From its very beginnings, Venice has always been an amphibious city. Its fish-shaped body floats on water and it is impossible to think of the city without associating her land with the lagoon and her many canals, water channels and streams. The city rose from the water: many centuries ago people from the Veneto fled from the mainland to the lagoon to seek refuge from their enemies on the sandy islands surrounded by marshland. Venice was built upon hundreds of small, flat islands which were later connected by almost 400 bridges.
The Venetians had to build solid foundations for their city by driving wooden stakes into sandy grounds and constructing wooden platforms on top of these. Venetians were, and still are, islanders, and their connection to the lagoon and to the sea has always been, and still is, inevitable and necessary. It is this ‘marriage’ between land and water that made it possible for Venice in the past to become economically and politically powerful, and this is what still today largely contributes to making the city so unique. It is very apparent, when you are in Venice, that you are always surrounded by water. When you are walking around the city you will cross many canals and get on and off the vaporetto (public water bus) frequently.
The best way to see the real Venice is from a Venetian perspective, and for this you cannot avoid moving around by boat. I would highly advise you to hire a small boat for a day or two to get a better feel of the city rather than always sharing the crowded public boats. With your own boat, you will see places tourists cannot reach and will live a whole new experience. If you don’t, you will definitely be missing the opportunity to fully understand the complex identity of the city. Hiring a boat is not as difficult as you may think; you can hire a boat with little experience via different private companies.