Even delivering a package involves a unique and quite extraordinary amount of effort in Venice. It matters not a whit whether said package is going to a hotel, a bar or a restaurant. Organising funerals and simple maintenance work is equally fraught. Even in this modern era of ours, day-to-day chores and activities still have a vaguely Medieval or Renaissance flavour in Venice because the transport network in the city hasn’t changed in the intervening centuries. There are still no roads, just canals. The figures have changed, of course: there are 410 third-party goods transportation permits on record which means 410 boats that keep the cogs of city life oiled, negotiating heavy lagoon traffic, missing moorings and narrow canals alike in doing so.
Although Venice’s residential population has shrunk from 174,000 in 1951 to just 54,000 today, the businesses working on its canals are now faced with meeting the needs of fast-growing tourist numbers as just 7 million people visited the city in 2017 alone. They also have to ensure punctual deliveries from giant companies of the likes of Amazon, Ikea, Unieuro, Zalando and others besides. But getting those deliveries where they need to go without impacting Venice’s unique charm does come at a cost.
According to Confartigianato di Venezia, the average cost of Lagoon transportation is 40% higher than on the mainland. This is due to three different phases involved in the job. The first is the transfer of the goods: this occurs only at Tronchetto, the citys main terminal, where perishables, foodstuffs and express deliveries are loaded onto the boats by the deliverymen. The second phase is the portering work which sees deliverymen ferrying the goods by handcart through the alleyways and over the bridges to the individual addresses. The third is the staffing costs. Because of how labour-intensive the work is more staff will be required for each individual delivery. That said, delivery work is looked upon as heavy labour in Venice. It is actually the companies that complain about the lack of adequate facilities. The loading and unloading docks are often already taken by other boats, while the Tronchetto itself provides no cover. This means that when goods are being loaded, they are completely exposed to the elements putting the packaging at risk of damage.
Despite all the difficulties, however, the deliverymen’s passion for their work is boundless. All most all are Venetian. Because, as they themselves explain, you need to be born in the city to really understand its unique spirit, to know it hidden nooks and crannies and the order of its house numbers. Also, despite physically exhausting nature of the work and the myriad unexpected problems that crop, the sense of freedom they get from taking their boats through Lagoon, passing beneath the Bridge of Sighs or coming alongside Saint Mark’s Square, perhaps after getting a taste of atmospheric Giudecca’s atmosphere, is quite simply priceless.
( 2017 )