Venice is one of the most famous cities in the world, and its fame has something to do with the many canals that make up its “streets.” A city built on over 100 different islands, Venice is historically a city that was navigated through the use of bridges and boats. Gondoliers are a cultural symbol of the city, as are the long, elegant boats known as gondolas. 

Naturally, a question many people have is, “Can you swim in Venice’s canals?”. In short, you shouldn’t swim in the canals. Here’s why. 

Is Swimming In the Venice Canals Legal?

People having dinner next to a canal in Italy

Long story short, you should not try to swim in the canals in Venice. It’s not a good idea, nor is it even legal. If police find you taking a dip in the waters, they’ll fish you out and fine you. (It’s 500 Euros per infraction, so if you and your friends all swim, you’ll be broke.)

They don’t take kindly to tourists doing this, either. Aside from fines, they may end up giving you a dirty look.

Why Can’t You Swim In The Venice Canals?

Venice Canals Sunset Scenery

There are several reasons why. Swimming in the Venetian canals may put you at risk of hitting a boat, which could lead to lethal consequences. Moreover, the water in the canals isn’t exactly the cleanest. Depending on how bad things get, you might get an infection. 

The bigger issue, though, is concern about the local wildlife. Swimmers might have difficulty with wildlife and may bother the local ecosystem. More specifically, there have been multiple sightings of sharks throughout the canals. 

In recent years, authorities confirmed that leopard sharks have made a home in the canals. While these aren’t particularly aggressive sharks, they are still sharks. In the past, people used to swim in the canals, and sharks were darned.

Water Quality of the Venice Canals

Water Quality IndicatorDescription
Bacterial LevelsHigh levels of fecal bacteria from sewage and urban runoff, posing health risks for swimmers.
Dissolved OxygenLow dissolved oxygen levels due to organic matter and algal blooms, making it difficult for aquatic life to thrive.
TurbidityHigh turbidity (cloudiness) caused by suspended sediments and pollution, reducing water clarity.
Chemical ContaminantsPresence of heavy metals (e.g., lead, mercury), hydrocarbons, and other pollutants from industrial and boat activities.
Waste ManagementInadequate waste management systems, leading to the accumulation of trash and debris in the canals.
Tidal FlushingLimited tidal flushing and water circulation, preventing proper dilution and renewal of canal waters.

How Many Canals Are There In Venice, Italy?

Narrow canal with gondola and bridge in Venice

There are approximately 150 canals that line the streets (erm, waterways? sidewalks?) of Venice. While only a handful of these canals are relatively famous, even Venice’s smaller ones can offer a beautiful taste of the city’s magical scenery. It’s well worth exploring as many of Venice’s canals as possible. 

How Deep Are The Canals In Venice?

This depends on the canal itself since many were built at differing times. Most canals average a depth of 16.5 feet, making them reasonably deep. With that said, some canals are far deeper than others.

The deepest Venetian canal is the Canale de Giudecca, a whopping 55 feet deep at its lowest point. Several of the more shallow canals in the area are only 3 meters deep, which translates into approximately 10 feet.

Why Does Venice Have Canals?

This actually has a lot to do with the history of people settling there. In the earlier parts of Italy’s history, Italians had difficulty with attacks from barbarians. After having villages ransacked, they noticed that barbarians didn’t cross the water.

Realizing this, people started moving towards the islands in and around Venice, using the canals to help themselves stay safe from invaders. Eventually, people realized they should have a city on the islands. Thus, Venice was born.

Are There Alligators In The Venice Canals?

Man rowing Gondola in a canal

A common rumor that has been making rounds is that alligators live in the Venice Canals. At times, the story switches over to the form of crocodiles, making its rounds on the net through the help of a viral photo. 

Though there are people who believe that alligators and crocs are hanging out in Venice, this is not the least bit true. The photo that sparked this rumor was doctored and proven to be false. So, while you might spot a shark or two swimming by, don’t worry about alligators. They don’t belong in Venice.

Are The Venice Canals Clean?

Gondola Ride in Venice Canal

The water’s cleanliness is one of the biggest reasons tourists shouldn’t swim in the canals, even if Venice legalizes taking a dip. Venetian canals might look pretty, but they are not clean. They’re downright dirty.

The canals have a lot of grit and grime due to all the boats that navigate the area daily. That alone could be forgivable, but this isn’t the only issue people have with the canals. Due to the plumbing issues of living in several hundred-year-old buildings, many houses send their sewage into the canals. 

In other words, the Venetian canals have a lot of bacteria from their toilet water. It’s common to hear of people who swim in the canals getting skin infections. It’s also why the canal water occasionally smells a little funky. 

See Related: Best Time to Visit Venice, Italy

Can You Swim By The Riverbanks?

Man rowing Gondola in Venice

The fondamenta, as they’re called, are more dangerous to swim in than the regular canals. Along with the dirtiness, these areas tend to have a higher rate of boats docking and coming ashore. 

Simply put, it’s not a good idea to go swimming in or near Venice’s canals. It’s too dangerous, and the area is not equipped to make swimming safe. If you feel like dipping in the Mediterranean Sea, you must go to one of the city’s beaches. 


The canals of Venice remain one of the most iconic parts of Italy, and for good reason. They are steeped in history from the beginning of the city’s birth. With their romantic ambiance and classical bridges spanning the area, it’s easy to see why thousands of people visit Venice to see the canals. 

If you want to get a great view of some of history’s most famous waterways, a trip to Venice is warranted. On the other hand, if you were hoping to swim in the canals or spot some alligators, you’ll find yourself sorely disappointed. After all, getting fined and searching for nonexistent animals isn’t a way to go through vacation. 

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