Today, as in the past, everything in Venice still travels by water. The only modern touch being the use of motorized boats. Motorized watercraft of all types ply through the canals in place of more tiring oar-powered ones, but a large number of devotees still go rowing in their free time.
Everything goes by water. It’s impossible to imagine the city without this aspect which has defended it in the past, surrounds it, and makes it unique, even while creating some problems.
The water buses of Venice or “vaporetti” run along the Grand Canal loaded down with passengers. Crafts of all types leave the mainland every morning loaded with goods of all kinds to resupply the city.
A vast array of multicolored boats of all shapes and sizes glide narrowly by each other, revealing their cargo that anywhere else would be shipped by lorry.
Enthroned on every boat, usually at the bow or sometimes on top of the cargo, is the obligatory trolley cart. This device is indispensable for the onward transport of cargo at its final destination once the boat is moored as close as possible to it.
A comic air surrounds these “water rats”, or motorized crafts of all sizes, that are adapted to transport goods and have an internal motor and long bar controlling the tiller. You can see the drivers with their backs leaning up against the bar. Sometimes, they actually straddle it and guide the boat with their body movements while their free hands are occupied browsing through the newspaper, talking on the telephone, or staying in pockets to keep warm.
Police craft, water ambulances, or fire brigade boats run along the canal with their sirens blaring. Also, water taxis and large boats disposing tons of waste daily create traffic on the Venetian canals which is nothing less than the automobile congestion found in any other city.
For Venetians, boats are an inseparable part of everyday life. In the past, it was a widely spread custom for newlyweds to leave the church after the ceremony by gondola.
Those who don’t come from Venice often have the idea that all Venetians own boats and do everything with them, just like people in other places use automobiles. But, it’s not the case.
Many Venetians do have a boat but they use it only in their free time to go fishing or to get to some out of the way spot in the lagoon where they can sunbathe or have a swim in good weather.
One even makes “the final journey” by boat in Venice, toward the island of San Michele, the city’s cemetery.