It’s Venice’s intricate canals and waterways that set it apart from any other city in the World. While it has plenty of walkways, it’s the city’s canals that intrigue visitors most of all. However, as there’s no other city with quite as many canals as Venice, there is quite a lot of confusion and misinformation about them.
This is perhaps the most common question about Venice, and the answer might surprise you. There are, in fact, 150 canals running through Venice, which makes the city a collection of tiny islands connected by bridges and walkways. While there are 150 different canals, the biggest and most impressive one is The Grand Canal, which is overlooked by The Doge’s Palace and the beautiful Basilica of St Mary.
There is something incredibly special about Venice’s many canals and one of the first questions most people have when they visit is whether or not the Venice canals are manmade. The answer is much more interesting than a straightforward yes or no and it has to go back to when Venice was founded in the 5th century…
In the 5th century, in the place where Venice now stands (or floats…) there was a large lagoon with several small, marshy islands separated by natural canals. As the settlement grew and they began to build better buildings, the natural canals were made wider and deeper to allow the building materials to be moved around the lagoon by boat.
The canals aren’t very deep — often only 10 or 15ft deep. Over the centuries, the canals were reinforced with bricks and other materials by the lagoon’s inhabitants. So, while the canals were once natural, they have been changed significantly over the years. We’re not sure whether that makes them natural, manmade, or somewhere in-between.
This seems to be something lots of tourists are worried about as many people ask whether the canals and waterways are clean. This obviously depends on your definition of clean. If you mean clean enough to drink, then the answer is a resounding no — not least because the water is brackish (a mixture of salt and fresh water). Venice’s canals are its streets and countless boats travel through each day. Venice is also modern city, with modern pollution, and the chemicals from the boats and people’s waste gets into the water.
However, Venice is one of the World’s most popular tourism hotspots and a lot of money is invested in its tourism industry. This means that the canals and waterways are cleaned on a regular basis, picking up litter and other waste that has found its way into the water. Venice makes a lot of money from its enchanting beauty, so the local government goes to a lot of effort to keep the canals clear of litter. So, the canals certainly aren’t clean, but they often look clean.
Yes. Venice’s canals can certainly can freeze, and the frozen canals look amazing. However, this phenomenon is incredibly rare, due to the heat from the city, the region’s temperate climate, and the brackish nature of the water in the Venetian Lagoon. For all of these reasons, it takes especially cold temperatures to cause the canals to freeze over and instances of it happening tend to be decades apart. Venice’s canals last froze over in 2012, and in 1929 before that...