Talking Venetian

If you  arrive in Venice by train, this is what you see first as you walk out of the station.

Because there are no streets as we understand them, Venetians have different words for different types of pedestrian passages.

These narrow streets are called calle.


This calle is wider, has shops on both sides, and leads into a campo, or square. Streets that were originally paved (as opposed to mud paths) were called salizada.

A street that runs along a canal is a fondamenta.


Here’s a canal, a fondamenta, and a calle.

The Zattere is a long boulevard-y fondamenta along the Giudecca Canal, the channel separating Venice proper from the adjacent island of Giudecca.


Altanas, which are not unique to Venice, are wooden decks built on rooftops.


The altana on the left is smallish. The one on the right is adjacent to the roof terrace of the building I lived in near the Accademia.


A pozzo is a well. Since Venice had no access to fresh water until an aqueduct was built in 1886, they depended on capturing rain in these clever pozzi built over cisterns with sand filtration systems. Every campo, or square, had a pozzo, as did the courtyards and gardens of people who could afford them. When water was finally piped into the city, the pozzi were sealed. In order to qualify as a campo, a square needed both a church and a pozzo; if it had only a pozzo, it was considered a campiello — a little square.



A sottoportego is a passageway where a street runs though the ground floor of a building.


Here is a sottoportego leading to a campiello with a pozzo.

Acqua alta, which literally means “high water”, refers to the recurring extremely high tides that flood much of the city. Wooden walkways above the sidewalks, called passarelle, are put out in advance (hopefully) of the acqua alta.



Acqua alta doesn’t stop anyone from grabbing a coffee at their favorite bar.


The campi are the centers of neighborhood life. This is Campo San Giacomo del’Orio where I shopped and grabbed coffee and sat and watched the Tuesday night tango dancing for three years until I moved near the Accademia.


Venice is divided into six districts or sestieri: San Marco, Castello, Canagreggio, Dorsoduro, San Polo, and Santa Croce. Campo San Giacomo is in Santa Croce.

Laundry day in Castello.

The library of the San Giorgio Maggiore complex, dating to the renaissance, had a nice filing system: an author’s works were shelved under his statue. You had to know what Plato or Plautus looked like.


And a couple miscellaneous items I couldn’t resist.

A renaissance keystone on an arch over a water door along a canal. You always have to look up as well as down when walking in Venice; you never know what you might see.

A group of school children stop to listen to this gentleman play “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” on crystal glasses filled to different levels with water to produce different tones. This particular spot was not far from my garden gate, and with my windows open I often heard him playing. He’s pretty good although the repertoire is limited.








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