No matter what city you visit around the world myths and legends live within every city’s walls. Famous cities like New York, Seoul, London and more have myths that are as big as the buildings that occupy their spaces. From the disputes over the exact location of the original Ray’s Pizza in New York City, to the belief that everyone in Seoul looks like a K-pop singer or K-drama actor, or to London’s funny myth that has us all chuckling here, that there was a vampire in Highgate Cemetery. Vampires or K-pop looking citizens these myths are funny and always make for an exciting investigation. In this article we won’t be disclosing where the original Ray’s Pizzeria is but a look at its culinary distant cousin the city of Venice.
Venice with its long history has a plethora of myths that have shrouded the city in mystery as well as in excitement for many travelers making the trip to view the beautiful city on the lagoon. In this list we look at ghosts and commonly held beliefs by tourists that have become myths amongst travelers while still remaining unknown to locals. For example, a friend once asked me if he needed to go through city passport control to have his passport stamped by the city of Venice. To which this writer said, “No, there is only one stamp for Italy.” Confused my unaware friend said, “Oh, I thought it was its own country!” Serenissima might be over but don’t tell that to Venetians. Let’s take a look and you make up your mind on how funny some of these myths are.
1. Ghosts on the island of Poveglia
There are many myths surrounding the island of Poveglia. Some calling it the most haunted island in the world. With such a title there must be some ghosts? Well, let’s dig a bit deeper. One of the legends surrounding Poveglia is that during the Plague in the 1700’s, it was used as a Quarantine center where many people are believed to have died. While this is true, a lot of less people died and were buried here than people actually believe. Later, people said that the island and the abandoned buildings that remain there were actually part of a secret psychiatric hospital during the early 1900s where a doctor performed cruel experimental lobotomies on patients. When one of his patient’s died, from one of the doctor’s cruel experiments, the ghostly former patient haunted him. Driving the doctor to complete madness, where he climbed to the top of the bell tower and threw himself off it, breaking every bone in his body. Then a nurse found the doctor, to which she claims she saw a ghost strangle him. As compelling and gruesome as this story is, this myth is completely false! The island is actually a Venetian favorite. It used to double up as a great picnic area in days past during the summer and a place to swim for locals on their boats. As the water by Poveglia is some of the cleanest, clearest in the whole Venetian lagoon. If you have a chance to visit definitely visit it via Kayak with the amazing Poveglia tour with the crew from Venice Kayak. If kayaking is not your thing, try one of the amazing Poveglia tours with the team from Classic Boats Venice aboard their handcrafted traditional Venetian boats.
2. Venice Closes
We really wish we did not have to say this but so many times we have heard from locals that tourists have asked them, “when does the city close?” This is a common question asked on travel message boards on the internet as well as to local shop owners by tourists. One hotel manager, has told me that it is a question that he gets quite often. Venice does not and will never close! At night you can see people on the streets from Fondamenta Misericordia to Campo Santa Margherita enjoying cocktails and music.
3. People do not actually live in Venice
My mother as she was walking out of our flat was once asked by a very kind Israeli tourist, “Excuse me, do you live here?” To which my mother said, “Yes, I do. How can I help?” The lovely Israeli tourist was astonished saying, “Wow, I did not believe people could actually leave here. Lucky you!” To that I say yes, lucky, mom.
4. Dolphins in Venice
During the Quarantine of Italy due to COVID-19 the internet was full of posts containing images and videos claiming to show dolphins in the canals of Venice. While these were real dolphins within the images and videos, they were however not in Venice but along the coast of Sardegna. Now, this is not to say that there are no dolphins in Venice. There are sightings of dolphins in Venice, but by the Venetian seaside, not in the canals. Dolphins have been known to swim near the coast and have been spotted near Lido and Pellestrina.
5. The water in Venice is Dirty
Many people coming to Venice will observe that the water in Venice is murky or has low visibility. While this is true, Venice’s water is rather clean and, in the lagoon, you can actually enjoy a relaxing swim. One of the coolest features about the lagoon of Venice is, that the water is constantly being moved out due to the currents and new water comes in pushing the so-called older water out making way for cleaner water. The murkiness can be attributed to the fact that the bottom of the Venetian canals are natural mud banks that do provide the foundation for loads of sea life including algae, seaweed and fish.
6. Venice is smelly like a sewer
Venice is a magical city built in a swamp on the mudbanks over a thousand years ago is a work of human ingenuity and artistry. With this said, any city near the sea will have a rather unique smell. This is part due to currents changing, the tides rising and lowering, the wind bringing in the sea salt, scent of algae and seaweed in to the air we breathe in. All of these factors contribute to what many might confuse as smelling like a sewer. This might be a more prominent odor for some guests who have not been near the sea that much. If you have, there is nothing strange in the smell.
7. Venice is sinking and it is the new Atlantis
In 2019, Venice saw some of its highest water levels in years. These raising water levels, crippled the city, flooding Venice and leaving many businesses in ruins. While this traumatic event was definitely extreme leaving a wake of destruction, this is an annual example of the natural phenomena called by Venetians as “acqua alta”. This annual high water brings in higher water levels due to the changing phases of the moon and its effect on the tides, coupled with changing winds out at sea, which can also have an effect on the change of current. It is seasonal and most Venetians expect it. One of the biggest ecological effects on Venice raising water levels are due to increased boat traffic coupled with daily cruise ships driving through the lagoon. The waves and size of ships is disturbing the natural mud bottom of Venice. In years past, the Venetian government would dig out the canals making them deeper, preventing the problem of the high water. The prescription, would be dig out the canals again, less boat traffic, no more cruise ships and more traditional rowing boats please!
8. You can’t drive a boat in Venice
Angelina by your side driving a classic boat through the canals looking like you could be the guy that played Jack Sparrow, what a dream. Many guests that visit Venice, would love to have the chance to drive through Venice but are often disheartened that they cannot or don’t know all the rules. Well this in not entirely true. You actually can, there are places within the Venetian lagoon where guests are allowed to rent a boat and travel to. With the help of the boat rental team from Classic Boats Venice you can. Located on the island of Certosa, one of the over 100 islands of Venice, Classic Boats Venice offers bare boat charter rentals aboard their handcrafted classic Venetian boats equipped with an electric engine. The cool part is no license required. If you have a license and are quite skilled like James Bond they offer more experienced guests, their classic 1972 Riva Rudy for bare boat charter.
9. There are fish in the Canals
Throughout Venice, whether you are walking alongside the canals or are on a classic boat in the lagoon, there are fish everywhere in Venice. From sardines, to sea bream and sea bass, Venice has a lot. Fish are the lifeline for the Venetian people. They are also quite proud of their rich lagoon waters. Every Venetian restaurant you go to will offer a variety of fish and shellfish dishes from the lagoon. Definitely visit the Rialto fish market early on the weekdays and speak with the local fish mongers from the island of Burano who have an encyclopedic knowledge of the fish in Venice.
10. There is no nature in Venice
Venice is built in nature. Nature surrounds and creates the otherworldly view that is the Venetian lagoon. From the farming island of Sant’Erasmo where produce grows in vast abundance to the rugged island paths of Certosa, where trees and wild rabbits crowd the island, Venice is teaming with wild nature. Along with, the beautiful lagoon waters, you can find many species of birds including flamingos during the spring season. The Venetian lagoon is also home to some beautiful salt marshes. Without Nature Venice is nothing.