Photo © Getty Images / Zu Sanchez

The Day I Fell Into a Canal in Venice

Looking for magic, and tumbling headlong into an adventure.

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By Kelly Memphis

Travel Writer

30 Nov 2018 - 5 Minute Read


Venice, the city of bridges, the city of masks, the city where I fell into a canal.

Two things I’d heard about Venice: expect constant crowds, and embrace being lost.

Getting lost is part of the magic, the guides said, so wander freely.

Exiting the ferry, I immediately saw the part about crowds was true. In midst of a three-week solo trip, I was lonely, and disliked the jostling crowds. I would try to see the famous Piazza San Marco later, I decided. For now – I needed some magic. Keeping my phone with its map in my pocket, I twisted through charming stone alleyways. Eventually, I found myself in a courtyard with no other exit except an archway looking down into a canal. I crossed to it to look for gondolas and magic.

Instead, I fell in.

Two things I wish I’d heard about Venice: slippery algae grow along the edges of walkways, and falling into a canal happens very fast.

After splashing around for a few shocked moments in the murky water, I clambered back up through the archway. On solid ground, I assessed: I was soaking wet with a bruised arm and a bruised ego, but my belongings were dry inside my purse. Then – I remembered my phone. I clawed at my pocket but realized it was now empty. The sickening realization flooded me that my phone had fallen out, all of my photos, travel plans, and ability to communicate sunken to the bottom of the canal.

What next, after one loses her phone falling into a canal in Venice? A shower. I resisted panic and found my way back to the ferry, keeping my eyes straight ahead all the way to my hostel. What next, after a shower? A drink. I sat down at the hostel bar and ordered an Aperol Spritz.

“How are you?” asked the girl next to me, American, friendly face. I burst into tears.

Soon, a small, international support group had gathered around me. The story grew funnier with each telling. The American said, “I have an iPad you can use and mail to me after your trip.” A Swiss said, “Let’s get dinner.”

Kelly Memphis

Back to the ferry – this time dry, surrounded by new friends, and filled with warmth over unexpected generosity. The ferry was followed by pasta, by wine, by dancing. Later, sometime very late, we walked through empty streets, lost, laughing, until we turned a corner and found ourselves in Piazza San Marco. The ornate buildings and statues gleamed white and breathtaking. The square was empty, except for us.

For one shimmering hour, on the day I fell into a canal, Venice belonged only to us. It was magic.

Getty Images / Frans Sellies

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Kelly took her first road trip at one month old, and has never stopped traveling since (thanks Dad). In between trips, she lives in Washington DC.

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  • Kasey said

    Such a funny, charming story! Glad I’m not the only clumsy traveler. Thanks for sharing, Kelly!

  • Sharon said

    I loved this! Excellent story with an even greater ending! Kindness really goes a long way.

  • Linda said

    Just happened to me at the last day of our trip. I slipped walking on a narrow pier toward gondola. I was stunned. Totally submerged but gondolier helped me out. I’m 71. Fortunately right in front of hotel. I immediately cried and was saying, “My phone, my phone!” People were so nice. One Italian woman was patting my shoulder in comfort, another tourist tried to calm me about the phone. “You can buy a phone w all info on iCloud, an Italian came up to me saying there are divers who will go down to retrieve items. Fortunately, through a miracle my husband had my phone in his jacket. Lucky I was not hurt, a few bad bruises but nothing broken except my pride. Now I can laugh about it!.

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