9 Fun Facts About Venice We Bet You Didn’t Know

April 24, 2024

Venice is a city that has fascinated many for centuries, a city completely man made, transformed into one of the most beautiful in Italy. Visitors come to wonder at the beautiful architecture and churches, to delight in a little spritz and cicchetti, to gaze at the stunning views over the Adriatic and perhaps take part in a tour of Venice to see the famous sites.  

But how much do you know about this ancient city? We’ve collected a few of our favorite fun facts about Venice we bet you didn’t know! Read on to learn more about one of our favorite cities in Italy.  

Venice has its very own calendar!

Before the existence of the Gregorian calendar we all know today, the republic of Venice counted time a bit differently. This Venetian calendar was similar to the ancient Roman one, which began the calendar year in March. This made sense as it was the beginning of spring, a time for new rebirth.  

Known as the More Veneto, meaning “in the Venetian Manner”, the calendar stuck around a lot longer than you might think. Many regions officially adopted the Gregorian calendar in the late 1500s, but Venice continued to use its own until 1797!  

If you take a look around you may even see some dates marked by the old calendar, just look for the symbol m.v. 

Un caffè? Venice was the first in Italy to enjoy it!

coffee in venice

Fun facts about Venice? Coffee was introduced in Venice after Prospero Alpini discovered it on a trip to Egypt in 1570. Photo credit: Fede de Rodt

That’s right, one of our favorite symbols of Italian culture first came through the canals of Venice.

In 1570, Prospero Alpini, discovered coffee while traveling in Egypt on a trip to the Venetian Republic. Alpini was the first Italian to botanically register the plant and study the benefits of its beans.

However, it wasn’t for another century that coffee came to the table: with the first “coffee shop” open in St. Mark’s Square. Then in 1720 Caffè Florian opened, making it the oldest cafe in the city – another one of the fun facts about Venice you

Looking for the best coffee around Venice? We’ve got you. 

Venice on film: The first moving camera shot in history…or was it?

On October 25, 1896, Jean Alexandre Louis Promio, a French filmmaker and photographer, started experimenting in Venice and believed he was making the first moving camera shot.

However, he had been beaten!Just a few days earlier, director Girel had actually filmed the first tracking shot along the Rhine River. Unfortunately, Promio didn’t learn the truth until later.  The clip captured life on the Grand Canal, and premiered in Lyon on December 13, 1897, under the title Panorama du Grand Canal pris d’un bateau. 

A city built on sticks – Venice is held up by wood

venice built on wood

One of the most fun facts about Venice is that was originally built on wooden logs that acted as a barrier from swamp waters. Photo credit: Joshua Stannard

Venice is stunning, the architecture alone is enough to wow us. But what’s even more impressive is that all those piazzas and palazzi are being held up out of the water by thick wooden poles

Ready for one of the most fun facts about Venice? The area where it lies was once thick, muddy swampland. It was impossible to build a city here, so the first settlers had to build the city above the land and water

The original Lagoon was drained to dig canals and install wooden logs acting as barriers. Wooden platforms were then laid on top, serving as the base of Venice. It has a layer of wood, then stone, then the streets you walk on.

However, it is due to this construction that Venice is, unfortunately, slowly sinking into the Adriatic Sea. 

Venice is made up of 118 islands

Murano, Venice

Murano is one of Venice’s colourful little islands famous for Murano glass – a collector’s item. Photo credit: Kevin Charit

The fish-shaped city we consider a single area is made up of tens of little islands. Greater Venice includes at least 118 islands in total, but this includes the nearby areas of Burano, Murano and more

It may be impossible to visit every 118, but wandering through the city you’ll touchdown on a few, and if you’d like to make a quick trip to somewhere new, here are a few of our favorite islands:

  • Burano: the colorful fisherman’s island will bring a little joy to any day. The houses were painted fun colors to be seen by fishermen returning home, no matter the gray or stormy weather. The island is also famous for its incredible handmade lace. 
  • Murano: famous for its glass making, Murano is a relaxed little island, great for a quick day trip from Venice. You can learn about what makes Murano glass so sought after and take a break from the crowds of Saint Mark’s Square. 
  • Lido di Venezia: if you are a big fan of cinema, you might have already heard of this island. It’s where the annual Venice Film Festival is held! When it isn’t welcoming international stars, it is a popular beach spot for locals thanks to its sand beaches. 
  • San Michele: the island dedicated to the monumental cemetery of Venice. You’ll find the tombs of many well-known figures of history such as Igor Stravinsky and Ezra Pound. 

Ever seen a woman gondoliere? There’s only one!

gondola in Venice

Many visitors to Venice take a ride on a gondola, but one of the fun facts about Venice is that there is just one woman gondoliere. Photo credit: Ludovico Lovisetto

This honored profession of Venice was a tradition that was passed from father to son. It was a treasured career that never opened the opportunity for women to try.

However, nearly a thousand years after the profession first began, a gondolier had a single daughter, Giorgia Boscolo, and she was allowed to pursue the career. So, in 2010, she became the official first, and only female gondoliere

While Giorgia is the only female to take you around in a gondola, that isn’t to say other women of Venice have joined in the boating tradition in other ways: such as building! 

Those gorgeous Venetian masks used to be illegal!

Venetian masks

Venetian marks, now a popular momento to take home after a trip to Venice, were actually banned at one point. Photo credit: Stephen McFadden

Throughout the whole year visitors love to grab a gorgeous local mask, used during the Carnival season. The masks are truly a symbol of the city, and its favorite celebration.

The tradition started in the 1200s, and through the centuries continued to become more popular. It was in the 1600-1700s that they reached their peak, and wealthy individuals of Venice had taken to wearing them often. This bothered the local government, and they made a restriction, that masks could only be worn during the period of Christmas to Lent

But why did they become so popular around carnevale? Carnevale, the time before Lent is when people like to get rowdy, the tradition still exists worldwide: whether it is being a bit goloso, eating all the sweets, or having a little extra to drink and dancing through the streets.  

Historically these masks were used to hide the identities of anyone who wanted to partake in activities not exactly approved by the Church. Now, this didn’t always mean they were for criminals, more often they were worn when meeting with a lover. And it was for that reason, among others, they were occasionally made illegal around Venice.  

Ciao: The most famous Italian greeting came from Venice!

Many of us, even non-Italians, use the greeting ‘ciao’ when meeting friends. So, if you are looking for more fun facts about Venice, you may be interested to know the saying originated in the city.  

In Venetian dialect locals used to say “s’ciavo” (think similar to “shyavo”), literally slave or servant, as a type of greeting. The pronunciation in Italian would normally be “schiavo” (Skya-vo). The meaning behind it was a way to say, “I am your servant”, essentially how we might say “How may I help you?” or “At your service”.

While at first it was used between social classes – those in the lower classes used it to greet people in the upper classes – it slowly became popular with everyone. Eventually the s and the v were dropped when said quickly and ciao became popular throughout northern Italy. 

That lion in San Marco has more to say

san marco lion

The San Marco lion became the symbol of Venice. Photo credit: Daniele Barison

Ever notice the winged lion atop the column just off St. Mark’s Square? This lion is a symbol of St. Mark became the symbol of Venice itself. Usually, you will see it with one paw on top of a book (supposedly the gospel).  

However, if you look closely as you travel through the city and Veneto region, you’ll notice it might change. The book may be open or closed. If you notice it open, it is said that the depiction was made when Venice was at peace. If it was shown closed, it was a time when they were at war.

Another legend is that it was a symbol of taxation outside of Venice: if the book were open, it was a city that owed taxes to Venice, if closed, that town didn’t have to pay.  

There are, of course, many more fun facts about Venice that you should discover. But we’ll leave it to you to make a visit to the wonderful city, explore the hidden gems, and find out for yourself. 


by Gina Mussio

View more by Gina ›

Follow us

Stay up to date with travel tips, local insights and all things Italy on our social channels!

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get curated Italy travel tips delivered to your inbox!

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now