The city proper of Venice is actually made up of a mainland portion that is connected to the rest of Italy, and a series of surrounding islands including the largest set of islands that make up the historic centre of Venice, as well as smaller satellite islands including Murano, Burano, Torcello, and San Michele. These largest islands (commonly known as and henceforth referred to as "Venice") are broken up into six districts or sesteri, including San Marco where the Doge's Palace and Basilica San Marco are located, San Polo which is home to the Rialto Bridge and Dorsoduro where the Peggy Guggenheim Museum can be found. Our two-week home swap is at the north-most tip of the north-most district called Cannaregio (Italian for "Royal Canal"), the most heavily populated of the six districts.
We have a stunning view of the boat station, the lagoon and the nearby islands and have spent many a late afternoon out on the balconies observing the Alilaguana and Vaporetto shuttles approach and depart, weaving in and out of the boat dock with pinpoint precision. A few times we saw several boats approach at the same time from different directions. There must be strict rules of engagement as to who has priority. In the evenings, it is very relaxing to sit in the living room and listen to the lapping of the waves.
It is also fun to watch as motor boats, sailboats, kayaks and various types of rowboats go by. One morning we spotted seven gondola-like boats out on the lagoon participating in a Venetian-style rowing race. There were four people to a boat and they were rowing with long oars while standing up like gondoliers but moving at a much quicker pace. Two men in a motorboat were trailing behind then, yelling out "Molto Bene" as encouragement.
General garbage (dry and organic waste) is collected every day except Sunday in Venice, while recycled paper and cardboard waste is collected on Monday/Wednesday/Friday and plastics, tins and glass are picked up Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday . Although a few residences have traditional garbage bins (which look mostly for collecting various types of recycling), the normal tradition for garbage is to hang plastic bags of it on hooks dangling out of the front windows or beside the front door. We even noticed some plastic bags on hooks dangling up high from the second or third floor balconies and wondered how they would be retrieved. Perhaps they would be further lowered down to the ground since I can't image the garbage men going up to get them.
For non-residents, if you pay for individual trips, each ride is €7.50 regardless of whether you are going one stop or multiple stops. This makes it very expensive to get around by water (even though this fare is still significantly cheaper than private water taxis or gondolas which run from €60 to €100 for the boat-load). The thing to do is to buy a Vaporetto boat pass for unlimited rides during a set period of time. The passes are available for purchase at the major Vaporetto stations or at any tobacco store and you can buy one for 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 days. The pass is activated by the scanner the first time you use it and keeps track of how long it is valid for. We purchased a 7-day pass for €60 and got our money's worth by the 3rd day, so that all subsequent rides will now be "free". The passes work on a 24 hour clock which means that since we activated our 7-day pass at 11am on the first day, we can still use it for one more ride on the 8th day as long as we get on before 11am. In some cases, the easiest (or only!) way to get from one side to the other of the Grand Canal that winds through the middle of Venice is to hop on a boat that crisscrosses the canal and take it for one stop. Having an unlimited ride pass makes this financially viable.
Spending almost two weeks living in the heart of historic Venice, and especially in Cannaregio, has certainly been a unique and wonderful experience. There was so much to see and do before we even started to visit the actual tourist sites.