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By does it make sense I mean whether it is at all legal, safe to an acceptable degree, technically possible (and at least a bit enjoyable) to use own canoe or kayak in the water canals of Venice.

I'd love to bring my 4.5 meter (14 feet) long foldable open double kayak (see picture) to Venice and paddle around a bit with one other person aboard, who may not be much skilled. I myself have reasonable experience on still waters and rivers up to Class II with single kayak, double kayak and canoe (and am certified skipper for coastal sea waters, if that matters). I am in a decent physical condition, can paddle leisurely all day long or around 10 kilometers in one take on still waters. The boat is reasonably quick and agile, but not as stable as, for example, a typical sea kayak. I plan to use flotation vests, sport gloves and perhaps helmets as well (all being standard for other scenarios with similar water/stone ratio). I don't speak a single word Italian, I do speak English and German decently.

Pouch Colibri

My main concerns are tight spots that may prove too difficult to navigate too late, heavy water traffic, waves from bigger boats, and in case of an incident the apparently limited possibility to get out of water, depth and cleanliness of water and existence of currents that may turn a bit of a problem into a life threatening situation.

I'd like to ask if somebody as already done this, seen this or knows anything relevant to this idea (local regulation, local news stories, even anecdotes are welcome).

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    @pnuts Thank you for your suggestion, Venice hasn't struck me as Outdoors but I do think it makes sense. I'll wait for some answers and comments to pop up here and than I'll see whether to move the question there. I ask about my own kayak because that would be the plan, although a rented one would seem more sensible. – Pavel Aug 1 '16 at 20:31
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    You were in a kayak during World War 2? Seriously, though, what is that an abbreviation of? It's not so easy to google. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '16 at 21:23
  • @Fiksdal Thank you for bringig it up. The WWII is an English abbreviation for the international stndard (Wild Water Class II), which I thought was understood globally. I provided a link to Wikipedia article with illustrative pictures. – Pavel Aug 1 '16 at 21:31
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    @PavelPetrman Great, thanks. It may be understood globally by boaters, but probably not by common people. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '16 at 21:35
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    I thought only my father had certain ideas... but no, apparently kayak in Venice is something other people think too. – Bakuriu Aug 1 '16 at 22:14
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You may, but you do need to know in which canals the craft is allowed. A Danish ex-pat, Rene Seindal, who operates Venice Kayak, as well as blogging, has a great post describing where kayaks are banned, and includes maps to guide you through the canals on which it is allowed.

In case the link goes down, here is one of the several maps by Rene Seindal from that blog post showing:

...I have made the reverse map which shows in green the canals where you can go in a kayak and still have a legal way out

enter image description here

The Grand Canal is off limits, as are several others, and then there are many canals with other general traffic restrictions or which lead into a prohibited canal and are too narrow to turn around.

  • Thank you for the links, the blog post is really a great source of information. – Pavel Aug 1 '16 at 20:36
  • @Pavel Petrman: no problem and, as another comment suggested, you might want to consider renting with such an outfit, rather than toting along your own. – Giorgio Aug 1 '16 at 20:57
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    Great answer! I've added a quick summary from the linked post so this answer stays useful even if the link goes down in future, feel free to edit my edit! – user56reinstatemonica8 Aug 1 '16 at 21:45
  • @user568458, I didn't want to overdo the answer so that's a perfect addition; thx. – Giorgio Aug 1 '16 at 22:12
  • @user568458 Great addition, thanks. I've read through much of the Blog @ Dorothy linked, and now I see it as a noving target, since there are many legal proceedings underway right now. A picture says here more than a thousand blog-words:-) – Pavel Aug 2 '16 at 9:06
17

If you're going to do this, you should probably just rent a boat there. That way you don't really have to worry about local regulations because the company that you rent from will take care of everything, not to mention that you won't have to lug around an actual boat through Italy.

Also, just a word of caution. I could see myself paddling around Venice in a canoe, but many times of the year the water smells REALLY BAD. The canals are basically the sewer system for the city. So while it looks pretty, I would feel pretty gross running around in a kayak on the canals.

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    I mean, safe but not necessarily in the context of biohazards? I would look up info about toxins in the water. You were asking about cleanliness and it's a major issue in the area. – Tam Hartman Aug 1 '16 at 19:33
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    I find the second paragraph very informative and important. For me, at the least, kayaing in a sewer falls beyond the degreee of acceptable safety (when not for me, surely for my paddling guest). Lugging a boat through Italy is not a problem, but the regulations and local rental make good sense. – Pavel Aug 1 '16 at 20:39
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    +1 for the smell of the water. Cannaregio and Santa CroceI smelled the worst IIRC. Also watch out for the ferries and ships. The canals are quite curvy, ferries run fast, often both ways, and hardly leaves much space to go through safely. Then there are waves too. – Ayesh K Aug 2 '16 at 3:49
  • @pnuts Sewer water seems not a least bit enjoyable. – loa_in_ Aug 3 '16 at 12:46
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Venice canal water is nasty. Remember this city does not have a sewage treatment plant. The wonders of the city are best explored on foot anyway, and the vaporetto network is extensive and cheap. I would not think it worth the bother.

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    Well a single ticket in vaporetto is 7.5 euro, so, unless you buy a tourist card or long term travel card, public transport is not really that cheap. – Ayesh K Aug 2 '16 at 3:59
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    while it doesn't have a sewage plant, it does have a place where sewage is collected and taken away to be treated. I've seen it, Not all the sewage just goes into the canals. – Kate Gregory Aug 3 '16 at 11:23

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