A Nighttime Excursion in Surreal Venice

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.

By |2020-08-06T16:19:24+02:00August 6th, 2020|Color, Exploring the Veneto, Photography Posts|4 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. angela paladino August 8, 2020 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    made me cry. beautiful,Jed. I luv your core.

    • Jed August 9, 2020 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Thank you, Angela. Rarely do we get to experience such treasures stripped of tourism’s presence. Heartbreakingly sad and profoundly beautiful at the same time. I hope to head over again soon, maybe at the crack of dawn. But, Venice at night really has my attention right now. I’m on my second large oil painting in a series of that theme. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share soon. It’s always great hearing from you. xoxox Jed

  2. Karl L. Guillen August 8, 2020 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    Awesome reflection. As an ex expat, not by choice, who lived In Jesolo and often came to Venice, some from the Ca’s just over the bridge and thru them to the Punto, where ferries are commonplace and my sister in law sells tickets, I was struck by the emptiness and beauty….with a thought and a hope that maybe, just maybe, something or someone can push the do-over button and take advantage of this emptiness and (corruption aside) availability of repairs that will not hurt businesses (emptied by the CV19). Great article. I miss Europe, particularly my home in Punto Crepaldo…

    • Jed August 9, 2020 at 11:06 am - Reply

      Thanks for writing, Karl. I love “the do-over button” metaphor you used, and you also point out another important aspect of Venice’s challenges that I neglected to mention—the corruption. While Venice has plenty of examples of “misdirected” funds, I’m also reminded of the devasting earthquake in Aquila, Abruzzo, and how it exposed corruption in people who, having compromised building codes (schools), contributed to the death toll. Yes, let’s hope that the do-over can really happen on multiple levels!

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By continuing to use this website you consent to our cookie usage and privacy policy. Ok