I’ve never seen my favorite Italian city like this.

A surreal Venice is a lonely Venice. Even in the wee hours of normal Venice mornings, there’s usually foot traffic in the streets and steady boat movement on the Grand Canal and smaller waterways. This wasn’t the case a few nights ago when we were invited to a smaller dinner at a friend’s home in the Cannaregio.

A rare view of an extraordinary city, cloaked in solitary beauty.

That’s a solitary beauty born from the absence of throngs of tourists. I ache for the struggle of a city that is fueled by the money brought in by tourism. Yes, Venice is hurting, and like so many places in the world, many businesses won’t survive. When and how will Venice emerge from this crisis of indeterminable length? Some people are suggesting that this may be a moment in time for Venice to hit the reset button and emerge with different strategies for helping the city to thrive and not buckle under the weight of daytrippers who largely don’t give the city the respect and care it deserves.

My hope is that this current malady will somehow result in a stronger and smarter Venice. If you’re abroad with your traveling wings clipped (to Europe) you may be waiting to swing into action when the skies are fully open for travel again. If your plans include Venice, I think you’ll find this Forbes article a worthwhile read—“Planning on Visiting Venice Post-Covid? Follow this Advice from Venetians.”

“With Italy’s borders gradually reopening, Venice wants to entice tourists back in order to save the many businesses that have been plunged into economic uncertainly by the COVID-19 lockdown. However, residents of the floating city are determined not to be subjected to the same chaotic and unsustainable over-tourism that overwhelmed the city pre-coronavirus.” —Rebecca Ann Hughes

A lonely water taxi along the Grand Canal in Surreal Venice

A vaporetto ride starts my surreal Venice experience.

There were a fair number of people who boarded our boat to the Ca d’Oro stop, but far less than normal. The entire crew wore their masks and were steadfast in scanning the people boarding and telling people sans-mask that they couldn’t travel unless they put one on. They also were vigilant in surveying the passengers already aboard to ensure their masks remained in the proper position and not pushed down below noses or under chins. “Bravo!” I silently cheered.

Apart from the vaporetto ride, we saw very, very few people. It had been raining heavily, too, so there wasn’t much outdoor table activity, only infrequently illuminated bars and restaurants with scant customers. Venice seemed largely abandoned.

The trip home, around 12:30 a.m. revealed even a starker beauty.

From our vaporetto, with just a handful of passengers, I looked in amazement at the lack of movement on the Grand Canal. I readied my iPhone in night-mode and began shooting.

Here, I leave words behind and let photos tell the story of a surreal Venice, one that comes from a tragic moment in history yet provides a view of the city I may never experience again.

People hunker down inside in surreal Venice
A lonely welcome in surreal Venice
Solitary grandeur along the Grand Canal in surreal Venice
The modern bridge leading to the train station in surreal Venice
Piazzale Roma Surreal Venice

If you’ve enjoyed this tour of a surreal Venice…

I encourage you to check out the following previous blog posts that lean heavily into the beauty of Venice at night.

The Allure of Venice at Night—click here.

Reflecting on Life as Night Falls in Venice—click here.