, all the water-streets of Venice have specific signs to indicate one-way canals/rio, areas of no parking and no access, etc… In addition, if you have a motor boat you must stay on the right of the water canal. However, if you are crossing Rio Nuovo in Dorsoduro, you must stay on the left…

Yes, it is very difficult… as many things in Venice. But this is part of the game as the fact that the gondolas must stay always on the left of the canals because they have the oar on the right and, otherwise, it would be impossible to drive the gondola properly.

However, this little overview on the canals of Venice would not be complete without mentioning the fact that in Venice there was also one traffic light on the Rio Nuovo. Since it has not been working for years we can assume that, even if among many difficulties, Venetians deals very well with their very unique lifestyle.