Venice’s Centro Storico is Europe’s largest car-free space, comments David Dudley at Citi Lab -- “a medieval city that somehow managed to make it into the 21st century nearly untouched by internal combustion.” And “lemme tell you,” he adds, “it’s weird.” As he explains, “the city’s 438 bridges, 183 canals, impossibly narrow streets, and countless steps make motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, wheelchairs, hoverboards, rollerblades, and just about anything else that rolls useless, if not illegal … so intense is the Venetian animus toward rolling things that the city mulled banning rolling suitcases, because the clatter of hard wheels on paving stones makes such a din in tourist-laden areas.” And that creates silence -- “the ever-present roar of traffic—the Great American Background Noise—is nonexistent, and the city is so hushed that even streets thronged with pedestrians are basically peaceful.”
In a city that covers just two square miles, space is at a premium. Lonely Planet offers these helpful Venetian road rules:
Walk in single file and keep right along narrow streets to let people pass in either direction, and make way for anyone who says permesso (excuse me).
Pull over to the side if you want to check out a shop window or snap a photo, but don’t linger for long: this is the pedestrian equivalent of double-parking your car.
Keep moving on smaller bridges, where stalled shutterbugs can cause traffic jams.
Offer to lend a hand if you see someone struggling with a stroller or heavy bag on a bridge.
Organise your bags in as little space as possible on the vaporetto, and remove back packs.
Don’t sit, sprawl, lie or sunbathe on the ground anywhere. Hundreds of people need to walk over that exact piece of terra firma you’re occupying.
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