Posted by: Brad Nixon | February 3, 2016

Italian City of Canals … Not Venice

Water has always been an essential element for establishing and maintaining cities, not only for consumption, but as transportation and as a source of power.

Say “canals” and “Italy,” and everyone rightly thinks of Venice. Not far from Venice, though, is another city threaded by canals that give it a distinctive character. Unlike Venice, it’s on the mainland: Treviso.

Treviso canal Brad Nixon 6589 (640x480)

Treviso is an ancient city, predating the Romans, although it became a Roman town, and continued under a succession of other rulers, including Byzantium; the Lombards and, in the 14th Century, Venice itself; then France and Austria. Its aspect is still entirely Italian. It’s an easy hour’s train ride from Venice, and not much farther from Vicenza, Padua or Verona, and worth a look on your second or third trip to Italy, once you’ve sampled Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan.

Treviso canal Marcy Vincent 1048 (640x451)

Treviso doesn’t depend entirely on its canals, as does Venice. There are streets and highways and vehicular traffic. The canals, though, have been central to Treviso’s history, and they were all navigable, providing an important means of transportation, linking the city by water to Venice and the Adriatic. There’s still a fish market on an island in the middle of one of the largest canals, dating from early times, when fresh catch from Venice arrived daily.

Treviso canal Brad Nixon 6590 (640x480)

Unlike the Venetian canals, Treviso’s have flowing water, fed by local streams headed for the nearby Sile River, and were an important source of power. Treviso was a mill town, and there are still numerous mills among the city’s buildings, some still sporting their watercourses and mill wheels, even if they’re not actively working.

At the center of the following photo is a former mill. You can see the canal flows directly under the building.

Treviso canal Brad Nixon 6606 (640x415)

Here’s the canal flowing beneath opposite side of the building, with The Counselor standing in front of the restaurant that occupies part of the old mill, where we ate lunch.

Treviso canal Brad Nixon 6595 (640x480)

The canals have played a central role in the life of Treviso, providing some more basic services than milling, including laundry.

Treviso 1910 laundresses 1044 (640x417)

We’ll return to look at some other aspects of Treviso in the next post.

There are many cities around the world with canals. Other than Venice, do you have a favorite canal city ? Leave a comment.

Canal and mill photograph in this post, plus many images from Under Western Skies are available on CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky image portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2017. One photo © Marcy Vincent, used by kind permission.


  1. When you wrote “Not Venice” I immediately thought of Hamburg which reportedly has more bridges crossing its canal network than Venice does. Funny how some places get a reputation for something even if others might actually deserve that more (just aren’t as famous).


    • Thanks, Mark. Yes, lots of northern European canals. On Facebook, our bandmate Niels pointed us to Giethoorn, Netherlands, also called “Small Venice.”


  2. I was wondering when you would circle back to Venice. You are tantalizingly close! 😬

    Canals? Sure. Colmar is a very picturesque little village loaded with bursting geraniums and half timbered buildings in Alsace province in eastern France. In fact, it’s often called le Petite Venice. Delightful! 😍


    • Merci. I know only the place name. That’s interesting. I wonder how many “Little Venices” there are in this world?


      • Some say Venice is the Birmingham of the south!!!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. If you have an interest in Italian canals check out, Livorno’s, New Venice, Canal Restoration in Tuscany.


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