With the cruise ships gone and the souvenir stalls closed, the coronavirus lockdown has transformed La Serenissima’s waterways
Look down into the waters of the Venice canals today and there is a surprising sight – not just a clear view of the sandy bed, but shoals of tiny fish, scuttling crabs and multicoloured plant-life.
“The water is blue and clear,” said Gloria Beggiato, who owns the celebrated Metropole Hotel a few steps from St Mark’s square and has a view over the Venice lagoon. “It is calm like a pond, because there are no more waves caused by motorised boats transporting day-tripper tourists. And of course, the giant cruise ships have disappeared.”
Under Venice’s strict rules of self-confinement to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – all journeys but a trip to walk the dog or buy food are forbidden – the ancient city has been transformed almost overnight.
La Serenissima’s hundreds of canals have been emptied of speeding motorboat taxis, transport and tourist boats. The chugging vaporetti water buses now run on a reduced timetable. Even most of the gondolas are moored.
The clarity of the water has improved dramatically. Cormorants have returned to dive for fish they can now see. At the Piazzale Roma vaporetto stop, ducks have even made a nest. “Someone has put up a sign saying, ‘Don’t tread on the duck eggs,’’” Beggiato said. “All totally unimaginable a while ago.”