APRIL 2021 – A vaporetto in Venice has been transformed into a ‘medical centre’ delivering vaccines to the islands of the lagoon. The vaporetto has been painted bright red. Yesterday, Easter Monday, knowns as Pasquetta in Italy, the red vaporetto was heading for Sant’Elena, one of the islands in the lagoon. At Sant’Elena about one hundred older residents received the Astra Zeneca vaccination. In the coming days the vaporetto will visit Pellestrina, Burano and the other islands. This is great news for Venice and for Italy too. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There are no cars or roads in Venice, so the only way to get around is either on foot or by boat. For the islanders in the lagoon the vaporetto is their link with the rest of the world.
VAPORETTO – the standard water bus service in Venice is called a vaporetto. It is a big, heavy, metal-hulled work horse, the design is pretty well unchanged since the 1920s. They are called ‘vaporetto’ because they were originally steam-driven engines. Vapore in Italian means steam or fumes. In this case vaporetto, little steamer, refers to these boats that were originally steamers. The vaporettos ply the waters of the lagoon linking Venice with the islands. There are about 20 lines which operate 24 hours a day. The night service is much less frequent. The No. 2 service runs the length of the Grand Canal from Piazzale Roma to Bacino San Marco and then on to Lido – it is the slowest service you can image. In normal times the vaporetto services are crowded with tourists. For the last year they have been strangely empty.
There are smaller, faster water buses operating the less touristy routes, these have fewer stops and are aimed more at locals, travelling to the hospital for example. When we were based on the Lido we seemed to be on the 5.2 and 5.1 all the time. The old diesel engines were the noisiest pieces of mechanical joy I’ve ever experienced. The green revolution is coming in Venice and there are one or two hybrid vaporettos that will eventually replace the noisy, old diesel engines, with quiet, clean, electric power. I’d give it twenty years based on the experiences building the flood barrier across the entrance to the lagoon – known as MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettro Meccanico) which is now operational and protects Venice from high water and flooding from the Adriatic Sea. The devastating high water of November 2019 created a flurry of activity which resulted in a working flood barrier just ten months later (after more than twenty years of mismanagement and corruption) Acqua Alta – Venice
The lagoon of Venice is roughly 80 kms from north to south and about 20 kms from west to east – it is a vast river delta, where the rivers Brenta, Piave, Sile and Dese make their way out to the Adriatic Sea. Everything in Venice and its surrounding islands has to be transported by boat. Everything.
Notes – I’ve been writing and commenting on Venice, Italy, The Alps for years. For articles on Venice I’d suggest:
- An A-Z of Venice – it’s purely personal
- Venice Carnival 2020 – A visual reminder
- Venice and the lagoon, a vast natural harbour…
- Venice – from cradle to grave
- Venice – there’s treasure in every church
PLAGUE – Venice is no stranger to plague and disease. Venice invented the word ‘quarantine’ coming from ‘quaranta’ meaning forty. This was the number of days crew members were kept isolated, if disease or plague was suspected. You can read more about Venice and plague here:
- Venice – Health, Quarantine and Santa Maria della Salute
- The origins of the term “quarantine”
- Venice and The Redentore