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VENICE BY KAYAK

From the Grand Canal to the narrowest waterways, a surprising and unique point of view
Travel itineraries, hiking, kayaking and sailing in Italy and around the world

Venice is a unique city, among the most beautiful, famous and touristic of the world. Yet, there is an ideal means of transport to see Venice from an absolutely original point of view: a kayak. Paddling through the canals of the center, in fact, you can admire Venice from a truly unexpected (and, of course, wonderful) perspective. Instead of half a kilometer gondola ride for a hundred Euros, you can wander for free by kayak along the canals for dozens of kilometers without getting bored.
Obviously, you have to be experienced paddlers! The cramped conditions in certain parts of the Serenissima and the traffic in the Grand Canal and in the canals of central Venice can be face only if you can maneuver the kayak with a centimetric precision.
So, first, here's a map of our kayaking trip (of course it's approximate, our zig-zags were many more and as unforgettable as impossible to remember with precision):

Venice by kayak, map
Kayaking in Venice, from Mestre to Murano and then exploring the canals of the historice city center; map
Itinerary
We left Mestre on a Saturday morning. From the coast in front of Venice, it was 4 kms to the historic center. Initially we went to Murano, because the central canals of Venice can be explored by kayak only after 1PM on Saturday (as well as all day on Sunday and after 3PM on weekdays).
The first paddle strokes to Murano were a tasty introduction to what we would see: beautiful buildings on the water and tourists who looked at us with a mixture of envy, sympathy and compassion. I think that on that weekend we were the second most photographed attraction of Venice, after San Marco and before the Rialto Bridge.

Quickly cutting the channels between Murano and the cemetery and between the cemetery and Venice (you must be skilled enough to avoid being hit by a boat or a ferry), we entered enthusiastically the center of Venice, and we were immediately stunned.
Venice by kayak
The obvious happiness and satisfaction someone feels when crossing Venice by kayak:)
Venice by kayak
Paddling along the canals it's possible to admire parts of the city not reachable on foot
Paddling along the canals was really a joy. The only problem was that the water was incredibily dirty, the wors things floated on its surface and often we smelt foul odors. So, besides Venice we felt a bit like we were in the Gange river. It was an experience for sensitive spirits but also strong stomachs.

The kayak took us to the district of Cannaregio and central Venice, where the buildings became more and more beautiful and monumental. We touched the Grand Canal, where the waves caused by the motorboats and the continuous passage of ferries made the paddling less pleasant than in the smaller waterways of Venice.
The views, however, were still superb.
Venice and Grand Canal by kayak Venice and Grand Canal by kayak
The Grand Canal, here pictured just beyond the Rialto bridge, is surrounded by imposing buildings
Venice and gondola from the kayak Venice and gondola from the kayak
Following the gondolas by kayak, being careful to not disturb and admiring the most stunning parts of Venice
Then we arrived in front of Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square), and it was an awesome moment.
We paddled under the "Ponte dei Sospiri" (Bridge of Sighs). Here you have to be very careful and avoid any little delay to the gondolas, or otherwise you get insulted. Indeed, despite the fact that we were the only kayak in Venice that Saturday, for some gondoliers our existence could cause enormous problems in the city. We were very careful and respectful and many other gondoliers greeted us friendly... I don't know why some people must always be nervous and arrogant. Their problem anyway!
As for us, we enjoyed that fantastic paddling among some of the most beautiful monuments of the world.
Venice and piazza San Marco by kayak Venice and piazza San Marco by kayak
By kayak in front of Palazzo dei Dogi, Piazza San Marco and many gondolas
Venice and Ponte dei Sospiri by kayak Venice and Ponte dei Sospiri by kayak
The Ponte dei Sospiri, near San Marco, one of the most visited places in Venice
At one point we did a walking tour of the city, and in the chaos of tourists who visited Venice I started feeling bored. Walking arounf seemed trivial and limited. I was happy to go back to the kayak.
We wandered for canals and small waterways, we passed under the Rialto Bridge, we paddled along almost the whole Grand Canal; finally, at cocktail hour, "we parked" the kayak in an alley behind San Marco. We drank some wine and then we had dinner in a restaurant (strangely it wasn't too expensive) where we had: sardines in sauce, "baccalà", and Venetian-style liver.

At 10PM we resumed kayaking we crossed Venice by night. It was really a thrilling experience. We were in a canal a little out of the main tourist sposts when we paddled along a row of lively bars. We moored and we elegantly stopped for a drink.
Venice by kayak by night
The charm of paddling by night through the streets of downtown Venice...
Venice by kayak by night
Once moored the kayak, it's possible to have a beer in the most glamorous bars:)
From Venice we paddled for two kilometers in the open waters of the lagoon toward the island of Campalto. It was midnight, but thanks to the torches we were able to get an idea of the small island until we found a spot where to land. We pitched the tents on a lawn next to some trees and to a BBQ grill: on the island of Campalto camping was free and that evening there was no one else, but there were clear signs that the place was often frequented by campers.
As a more comfortable alternative, you could also look for the most convenient hotels in Venice here.
The next morning we quickly visited the island of Campalto, we packed, we loaded the kayak and we sailed again to the center of Venice. We found other beautiful canals where to go kayaking - I think that in two days we paddled for about 50 kms, but I am sure there are many more channels to see.
Venice by kayak Venice by kayak
After camping on Campalto island we wandered by kayak in the canals of Venice...
Venice by kayak Venice by kayak
...in freedom, we photographed random fascinating corners of this stunning city
After a lunch in which we tried the creamed cod with polenta, we resumed kayaking and at mid-afternoon we left Venice. We went back to Mestre, where our trip ended... a truly memorable weekend.
I copy here a map with a detail itinerary of the historic center and the canals wehere we traveled by kayak - it is not precise as we had no GPS, but it can give you an idea of just how many possible itineraries you may follow in the center of Venice.
Venice by kayak, map
Venice center by kayak; map
For those who are used to go paddling, Venice offers obviously a completely different and unique environment: try it! The dirty water shoudln't discourage you, it will still be one of the most incredible kayaking trips of your life!

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You can find more photos (with higher resolution) of the kayaking trip in Venice in this photogallery:
Venice by kayak
All photos from Venice visited by kayak

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