A Semester in Italy – Venice, City of Water – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Semester in Italy – Venice, City of Water – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports


Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Venice, which has been on my ‘bucket list’ for years. I was very excited to visit this Italian city because of the well-known transportation system on the canal roads. I was expecting some canals and some streets but all of the roads are water. There are sidewalks in between buildings and piazzas where you can shop or eat but all transportation is water based. Cars and motorcycles are not allowed on the island of Venice, biking would be hard due to the bridges with stairs at the end of every path. The city is very condensed with narrow passages between the buildings, which the island is filled of. This makes the city a sort of maze; it is very easy to get lost. It is small enough that when you are lost, you can just wander around until you find someone to give you correct directions.


First off, to get into Venice you can take a train or car across a large bridge to get to the city. To travel between the smaller islands of Venice or within the city, you need to take some sort of boat. These can be personal boats, water-taxis, water-buses or gondolas. It seems that many local people own boats, as this is the easiest way to get around if you are traveling to the other side of the city. You can see the small boats parked and tied up along the canals in the city. There is one main canal that is bigger and gives the option of taking a water-bus. The traditional gondolas are all around the city but do not travel from island to island. I rode in a gondola very briefly because taking it to your final destination would be very ‘spendy’.


One of our days in Venice was spent exploring two of the smaller islands: Burano and Murano. To get to these we took a water-bus, which was a fun experience. First you buy a ticket or pass for a certain number of hours, this gets you through the gates and to your water-bus platform. When the bus arrives and is tied down, you are allowed to enter the floating platform to load the bus. The bus ride took about 45 minutes to one of the islands where we had to catch another water-bus to Burano. Seeing this island was my favorite part of the trip. It is known for it’s colorful houses and lace making. Each house is a vibrant color and no two neighboring houses are the same color. This island had a few canals running through the buildings with sidewalks running along the waterways.


The other island we visited was Murano. This island is known for it’s glass blowing; this is apparent when walking along the main canal and seeing that every other shop is a glass shop. It is not hard to find a specialty of an area. For example, Venice is known for it’s masquerade masks and you can find them around every corner. Venice was full of tourists but it was nice to explore the neighborhoods off of the beaten path and see all of the sights that this unique city has to offer.

About our special correspondent Sara: I am a junior at St. Scholastica majoring in Computer Science with a concentration of Software Engineering. I am staying in a small town about 25 minutes outside of Florence, Italy with a HECUA program. My current studies are focused on Agriculture and Sustainability, which is very interesting to learn about in Europe. I chose this program because Italy has always been a place that I wanted to visit, mainly due to the fact that my great-grandfather came here from southern Italy. This is my first time in Europe and it has been quite the experience so far. I am excited for even more experiences as I gain a better understanding of the community!

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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu


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14 responses to “A Semester in Italy – Venice, City of Water – by Sara Desrocher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. Sofia Pineda

    I think that it is fascinating to learn about the different transportation systems established/used in different part of the world. I think that these, even though rarely considered so, are a big part of a nation’s culture. Transportations systems usually dictate the speed or pace of a place and consequently a characteristic of a culture. Also, in many places, I also think that they reflect economic levels. Why is public transportation better in some nations? Is it because they have the resources and can fund them?

  2. Michaela Campbell

    It is quite amazing to think that an entire city can sustain itself through the use of water canals. I love being able to hear about your experiences, and then being able to compare how things differ here in the United States. Professor Liang often brings up the concept of identity in class, and it is always interesting to note that even people who live in the same city identity differently from each other based on what their skills are. You mentioned Burano known for lace-making, and Murano known for glass-blowing, and I assume that there is a sense of pride between these various islands in being able to produce something that someone else is not necessarily as good at. Identity is an important piece in the various people that you encounter abroad, therefore I can’t wait to hear more about your experiences!

  3. Dylan Brovick

    I did not know much about Venice so this article really opened my eyes. A city where traveling is done only by boat sounds really unique. From the pictures above and from others that I have seen the city is very beautiful. I like that the towns have something that they specialize in like glass blowing and the masquerade masks. These towns probably take great pride in their work and that would be why it is on every corner in those towns because that skill is something that may have been passed down for generations and gives the people living their an identity. Lastly the idea of traveling through canals would change the way people live by having to allow more time to get around I’m guessing, compared to here where I can just get in my car be somewhere in a matter of minutes. This city interest me a lot and I too someday hope that I can see it with my own eyes.

  4. Mary Tran

    I find it very fascinating to learn about Venice’s transportation system on the canal roads and how cars and motorcycles are not allowed on the island. It’s interesting to read how in order to travel in Venice, you need to take some sort of boat between islands or within the city. How much does it cost to travel by boat to get around Venice? I think it’s very interesting how Burano is known for lace making and colorful houses, whereas Murano is known for glass blowing. Is there anything else that you found unique or fascinating about these islands? Did you travel to any other islands during your stay in Venice? Thank you for sharing your experience in Italy, Sara! I can’t wait to hear more about it!

  5. Thomas Landgren

    Thanks Sara for sharing your experience in Venice. It’s so sad that in acouple years Venice will soon be gone because of the rising tides that are destroying the foundations. I find it really interesting that there are basically no streets on the island. The idea of using boats as the main source of transportation in Venice is really cool. I wonder what the carbon score is for Venice? How rich is the economy in Venice do they mainly rely on tourism? Great Article!

  6. McKenna Holman

    How was traveling by water? I feel as though that much traveling by water would make me sea sick! It sounds amazing though and really beautiful. It is interesting to see how transportation affects cultures. It would be incredibly strange to see a town in the United States that primarily uses water buses and boats, but in other parts of the world it is just natural for them. Which island did you enjoy most? They both sound absolutely beautiful.

  7. Emily Hanson

    Traveling by water sounds so amazing! I’m sure it took awhile to adjust to, however. I think it has such a huge impact on their culture and society. Plus the amount of fuel and emissions that they don’t have to worry about must be astonishing! It would be so interesting to experience something like that in America. We obviously don’t have the amount of water nessicary but if we did, I wonder if we would utilize it?

  8. Andrew Bailey

    Sara, it is very interesting to here about such a different style of transportation. I wonder if there is any major flooding in the city of Venice, and what impact this mode of transportation has on the people. I would think that the society is much slower, compared to Western culture that is so fast paced. If we want to travel somewhere we can hop into a car or taxi and get where we need to go within minutes, but as you noted traveling to the other side of the city can take up to an hour… and it is also quite expensive.

  9. Alex Oliver

    Venice, Italy would be such a cool city to see and explore. The water taxis is such a unique thing to have happen. That city has such a rich and historic history to it. I think that if I went there I would have to walk everywhere, especially since most of the taxi boats are expensive. I know it seems like a bad comparison but from reading this Venice kinda sounds like Duluth. Full of boat tours, canals, tourist shops, Canal Park/Venice Island, and beautiful views.

  10. It is so fascinating to learn about a place where the primary mode of transportation is boating. We rely on cars so much in the US it would be very interesting to study a culture that not only doesn’t use them, but aren’t allowed to on their home island. While filled with tourists, I wonder how the Venetians live their day to day lives, and if they struggle to say- find a parking spot for their boat! Is there bad weather that could effect transportation, or is the weather mostly favorable thus not creating an issue? I would love to visit someday myself. Thank you for your report!

  11. Ashley Kittelson

    While reading this article, I could not help but think of the infrastructure required to keep Venice above water. The buildings must all be constructed on pilings, which inevitably degrade. Although wood degrades more slowly deeper under water, this is still a concern – even in the Duluth shipping canals. I wonder how much maintenance must go into repairing these. To me this seems like a monumental challenge to overcome to build a city. I also wonder how many tourists consider these challenges when visiting the city.

  12. Ashley Hamilton

    Thank you for your post! Venice is on my bucket list as well and I hope to visit this city and the wonderful country of Italy very soon. In regards to your post, it is so fascinating that the main mode of transportation in Venice is by boat, I had no idea! I thought Venice was just like any other city with roads and sidewalks where people could drive their cars or bikes to get from place to place. In my history class, we are learning about the Han and Roman empires and it was mentioned in our text that the early form of a vehicle was invented back then in order to promote communication and trade. In addition to vehicles, many roads were created. In our text it states, “The Romans also built an unprecedented number of roads to connect far-flung parts of their empire (Tignor et. al., 2018, p. 267). The people of Venice decided that since their city is an island and there is not room for roads, their mode of transportation to promote communication in trade would be by boat.

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