Kayak ban in Venice – new rules in force from tomorrow

The recent kayaking ban on the Grand Canal and other canals has been partially overturned.

The new rules are explained here. They will be in effect from tomorrow morning, April 23rd. The formal publication of the new rules are on the city’s web site:

Disciplina generale della navigazione nei rii e canali a traffico esclusivamente urbano della Z.T.L. lagunare, Testo Unico delle disposizioni in materia di traffico acqueo, sostituisce con modifiche la regolamentazione precedente costituita dalle ordinanze n° 310/2006, 402/2013, 91-92-93-94-95-96/2015 e altre disposizioni specifiche.

Kayaking ban in Venice – dialogue with the city administration

Venice has issued a ban on kayaks, canoes, dragon boats and more, which is effective from Sunday, March 1st.

Currently it is illegal to go by kayak, canoe or dragon boat on the Grand Canal and several other canals in the city.

As a consequence, the city’s canal network has been cut to pieces, from a kayaker’s point of view, where it is not longer possible to go from one part to another.

Today I have had a meeting with the city official who have signed the new regulations, and it was not as bad as I had anticipated.

As things stand now, the ban is there and it is an offence to even paddle across the no-go canals.

However, the city administrators have finally understood that they have made a mistake by issuing a blanket ban like they have. Being unable to turn back, there will be a modification to the new rules, which will give kayaks, canoes and dragon boats more room so it will be possible to move around the city in a reasonably rational way.

In short, there will be some points on the no-go canals where passage will be allowed, most notably on the Grand Canal.  There will be some limits on when you can pass, it’ll be mostly in the afternoon, and maybe even on who can pass, for example a requirement that there is a qualified coach in a group of kayaks.

It is my hope that they will also allow passage, at least in the afternoon, on parts of the lower Canal Grande, so we can still visit the ancient gondola shipyards in the Dorsoduro area, which will otherwise be unreachable.

While this will not be a perfect solution, it will be a marked improvement on the no-exceptions-allowed ban they have made for now.


The current rules banning kayaks etc from the Grand Canal and more, are not made by the city administration alone, and the city administration cannot therefore change them alone.

The changes from February 11th were published after a meeting of what they call a conferenza dei servizi, where all the different public bodies meet to coordinate.

A change to the new rules will have to pass the same way. This means that there will be a meeting on March 12th, where a commission will meet to prepare everything for the next meeting of the conferenza dei servizi, where a change can be formally decided.

Once we get there, we’ll know what they’ll come up with.

I do not know the date of the next meeting of the conferenza dei servizi, but I’ve been told that they’re normally held once a month.

Legal Challenge

The legal challenge to the kayaking ban in Venice will not stop before the city administration publishes what exactly they intend to do, and they cannot do that before the meeting of the conferenza dei servizi has met, and at than point they have also decided.

There will be no public hearing, beside the kind of privately requested meetings with city officials, like the one I had today.

The Arcobaleno association has no intend of backing down before they know what the new rules will be, so the process will go forward.

The collection of funds in support of the legal challenge continues.

 The meeting

My appointment today was  on behalf of my company Venice Kayak,  so I did not represent anybody else there.

Besides explanations about what we’re doing — kayaking excursions in Venice lead by qualified guides, and not any kind of rental to whoever shows up — the discussion was mostly about what kind of modifications we would need to be able to continue our work.

This maps shows the ‘dispensations’ we’ll need to be able to carry on in the way we have done now in seven years, without accidents or conflicts.

Venice kayaking ban - suggested changes

Summarised we need

  • a few passages on inner city canals to connect the otherwise detached segments of the city’s canal network,
  • some predetermined points where we can cross the Grand Canal, on each of the three parts of the canal, and
  • the possibility of transiting on a part of the lower Grand Canal to reach otherwise unreachable areas.

For now we’re crossing our fingers, hoping for the best.

If the city administration cannot come up with a working solution for us and the other paddlers in Venice, we will have no choice but the throw all our effort at the legal challenge the Arcobaleno association is preparing.

Kayaking ban in Venice – legal challenge

Venice has issued a ban on kayaks, canoes, dragon boats and more, which will be effective from Sunday, March 1st.

This ban will harm the activities of several groups.


The local kayaking association Arcobaleno has initiated a legal challenge to the new regulation banning kayaks and canoes in Venice.

Arcobaleno is one of the oldest kayaking clubs in the wider Venice area, and they have been active for many many years.

A Paypal account ricorso@arcocanoa.org has been set up to collect funds for the legal battle ahead. The needs aren’t huge, all in all around €3000 will be needed, but it is more than the club and its supporters have.

Even contributions of €5, €10 or €20 will be a help in the fight to keep Venice open for paddlers.

Kayaking ban in Venice – where and how to help

Venice has issued a ban on kayaks, canoes, dragon boats and more, which will be effective from Sunday, March 1st.

This ban will harm the activities of several groups.

All of these groups, together with the Italian Federation for Canoe and Kayak (FICK) and other organisations are trying in various ways to counter this blanket bans of most paddle crafts in Venice.

Salviamo Venezia andando a remi e pagaie

A lot of discussion is going on the Facebook group called Salviamo Venezia andando a remi e pagaie.

Most of the discussion is in Italian, but it is open for all interested parties. I try to put in something in English every once in a while, but I’m neither the creator nor an administrator of the group.

Screenshot from 2015-02-26 21:39:34

There’s a petition on change.org asking for the new regulations to be recalled.

At the time of writing it is approaching 2000 signatures, and you can all give us a hand by heading over there to sign.


The local kayaking association Arcobaleno has initiated a legal challenge to the new regulation banning kayaks and canoes in Venice.

Arcobaleno is one of the oldest kayaking clubs in the wider Venice area, and they have been active for many many years.

A Paypal account ricorso@arcocanoa.org has been set up to collect funds for the legal battle ahead. The needs aren’t huge, all in all around €3000 will be needed, but it is more than the club and its supporters have.

Even contributions of €5, €10 or €20 will be a help in the fight to keep Venice open for paddlers.

Vogalonga and the ban on kayaks in Venice

As I have written earlier, the City of Venice has made a partial but extensive ban on kayaks, canoes, dragon boats and others, effective from March 1st, 2015.

The Vogalonga is a rowing event that has been held in Venice every year for the last forty years. It is organised by a non-profit committee, the Comitato Vogalonga.

After the publication of the new regulations on February 11th, everybody expected a reaction from the Vogalonga committee, but they were silent. After much soliciting online, and maybe also offline, they finally made a statement on the 20th, on Facebook but not on their web site, and in Italian only.

The Facebook post received quite a lot of comments, and in there one of the members of the organising committee made a further statement.

I find it important that everybody knows the stance of the Vogalonga committee, so I have reproduced and translated (to the best of my abilities) the two statements below.

First statement (in Italian)

Il Comitato Vogalonga, valutati i vari aspetti della questione e le molteplici proteste anche a livello internazionale, si esprime rispetto all’ordinanza del Comune di Venezia circa la restrizione ad alcuni tipi di natanti a remi, come canoa e kayak, per la circolazione lungo alcuni canali del centro storico.

La congestione del traffico sempre più pressante e l’utilizzo di natanti da parte di persone inesperte e non edotte in merito alla navigazione nei canali interni di Venezia giustifica la presa di posizione del Comune che andrebbe però formulata in senso cautelativo per l’incolumità delle persone più che in senso restrittivo. Quindi, sarebbe auspicabile che i vogatori in questione venissero informati, preparati ed eventualmente accompagnati da persone qualificate prima di affrontare i percorsi cittadini piuttosto che interdire la navigazione a determinati tipi di imbarcazioni.

Rispetto alle proteste che stanno arrivando numerose da parte di circoli e associazioni italiane e da varie parti del mondo, il Comitato Vogalonga, che confida di poter fruire della deroga in occasione della prossima edizione, invita i vogatori a seguire itinerari che corrano nei canali non interdetti del centro storico e lungo i margini dello stesso e che soprattutto li portino a godere degli ampi spazi ed impagabili orizzonti lagunari.

Il Comitato Vogalonga sottolinea anche in questa occasione il proprio impegno per la salvaguardia della laguna e la lotta contro il moto ondoso.

First statement (my translation)

The Vogalonga Committee, having taken into account the various aspects of the question and the numerous protests, also internationally, expresses itself regarding the City of Venice’s new regulations, restricting the circulation of some types of oar driven crafts, like canoes and kayaks, in some of the canals in the city centre.

The ever worsening traffic congestion and the use of boats by inexpert persons, not informed in matters of navigation in the inner canals of Venice, justifies the intervention of the city administration, which, however, should have been phrased in terms of safeguarding the well-being of the persons rather than as a interdiction. Therefore, it would have been desirable that the rowers in question be informed, prepared and eventually accompanied by qualified persons before they embark on routes in the city, rather than prohibiting the circulation of certain types of boats.

With regard to the protests which are arriving in great numbers from clubs and associations in Italy and various parts of the world, the Vogalonga Committee, confident that it will receive a dispensation for the upcoming event, invites all rowers to follow routes which runs in the non prohibited canals in the city centre and along the edges of the same, which will also allow them to enjoy the ample spaces and priceless horizons of the lagoon.

The Vogalonga Committee wants to underline in this occasion too, its commitment to the safeguarding of the lagoon and the fight against wave pollution.

Second statement (in Italian)

This second statement, from a member of the Vogalonga committee and not officially from the committee itself, was in response to a comment of mine, that the committee has thrown in the towel.

Il Comitato Vogalonga non ha gettato la spugna …

La posizione del Comitato (di cui mi onoro di far parte), a differenza di qualcun altro che lucra sul noleggio e sulle visite guidate con kayak a Venezia, è quella di un confronto con la pubblica amministrazione che tenga conto delle esigenze e dell’incolumità di tutti senza prevaricarne i diritti. Il fatto che alcuni canali di Venezia siano eccessivamente trafficati, ha portato alla necessità di rivedere la regolamentazione del traffico interessando tutti i settori della navigazione. Il fatto che qualche mezzo pubblico di linea sia stato fatto fermare in mezzo al Canal Grande perché un paio di kayak a noleggio senza accompagnatore si stessero fotografando vicino al Ponte di Rialto non è da sottovalutare né da demonizzare, ma va presa in seria considerazione. Ovviamente il problema sta nel conducente o vogatore e non nel mezzo che si conduce, ed è su questo che bisogna focalizzarsi.

Il Comitato non è interessato alla sola voga alla veneta a scapito di altri tipi di voga, ne ad ottenere la deroga per la manifestazione (che tra l’altro è già prevista nell’ordinanza anche per altre manifestazioni). La precisazione è stata fatta poiché ci sono state richieste da tutto il mondo in merito al regolare svolgimento della manifestazione.

Prima di prendere una posizione, il Comitato si è confrontato con esponenti delle associazioni e delle federazioni per stabilire una presa di posizione ed è in attesa di un incontro per cercare una mediazione.

La Vogalonga vive grazie ai vogatori e ai sostenitori che vi partecipano e non è una attività commerciale ne sponsorizzata e vuole accogliere tutti i vogatori che amano Venezia e questa manifestazione partecipando e credendo nei valori che cerca di trasmettere.

Fomentare una protesta per salvaguardare la propria attività, come fa qualcuno, non è l’unico modo di affrontare i problemi che vanno prima analizzati e condivisi per cercare primariamente una soluzione condivisa.

Scrivo a titolo personale per spiegare cosa sta alla base delle scelte fatte, non avendo ancora avuto modo di confrontarmi con il resto del Comitato.

Second statement (my translation)

The Vogalonga Committee has not thrown in the towel…

The position of the Committee (of which I’m honoured to be a member), in opposition to other who profit from rental or from guided tours in kayak in Venice, is that of a confrontation with the public administration which takes into account the needs and the well-begin of everybody without infringing their rights. The fact that some canals in Venice has too much traffic, has lead to the necessacity of a revision of the regulations of traffic, with regard to al the sectors of navigation. The fact that some public transport vessels have been forced to an emergency halt in the middle of the Grand Canal because a couple of rental kayaks without a guide had stopped to take photos of the Rialto Bridge from close up, should be nor underestimated, neither demonised, but taken seriously into consideration. Obviously the problem is the pilot or the rower and not the vessel conducted, and focus should be on this.

The Committee is not exclusively interested in Venetian rowing at the cost of other types of rowing, nor in obtaining a dispensation for the event (which is already foreseen by the new regulations also for other events). This is underlined because there have been inquiries from all over the world about the execution of the upcoming event.

Before taking a stance the Committee has met with representatives of associations and federations to to find a common stance, and it is currently waiting for a meeting in search of a compromise.

The Vogalonga Committee lives thanks to all rowers and supporters who participate, and it is not a commercial activity, neither sponsored, and it wants to welcome all the rowers who love Venice and this event, participating and believing in the values it tries to transmit.

Instigating protests to save one’s own business, as some do, is not the only way to confront the problems, which should frist be analised and shared searching primarily for a compronise.

I write this on my own account to explain what is behind the choices made, as I have not yet had the possibility of hearing the rest of the committee.

Kayaking ban in Venice

The City of Venice has published a modification to the city traffic rules, which bans kayaks, canoes, dragon boats and others from navigating certain canals.

The relevant text is this:

Nei Rii principali interni di collegamento: Canal Grande, Cannaregio, Giardini, Greci – San Lorenzo, –
Santa Giustina – Sant’Antonin – Pietà, Noale, Novo, Ca’ Foscari, Santi Apostoli – Gesuiti, è vietata la
navigazione dei natanti denominati jole, dragon boat, pattini, pedalò, canoe, kayak e tavole a vela e/o a remi.

It lists a series of city canals where  “navigation is prohibited” for a series of paddled and rowed types of boats.

Navigation is prohibited

The canals in question are these, coloured red.

Canals in Venice where kayaks are banned.

Now, besides the Grand Canal it doesn’t look excessive. There are a few other restrictions on traffic, not specifically targeted at kayaks and the like, for military areas, heavy traffic, or dedicated areas for the gondolas.

With these added (in violet) the map of the no-go canals become:

Venice restricted areas for kayaks etc.

The canal network in Venice is Medieval in origin, and anything but regular. Some are very interconnected, others are detached from most others. A lot of very narrow canals lead down to some of the no-go canals, so if you went down there in a kayak, you wouldn’t be able to get out legally.

Therefore, the ban is for more than just the listed canals. The de facto banned canals are added to this map in orange.

Venice canals where kayaks won't be able to go legally.

Now, that’s a good deal more.

If you enter one of these nominally ‘legal’ canals, you won’t be able to get out again, unless you paddled backwards through a narrow, winding and possible busy canal.

The above map is made under the assumption that “navigation is prohibited” in the canals marked in red, which would mean that you can’t even paddle across.

If the city were to allow crossing of some of the no-go canals in some places, the map above would have to be changed, but with the current wording of the regulation, it will not be possible to go in kayak in any of the canals on the map above, which are marked in red, violet or orange.

I realise that it is hard to see from that map where you can actually go, so I have made the reverse map which shows in green the canals where you can go in a kayak and still have a legal way out.

Venice canals where you can paddled after March 1st.

As is apparent, after the introduction of the new regulations you can only paddle in a few separate and non contiguous areas of the city.

As before, this map relies on a strict interpretation of the wording of the new regulations, where we’re not allowed to traverse any of the no-go canals.

There are six distinct zones, where you’ll need to get out of the city canals, potentially in some very busy waters, to get from one area to another.

Safety issues

The two areas in Dorsoduro (marked in a darker green) are only accessible through the Canale Giudecca, which is where the big cruise ships pass. It is a very busy canal, and not safe for even intermediary level kayakers.

To move from the eastern part (Castello basso) to the central part around San Marco, it will be necessary to cross the Bacino San Marco, which is likewise very busy. Besides a large number of water buses and taxis, this area is also full of large tourist tour boats, which moor there for boarding and disembarking. Paddling through there will too require a good deal of skill and nerves.

And let’s remember the new rules are introduced for safety reasons.

To keep us and everybody else safe, they send us out in the middle of the busiest parts of the city.  And not just busy, but busy with far larger boats that are ever allowed inside the city, even on the Grand Canal.

Curious as to why they have decide this? Look here.

Links and documents:

High tide in Venice

We’ve had several days with high water lately here in Venice. Not extreme high water, but enough to be a burden for the locals and an amusement for the tourists.

The city canals are very quiet when the tide goes above a certain level, as most boats can no longer pass under the bridges, and we had planned to go paddling to enjoy having the city’s waterways mostly to ourselves.

First thing to notice is that at high tide there is quite a bit of rubbish and other stuff floating around, like this part of a bridge or dock.

Floating debris

Give the lack of traffic we quickly gravitated towards San Marco, here from the front.

View of St. Mark's

Here’s a gondola stuck under a bridge by the rising water, just behind Piazza San Marco.

This gondola isn't going anywhere

This is the view from the canal behind the square onto the Piazza San Marco. This is the lowest point level entry to the square, but there is far to little water to do any kind of stupidity.

Passage to the Piazza San Marco

I got out of the kayak and walked in though the water and found this view.

The Piazza San Marco under water

Flooding in Piazza San Marco starts in front of the basilica at a very normal level of 75-80cm, and at a level of 110cm there are up to 30cm of water on parts of the square.

Just because you can paddle in, doesn’t mean you can’t get in. While I was surveying the situation, one of the others came in pulling the kayaking along, just to get a few photos.

Piazza San Marco with one kayak

One then drags the next person in.

Piazza San Marco with another kayak arriving

While not exactly legal, the situation does create some photo ops.

Second kayak in the Piazza San Marco

Second kayak leaving Piazza San Marco

Kayak and reflection

Which a good deal of others onlookers weren’t late to spot.

Some people like the attention

Photographer on the hunt

Some people still like the attention

The others waited patiently for those fifteen minutes of fame (or infamy) to pass.

Others care a bit less

While tourists in their tourist high water protection gear watched baffled.

Tourists in tourist boots

After San Marco the tour went to the Grand Canal and the Rialto where the Erberia was covered in a bit of water.

Kayaks at the Rialto - Erberia

Somebody managed to get interviewed by national television (again).

(screencapture from a video)

On our way back, passing San Marco again, we met this gondola.

Porcelino sulla gondola

Which carried a rather untraditional addition to the stern.

Porcelino sulla gondola

The water level was still high, and the gondola couldn’t pass the first bridge after the Bridge of Sighs, and had to turn around while we waited.

Gondola turning around because it cannot pass the bridge

Most of the fondamenta (sidewalks) had water up at the edge, which usually corresponds to a water level of between 100cm and 110cm.

Water still at street level

Guaranteed for Life

I’ve been using a Tilley hat ever since I started paddling and I’ve been very happy with it.

However, after some 8 years of heavy use, and at least a thousand days kayaking in all sorts of weather, my hat was severely worn. This summer it has literally been coming apart.

Since Tilly Endurables promises that their products endure, and it actually says on the label that they’re “Guaranteed for life”, I contacted them to see if they’d replace my old hat.

Well, they did.

Actually, I was a bit surprised, but there were absolutely no problems and no attempts whatsoever at wriggling out of the promise on the label.

They asked for some photos as documentation, asked me to write a large R on the label and send a photo of that too, and to send them £9 to cover the cost of sending me a new hat.

Since they don’t have the exact same model any more, we exchanged a good few emails to figure out which hat they would send me. In the end I got this one, which is the closest to what I had.

Probably the best customer service I have ever experienced.