That pesky Grand Canal traffic

I took this picture on Wednesday morning, October 2, at about 10:00 AM, on the "Rialto Mercato" vaporetto dock.  The Rialto bridge is slightly behind me.  I don't suppose all these boats disappeared before reaching it.  Therefore.... there are still more than enough boats on a normal day to sink anybody's Master Plan.

I took this picture on Wednesday morning, October 2, at about 10:00 AM, standing on the “Rialto Mercato” vaporetto dock. The Rialto Bridge, at which point the canal narrows, is slightly behind me. I don’t suppose all these boats disappeared before reaching it. Therefore there are still more than enough boats on a normal day to sink anybody’s Master Plan.

Following the death of German tourist Dr. Joachim Reinhard Vogel, the city went into a more-than-usually-intense spasm of introspection and finger-pointing, which I suppose could be called “extrospection.”

The urgent need to release the bottleneck at the Rialto Bridge is agreed upon by everyone.

The urgent need for everyone other than whoever is speaking to change is also universally agreed-upon.

So far, the mayor is re-examining the many and varied boat-parking permissions granted over time, the boats concerned having hardened up the narrowest part of the Grand Canal like plaque on arteries.  And we all know what plaque does, and how very good it is for you and your general well-being, otherwise known as survival.  It’s the same with the narrowing of the already narrow space at the bridge.

I admit that I have not been tracking every little blip on this issue.  I know that the Vaporetto dell’Arte is slated for removal (in November — no rush).  And the garbage-collection company, Veritas, has submitted a radical plan for removing its barges from the area.  I don’t know many there were; perhaps it means they’ve removed three.  In any case, the right spirit is at work.

Except it’s not working hard enough.  I hope it will not be thought churlish of me to note that a few days ago, a vaporetto backing up (same spot as the tragic accident) ran into a taxi which was standing still, at the same spot where the fatal gondola had also paused, for the same reason: To wait for the traffic to abate in order to avoid an accident.  There were no injuries except to the taxi.

A recent article in the Gazzettino reported this (translated by me):

“The latest confirmation of how, a month after the tragedy, nothing has changed comes from a video made by Manuel Vecchina and put on YouTube and the site of the Gazzettino.


A good 3,062 photographs, shot Monday, Sept. 2 near the Rialto Bridge between 8:47 and 18:44, and then put into a film of 4 minutes and 24 seconds, synthesize these ten hours of hellish traffic, with 1,615 boats in various movements, among which are 700 taxis, 219 vaporettos, 216 transport barges, 209 gondolas, 168 private boats, 39 airport launches, 18 “Vaporetto dell’Arte,” 13 ambulances, 17 police boats, and 2 of the firemen.”

I think we can agree that 2 fire-department boats and 13 ambulances can get a pass.

Otherwise, full steam ahead.


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Categories : Problems


  1. Linda says:

    The taxis are the worst, in terms of numbers, attitude and moto ondoso. Let’s replace them with oared craft. Not realistic, I know, but just imagine it…

  2. Erla says:

    It’s easy to imagine, especially in the rain. Especially with people who have mobility issues that make it difficult to climb into and out of anything, much less stay secure on something that doesn’t hold still. I hate the taxis but they exist because mass tourism requires them. Lino remembers when there were only five vaporetto stops on the Grand Canal; the locals didn’t need them because they could do everything they needed within their own neighborhood. The vaporettos are there for the quantity of tourists — can you imagine transporting thousands and thousands of people every day in boats with oars? They didn’t do that even in the great days of the Serenissima. Now the locals have to use them too because many of the stores they need aren’t in their neighborhood anymore. The former food shops are selling glass and masks.

  3. Linda says:

    I don’t think mass tourism requires taxis. I’m guessing the masses don’t take taxis because of the cost. Vaporetti on the other hand are necessary at this point. I was joking that we should get rid of motorized taxis in favor of oared craft, not all transit boats.

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      I knew you were joking. But all those taxis didn’t exist before mass tourism, and Venetians don’t use them, so therefore I make a connection between the two. Second thought: If they weren’t being used by somebody, there wouldn’t be so many of them, and there are more of them every year.

  4. Allan Williams says:

    We come to Venice for three weeks every year and we have learned that the best way to move around the city is tip walk. We only take the vaporetto to go to the islands, Giudecca and Lido. Maybe all tourists should be taught this is the best way to see Venice the traffic on the canal might be less.

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      Certainly the traffic in the canal would be less. I don’t know if you’ve imagined what the traffic in the streets would be like as a consequence. It may be that you come to Venice for three weeks (a length of time very few people can permit themselves) in a season where tourism is slightly less. But if you’re here for New Year, Carnival, Easter, May Day, all summer and into the fall, you will already find it challenging to move around many parts of the city on foot. The idea of adding more people on foot would mean that nobody could get anywhere, they’d spend all day standing still in the streets, like they already do in Carnival. Venice covers four square miles. The only way to ease congestion is to have fewer tourists. But I don’t know who’s going to volunteer to stay home.