At this time, five years ago, I came to Venice for the first time to kayak. I had only been to Venice a two previous occasions, and only for short one day visits.
Being married at the time to an Italian, most holidays would automatically go to Italy, and I had been searching for interesting places to go paddling in Italy for a while. One day in 2006 I was looking at online maps of Italy, following the coast line starting from the west, taking notes about interesting places to go paddling, and at the very end of this virtual journey my finger reached the northernmost part of the Adriatic coast.
My interest and curiosity was immediately arisen.
Everybody has an image in their head of this iconic city, and as soon as my mental image of Venice, and my wish to go kayaking in interesting places connected immediately and I couldn’t let go of the idea of kayaking in Venice.
An initial search for outfitters, kayak rental places, local kayaking clubs and such found nothing. After a very persistent search I finally found names and email addresses of 6 or 7 persons, and I wrote an email to all of them. The only one who answered my email was Marco, my now business partner in Venice Kayak.
Marco lent some equipment to me and my friend Jes, and we came down too Venice for one week in late June 2007. We stayed in a camp site on the Lido di Venezia which Marco knew about, and he gave us some maps and a bit of instructions before we set out on our little adventure.
We moved slowly the first day, and we just paddled around the islands closest to the camp site, Sant’Andrea, the Vignole and Certosa where Venice Kayak is based now. We only ventured into the very closest parts of Venice, the area around San Piero de Casteo.
The next day we paddled around the Lido, and we didn’t even get close to the city. From the camp site we paddled around the northern end of the Lido into the Adriatic Sea, fifteen kilometres south and back into the lagoon at Malamocco, returning north on the opposite side of the Lido. It was rather longer that we had anticipated, and we returned around the time of sunset after a paddle of some 35km.
On the third day we took the vaporetto into the city and walk around, doing normal touristy stuff.
Thinking back, we must have been a bit intimidated by the prospect of paddling into the city centre. We certainly took our time. It seems silly now that I spend so much of my time roaming around the canals of Venice in a kayak, but the first time wasn’t that easy.
Only on the fourth day of our stay here did we finally venture into Venice centre by kayak. Looking at the photos now its quite amusing how many of the interesting places we found straight away. We paddled past the old cathedral San Piero de Casteo, past the Arsenale, in front of St. Mark’s, had lunch at SS. Giovanni e Paolo, did a good deal of the Canal Grande, up to the station and Piazzale Roma, down the Canale Giudecca, past some of the squeri (gondola shipyards). We came back with loads of photos, some of them are still among the best I have, and a good deal of video which we later used to promote the first tours we made to Venice the same autumn.
Based on the photos that I have, we must have spend some eight or nine hours paddling that day, criss-crossing the city.
After our Venetian padding adventure, we headed for the islands north of Venice. First to Burano to look at the glass works there, which left much more of an impression on Jes than on me, and from there north to Mazzorbo and Burano where we had a short walk to enjoy the spectacle of the multi-coloured houses of the island. Burano has ever since been one of my favourite places in the lagoon.
That was the last day we paddled in Venice that June. The day after we took the vaporetto to the Vignole islands to check out a trattoria we had spotted paddling by the day before. It was quite good, and became a common stop on our evening paddles in the following years.
We went home with thousands of photos, and a good deal of video, which we used to promote a second tour to Venice in September 2007. There was only a handful, but that too went well, and with more experience, photos and video, we started promoting tours for September next year. Those tours were sold out in early January.
That left me with a problem. I had promised to sort out the logistics of equipment and accommodation, and we needed gear for 15 persons for two weeks. I couldn’t find that anywhere, so in the end I decided to buy the equipment needed, and thus Venice Kayak was born.