How Venice Works: 124 Islands, 183 Canals & 438 Bridges

3,000,000 tourists move through Venice each year. But when the tourists leave the city, 60,000 year-round res­i­dents stay behind, con­tin­u­ing their dai­ly lives, which requires nav­i­gat­ing an arch­i­pel­ago made up of 124 islands, 183 canals and 438 bridges. How this com­pli­cat­ed city works – how the build­ings are defend­ed from water, how the build­ings stand on unsteady ground, how the Vene­tians nav­i­gate this maze of a city – is a pret­ty fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ry. These tech­niques have been worked out over Venice’s 1500 year his­to­ry, and now they’re explored in a cap­ti­vat­ing 17 minute video pro­duced by a Venet­ian gov­ern­ment agency. You can learn more about the inner life of this great city at Venice Back­stage.

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Comments (6)
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  • Misciel says:

    Actu­al­ly, the native pop­u­la­tion in the his­toric island cen­ter of Venice is only about 60,000 today (when you don’t count the mod­ern set­tle­ment of Mestre on the main­land but still with­in the offi­cial city lim­its), down almost 100,000 from the mid­dle of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry! As you might get the impres­sion from this sump­tu­ous video, island Venice is a beau­ti­ful city but not an easy one to live in…

  • Open Culture says:

    Hi Misciel,

    Thanks for the cor­rec­tion. Wikipedia list­ed the pop­u­la­tion as 270,000 but I guess that is for the greater metro area and not strict­ly the city itself. I cor­rect­ed the fig­ure.

    Many thanks,

  • Trev says:

    Crap! I can’t stop watch­ing this.

    Thanks, Dan. I don’t know what I would do with­out your site.

  • Allison G. says:

    Awe­some video- thanks for post­ing it! I have nev­er been to Venice, but I am dying to go– espe­cial­ly after watch­ing this!

  • rami said says:

    this is very good video and i will be there to see soon

  • Torogata says:

    In ancient times peo­ple from the main­land dumped their trash in the shal­low lagoon. When bar­bar­ians, Arabs, etc invad­ed from the land side the natives took refuge in the dump. Then they fig­ured out it was eas­i­er to just build homes there using the old Roman method of dri­ving stakes into the mud. The dump became a great mil­i­tary and mer­chant pow­er. Slow­ly but sure­ly it’s sink­ing, pylons and all, into obliv­ion.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.