Venice is known as the city of canals, famed for its beautiful bridges, gondola rides, atmospheric streets and carnival celebrations. However, recent droughts have caused many of its waterways to dry up, leaving certain routes off-limits to locals and tourists. Experts have also warned travellers of a “strong sewage smell” emanating in parts of the city.
The romantic Italian destination has long been known for its unique stench but travellers heading to Venice right now have been warned of the effects of dried-up canals.
An expert at Travel Off Path said: “It seems contradictory as Venice is also sinking and could disappear by 2100, but the weather conditions in this tourist place are complex.
“Right now, there are canals with very low levels of water, and water taxis, gondolas, and even ambulances are having trouble moving around this roadless city.”
A combination of sea currents, low tides and reduced rainfall have all played a part in the problem, and pose a risk to visitors for several reasons.
The US travel site explained that tourists “must be ready for uncomfortable conditions like bad odours at certain locations”.
Speaking to France24, one tourist said: “Really the smell is terrible. It had more charm before.”
According to the news outlet, “the strong sewage smell” has posed more challenges for the city’s gondoliers who are “already struggling” with the low water levels.
Images and videos shared on TikTok have revealed the muddy beds of dried-up canals, lined with grounded gondola boats that are unable to move through the waterways.
People across the world have also taken to Twitter to share their insights on the unpleasant smell in Venice.
One user wrote: “Raw, untreated sewage from the buildings is discharged into the canals Which is why tourists would cling to each other, rather than move their hands through the water. If photos could convey the smell, Venice wouldn’t have tourists!”
Another tweeted: “To think Venice couldn’t smell fishier than before.”
While the scent of the dried-up canals has been noticed by tourists currently in the city, some say it has always been in the air.
According to a travel expert at Visit Beautiful Italy, the root cause is due to the build-up of debris in the water.
They said: “Occasional algae buildups in the Venice lagoon caused a bad smell. Still, in the early 2000s, the city’s canal system underwent renovations and now has a modern system of draining and cleaning canals.
“These canals need to be dredged because some of the water in them becomes stagnant. Doing so can produce a pungent odour, but it’s always limited to the area where work is going on.”
Though the city is still safe for tourists to visit, travellers may experience disruption in areas where canals have dried up.
The deepest canals, like the main canal, are still in use but certain routes cannot be used and gondoliers are already struggling to move passengers around, according to Travel Off Path.
Emergency services including water ambulances and taxis have also been impacted so it may be difficult to access medical attention quickly in certain locations.
One TripAdvisor user based in the city explained that the issue is a “normal” part of the tide patterns and that the canals should soon return to their usual water level.
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