Venetian Daily Life

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.)

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.