Venice ‘Streets’

This interesting post about Venice by Alexis McBride got me thinking about what changes when cities reclaim spaces for pedestrians. Here in Athens, Dionysiou Areopagitou, the wide walkway on the southern side of the Acropolis, was converted from a road to a walkway before the 2004 Olympics. It has become a destination for visitors and locals alike, linking historical sites and museums (the Arch of Hadrian, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Acropolis Museum, the Acropolis itself, the Ancient Agora and its museum, Philopapou Hill) and different neighborhoods (Plaka, Thissio, Monastiraki, Koukaki). Running between major streets, there are usually wide, pedestrian-only courtyards and paths lined by restaurants, shops, and shaded places for people to sit. This is where folks tend to congregate and see their neighbors. It definitely changes the dynamic when you can stop and chat or have a meal (al fresco dining is preferred here), and you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car or about noisy vehicles barreling past.

Public Places Past and Present

I’ve been doing some reading about how the unique canals and rivers of Venice have affected the way public space works in the city.  It’s probably the biggest reason I chose to travel 3.5 hours each way to spend 24 hours in Venice on a 5 day holiday in Rome.  Venice is one of the only true water cities in the world, and has lead to a interesting transport situation.

Vaporetto, bus boat, VeniceVaporetto, bus boat, Venice

Delivery boat, Venice Delivery boat, Venice

Taxi boat, Venice Taxi boat, Venice

Crane boat, Venice Crane boat, Venice

Police boat, Venice Police boat, Venice

Tourists flock to the city to see the boats – water buses, garbage boats, water taxis, delivery boats, private boats, and gondolas move around the city.  Interestingly, the city is also touted as one of the great pedestrian cities as all wheeled transport (cars and even bikes and segue ways) have been banned from the city.  Tourists and locals alike navigate narrow  alleys and…

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2 Comments

  1. I find it interesting how sometimes making pedestrian boulevards draws people in, while sometimes it creates a wasteland. I wonder whether it has something to do with the tourist draw of historic sites? In Ottawa, there is a large pedestrian street that is largely unused because it doesn’t go past the main shopping/tourist areas. Do historic sites make modern pedestrian destinations ‘work’?

    1. I think the combination of historic/tourist sites and shopping/restaurants works really well to draw people in. Another big pedestrian street in Athens is in a central shopping district, and it’s also consistently packed and happens to be close to the historic sites and tourist center. In Belgrade, a big pedestrian street is both in the historic center and packed with places to shop and eat (it appeals to locals and tourists alike). Istanbul’s Istiklal is primarily a shopping and entertainment street, but is also in a historic district (and it connects historic districts) and is a destination on its own. I wonder if these pedestrian streets are designated out of need–as in too many people use them already to make traffic feasible or safe–or if they’re created to later become destinations or to link destinations.

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