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Learning to Navigate the Venetian Lagoon Like a Pro

You want to drive your own motorboat in the Lagoon?” The table of Venetians was openly

incredulous at the idea. They offered dire predictions: I would surely get lost, fall overboard, become mired in mud — much of the enormous Lagoon is only a foot deep — or collide with any number of speeding watercraft. But I was adamant.Ever since I first visited Venice 15 years ago, having seen Italians happily bobbing along, I’ve wanted to pilot my own vessel. I had hired speedboats before in Capri, zooming around like Tom Ripley on a spree, but I’d never had any luck finding one in La Serenissima. From what I could gather, there was a byzantine system of licenses that ensured non-Venetians were stuck on crowded ferries, rapacious gondolas or gaudy tour boats. I did find a stray listing in a guidebook for a hire boat company, but when I tracked down the address all I found was a boarded-up doorway. Nobody knew if the ghostly office had ever existed.But the internet has finally infiltrated Venice, and before my last trip an online search turned up a company called Brussa Is Boat that would rent vessels to independent travelers. It had a bilingual website, didn’t look too expensive — 160 euros a day ($175), plus taxes — and even seemed to have a real address. The boats could be taken solo anywhere in the Lagoon, although there were restrictions on the canals of the historic center. This was fine by me. The most famous Venetian sites are now packed with tourists from cruise ships, their waterways a logjam, the aquatic equivalent of a Shanghai shopping mall. I was ready for a new frontier.
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