Venetian Daily Life

A sewage boat in Venice

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ABOVE: A sewage boat arrives to collect the contents of a septic tank or a "pozzo nero" (cesspool) in a Venice storefront.

Sewage isn't the most appealing travel topic, but if you're at all interested in urban infrastructure, you might as well learn where things go when you do.

Most of Venice's sewage goes directly into the city's canals. Flush a toilet, and someone crossing a bridge or cruising up a side canal by gondola may notice a small swoosh of water emerging from an opening in a brick wall. In theory, such waste is supposed to be purified by septic tanks, but such systems are the exception, not the rule. (Septic tanks are most common in restaurants, hotels, and other structures that have been gutted and renovated in recent years.)

From time to time, septic tanks need to be emptied by a pozzo nero ("black well") boat, which hauls the muck away. Buildings that use cesspools to store untreated waste also need an occasional pumping-out. In the photos and video on this page, you can see how the process works.


BELOW: A hose runs from the boat or barge to a temporary sewer pipe on shore.

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BELOW: The sewer pipe runs across a square into a storefront where a pump draws sludge or waste from an underfloor storage tank.

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BELOW: This video shows a sewage boat pumping waste and cruising away after sucking up a tankful of muck.

 

Want to learn more? Read Venipedia's illustrated article about sewage disposal in Venice.


A funeral boat in Venice

In "Taking a coffin to a Venice undertaker," we showed one aspect of death in Venice. With this post, we'll show what happens after the coffin has an occupant.

Below, you can see a funeral boat or water hearse on the Grand Canal. (On the left is the Ferrovia waterbus stop, next to Venice's Santa Lucia Railroad Station.)

Hearse on Grand Canal, Venice

We're guessing that this funeral boat is headed for the Piazzale Roma or the Tronchetto parking island, where a four-wheeled hearse will transfer the deceased to a cemetery on the mainland.

Funeral boat from Venice's Ponte dei Scalzi

Not all dead Venetians are taken away to terraferma. Venice has its own island cemetery, San Michele, where bodies are buried for 12 years before the bones are dug up and moved to mausoleum niches or a communal ossuary.

Coffin and funeral boat in Venice

For more information on death and burial in Venice, see our illustrated article at Veniceforvisitors.com:


Taking a coffin to a Venice undertaker

In Venice, most goods are delivered or taken away in boats. That rule also applies to caskets and human bodies, not just to souvenirs, soda pop, or cornflakes.

One day, when we were walking along the Fondamente Nove, we saw a delivery boat pulling in toward shore:

Fondamente Nove, Venice

As the boat landed and one of the men on board leaped onto the fondamenta with a mooring line, we noticed a pair of coffins on board:

Coffin boat in Venice, Italy

The boatmen unloaded one of the coffins:

Coffin and boat in Venice

Next, they picked up the casket...

Coffin delivery in Venice, Italy

...and delivered it to an undertaker's unmarked storeroom:

Venice mortuary

For the boatmen, the delivery was all in a day's work.

For the coffin's future occupant, it meant a resting place for the next 12 years. (And if you're wondering why we say "12 years," read our article about San Michele, Venice's island cemetery at Veniceforvisitors.com.)