Wandering around Venice

‘This city enfolds upon itself.’ Canals hide other canals, alley-ways cross and criss-cross so that you will not know which is which until you have lived here all your life. Even when you have mastered the squares and you can pass from the Rialto to the Ghetto and out to the lagoon with confidence, there will still be places you can never find, and if you do find them, you may never see St Mark’s again. Leave plenty of time in your doings and be prepared to go another way, to do something not planned if that is where the streets lead you.’ Jeanette Winterson The Passion (1987)

Venice is the most wonderful, infuriating, miraculous, confusing, singular city. Its shape has been compared to a fish. It is made from 117 small islands ‘glued together with just water’. It has 150 canals – the most magnificent being the Grand Canal – and 409 bridges. The only thing to do enjoy being lost in its labyrinth where a surprise awaits you around every corner.

One of the many fascinating things about Venice is the names of the streets – names that tell so much about the people, the land the history of the place.

Calle: the most common, a street running between buildings, often extremely narrow, as in Calle Cafetier.
Sotoportego: a covered walkway, as in Sotoportego Ghetto Vechio
Salizzada: a paved street (one of the early streets to be paved in the now familiar grey paving stones), as in Salizzada San Samuele
Fondamenta: a street running beside a canal (didn’t exist at one time as everywhere was reached by boat) as in Fondamenta de le Misericordia
Rio Terra: a filled-in canal, as in Rio Terra dei Catecumeni
Ramo: a dead end going only to houses (would at one time have been water)
Strada: as in Strada Nuova which runs from Rialto to Ferrovia, the train station. Begun only in the nineteenth-century when Venice was under Austrian rule, buildings and smaller canals were removed to form this more direct ‘highway’.

But where’s the fun in a direct route when the miracle that is Venice depends on narrow calles, unexpected bridges and canals, the possibility of a treasure around that next tantalising corner?


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  1. Helen says:

    Direct routes are only good for people in a hurry. The alternatives are so much more interesting and enticing!

  2. Polly says:

    This is lovely, Lindsay. Hope you’re taking lots of photos to share with us later 🙂 x

  3. Lindsay says:

    Obviously the Austrians were in a hurry, Helen! I love the wandering, happening upon the unexpected, although I’m not so keen when I end up back at the point where I started! But all part of the fun. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Lindsay says:

    I’m trying to, Polly, but I’ve got to get fresh batteries for my camera – aargh! Will definitely have photos of the most amazing bookshop I’ve ever been to!!

  5. Derek Taylor says:

    Wonderful, Lindsay. How splendidly ironic that a city of canals should have so many names for streets. Have you read Jan Morris’s book on Venice? If not, I’ll lend it to you – As ever-Derek

  6. Lindsay says:

    Just one of the many contradictions that make up what is wonderful about Venice. Yes, I’ve got the book, Derek – I love it!

  7. Maureen Hall says:

    There’s a market for novels set in Venice, you know …

  8. Lindsay says:

    I hope so, Mo. I’m planning for three chapters of current novel to be set in Venice – that’s why I’m here!

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