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"Help, I'm in Venice! The streets are full of water!"
"It's glorious! The streets are paved with water! You could ride a walrus to work!"
—Homer Simpson, The Simpsons
Perhaps it's for some aesthetic reason, or perhaps it's simply because they're so unusual—for whatever reason, cities with canals instead of streets are a very popular setting, especially in fantasy. In stories set in the real world, or some alternate universe sharing its geography, this city is, of course, Venice—there are actually other cities and towns with lots of canals, but none are quite as famous or as glamorous, especially since Venice renewed their efforts to make everything really nice and clean in the 1980s. Meanwhile, other worlds often have cities which are suspiciously similar to Venice, usually (though not always) within an Italy-like country. Pretty, old-fashioned European-style architecture and gondolas are optional, though common.
Besides Venice a number of real cities do actually have canals, though most lack Venice's aesthetics due to their most commonly industrial function.
- Aria is set in the city of Neo Venezia, a copy of the original, with exact duplicates of some of the more famous landmarks, on a terraformed Mars and the source of a lot beautiful imagery.
- Pokémon Heroes, the fifth Pokémon movie, was set in a City of Canals called Altomare; the director visited Venice beforehand to scout out the city. Within the games, there's Canalave City in ~Pokémon Diamond and Pearl~.
- There's one in .hack, Mac Anu, the first Root Town (city and only areas free of monsters) new players of The World see. It maintains it's presceane in all .hack Media. After the destruction of The World's servers and creation of The World R:2 it has a new design with Steampunk elements though it keeps it's characteristic Canals. When The World R:X is released the design of R:2's version seems to be left intact but without the Steampunk elements creating a fusion of sorts between the two.
- The island Water 7 in One Piece is modeled after Venice, down to the canals and festival costumes.
- There was a Venice-y city called Aquroya in the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist, which was sinking so fast they didn't expect it to be there in five years' time.
- Shown in several parts of the Sakura Wars franchise, which takes place in the 1920s; Tokyo once was full of canals, most of which are now gone because of World War II and urban development afterwards.
- The "Sad Country" in Kino no Tabi seems to consist of a city like this.
- The Asturian capital in Vision of Escaflowne is also depicted like this.
- Michel has Precia, which took a more realistic approach with the canals being full of stinky trash.
- New Venice from at least the early Silver Age Aquaman comics; an American town that had suffered permanent flooding and decided to go the canal route.
- The Discworld Round Robin Flipside, published in The Wizard's Knob magazine in the mid 90s, had the city of Venialli, famed for its open sewers ... er, canals.
- The Sun Soul does this with Cerulean City. It isn't a huge plot device or anything, but it's obvious the author has some kind of love for Scenery Porn.
- Two James Bond films: Moonraker and Casino Royale. The latter actually had Bond make a building sink by shooting at the buoys.
- Theed from Star Wars.
- The baby pig movie sequel, Babe: Pig in the City, was set in a canal city.
- A significant amount of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade takes place in Venice.
- Which had catacombs underneath it.
- Venice plays a large role in The Talented Mr. Ripley.
- Don't Look Now, which made a point of making Venice look, well, a bit crap.
- The 2003 remake of The Italian Job begins with the titular caper pulled off in Venice.
- The second act of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film takes place in Venice, although some alternate Venice where the Bridge of Sighs is tall and wide enough to let the freighter-sized Nautilus pass under it and has long roads suitable for car chases.
- The rat undercity in Flushed Away.
- The upcoming film The Tourist, starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, is set primarily in Venice.
- The Dutch horror film Amsterdamned is all about Amsterdam's canals, including a speedboat chase (which was filmed in Utrecht, incidentally).
- The titular city of C. J. Cherryh's Merovingen Nights shared-world anthology series.
- Michael Ende's The Neverending Story features a city that, while not technically a City of Canals, is surely an extension of this trope and must be inspired by Venice... it's a city of floating silver filigree palaces on a lake of tears.
- The first part of Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza series is set in an Alternate Universe Renaissance version of Venice called Bellezza, presided over by their beloved and masked Duchessa.
- Illian in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, although since corpses and human refuse are often dumped in some of the lower city's canals, they stink something awful.
- Tanith Lee's City of Venus.
- Camorr in The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.
- Braavos in A Song of Ice and Fire.
- The city of Urteau in The Hero Of Ages had canals, but they dried up and they have street slots now. Canals are also used as a sort of highway system in the Mistborn Trilogy.
- Kai Meyer's Dark Reflections trilogy is partly set in an alternate Venice.
- One of the cities in the Fabled Lands series was very heavily based on Venice, being a major trading port with a Mediterranean climate and lots of canals.
- Kurjain, the capital city of Bethiya, in The Assassins of Tamurin
- La Serenissima (an actual nickname of Venice, sometimes called "The Serene Republic") in the Kushiel's Legacy books.
- Alastair Reynolds' short story Zima Blue has a planet with "one hudred and seventy first known duplicate of Venice, and one of only three Venices rendered entirely in white marble."
- Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord is set in Venice.
- Waterfall City in Dinotopia.
- The Doctor Who story "The Vampires of Venice" is set in 16th century Venice.
- Subverted in an episode of The Detectives where Bob and Dave are in Amsterdam (which also has a lot of canals) but think they're in Venice.
- The Big Finish Doctor Who Expanded Universe audio drama The Stones of Venice was set in a 23rd century Venice on the point of sinking completely. With amphibious gondoliers.
- Glantri City in the Dungeons and Dragons Mystara setting.
- The Eberron setting has something similar in Zarash'ak, the City of Stilts, built over a swamp.
- Marienburg, in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, is based pretty closely on the real-world Amsterdam.
- The Merchant of Venice, though the plot doesn't make any use of the canals; back when the play was written, Venice was more famous for being a City Of Merchants.
- Volpone, similar to the above.
- Atelier Iris 3 takes place in a City of Canals. The gonolas are rowed by a fairy.
- The capital of water planet Hillys, from Beyond Good and Evil.
- Founder's Falls in City of Heroes is basically the game's Nob Hill, and has lots of canals running through the neighborhood proper to allow for yachting.
- And then there's Crey's Folly; before the Rikti War made a mess of it, its more-or-less official name was Venice, so called because of the canals designed to carry industrial waste.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has Vivec—a Scrappy Level due to wasted space and being split across multiple instanced zones, making navigation harder and leading to much unnecessary walking.
- The Scrappy Level of the boat racing game Hydro Thunder, Venice Canals, is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Someone needs to play the "Nile Adventure" level...
- Various areas of Haven City in Jak and Daxter has these; it helps when half the city is knee deep in water.
- The Journeyman Project III: Legacy of Time: Atlantis, complete with a gondola service. The chatty boatman fills you in on the background of the setting.
- The Legend of Dragoon has one.
- City on the Water in Painkiller
- There was one actually called "Canal City" in Ratchet and Clank Going Commando.
- Soleanna in the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog.
- There's a city like this in Tales of Destiny.
- Venezia in Tales of Phantasia. The canals make getting around a little annoying at first.
- Time Splitters Future Perfect has a deathmatch level called Venice.
- There's a level in Tomb Raider 2 set in Venice.
- Stormwind of Warcraft has extensive canals, though it still has cobbled roads.
- Assassin's Creed II has over a third of the game set in Venice.
- Sigfried's level in SoulCalibur for the Dreamcast is set in Venice.
- The Plaza maps in Water Warfare have large, shallow canals running through them, but they're effectively drained—you can run in them without getting wet. However, you can refill your squirt guns by standing anywhere in them (so long as you hold still).
- Spinon from Solatorobo combines this with Floating Continent: it's a city in the sky with a network of canals which all flow right off the edge of the island.
- Sunken City in The Legend of Zelda Oracle of Seasons became one after it was flooded when the seasons went nuts.
- The northern water tribe's city in Avatar: The Last Airbender is something like this. Only it's made of ice with canals in it.
- In The Simpsons, Homer briefly turns Springfield into one of these. Surprisingly enough, no one's upset about this.
- The 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had the turtles touring Venice just in time for the Mardi Gras festival. Shredder and Krang plan flood the city with the Hyrdofluxor.
- The Adventures of Super Mario Bros 3 had Venice, which Kootie Pie wanted to flood to make a water park.
- Venice, obviously.
- In addition, several cities are titled "The Venice of..." because of the identification of this trope with the city. These include Amsterdam in
Hollandthe Netherlands, Hamburg in Germany, St. Petersburg in Russia, Stockholm in Sweden, Ft. Lauderdale in Florida, Birmingham in England, and Recife in Brazil; and of course the Venice of Asia, Bangkok in Thailand.
Humphrey Lyttleton: Birmingham, known as the "Venice of the North", by people who haven't been to Venice.
- Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, which was located on top of Lake Texcoco in what is now Mexico. However, seeing as it was the seat of power of an ancient Native American culture far removed from anything resembling European culture, it really wasn't anything like Venice but even more beautiful according to the historical accounts.
- Venice, CA was Abbot Kinney's attempt to re-create this in Los Angeles.
- The ancient Sumerian city of Uruk was founded before 4000 BC, making it the Ur Example.
- Phoenix, Arizona has several canals to supply the area's water needs, most of which have scenic walkways on either side. They also have historical significance, as many of them were dug by Native Americans in the area centuries before white settles arrived.