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The paving stones of Venice

A rainy day in Venice, Italy

ABOVE: A rainy day in Venice, Italy.

If you've every found yourself slipping and sliding on wet cobblestones, you'll appreciate one of Venice's least-heralded but most pedestrian-friendly urban features: the use of flat, lightly-textured paving stones that offer good traction underfoot on rainy days.

The same stone is used on many of Venice's 400+ bridges. As a bonus, the city marks the edges of stone steps and canalside pavements with highly-visible strips of white Istrian stone, making it less likely that you'll miss a step or stride inadvertently into a canal.

We don't know who came up with Venice's paving scheme, but urban designers and public-works managers from all over the world could learn a useful lesson by visiting Venice on a rainy day.


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You soon learn not to walk on the white Istrian sone when it's wet. I bounced down the Rialto steps and ended in a heap at the bottom one rainy evening. Some young lads helped me up. Nothing damaged except my pride and a pair of very pale cream trousers!

Durant and Cheryl Imboden

Good point. There's a secondary set of Istrian stone steps on the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge, and we avoided them last night (bearing left and taking the normal stone steps) to keep from slipping in the rain. I'm glad you weren't hurt!

Fortunately, most paving and bridge steps in Venice use Istrian stone only for decoration, or for marking the edges. But quite a few church steps and doorsills are made of Istrian stone or marble, so it pays to be cautious on rainy days when you encounter stone that looks shiny.

- Durant


Do you have any suggestions on budget places to stay in Venice that are safe?

Durant and Cheryl Imboden

Safety isn't an issue in Venice. (Watch out for pickpockets in busy places, and you should be okay.)

For places to stay in all price ranges, see:


Eugenia Moretti

Could you please tell me what kind of paving was used in the back streets in the late 1500s? I'm writing a novel that takes place in Venice, and an answer would help it to be more authentic. Cobbles? Bricks? Or something else?
Thank you.

Durant and Cheryl Imboden

Ww aren't pavement historians (or historians, period), but I'd imagine that most paved streets from the late 1500s used the same kind of stone that's used now, since old habits die hard in Venice. That's just a personal guess, however.

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