WE live in unsettling times facing an uncertain future.

As the coronavirus pandemic redefines how we live our lives in order to limit death, chinks of light emerge.

In the waters of the Venice canals – renowned for their tourist bustle – today there is a surprising sight; not just clear views to the sandy bed, but shoals of fish, crabs and colourful plantlife.

There aren’t quite dolphins – that particular slice of fake animal news came courtesy of dolphins filmed at a port in Sardinia. But the strangely calm city is reclaiming its past.

Under Venice’s strict rules of self-confinement to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – all journeys but a trip to walk the dog or buy food are forbidden – the ancient city has been transformed almost overnight, reports The Guardian.

“The water is blue and clear,” said Gloria Beggiato, who owns the famous Metropole Hotel near St Mark’s square and who has a view over the Venice lagoon.

“It is calm like a pond, because there are no more waves caused by motorised boats transporting day-tripper tourists.

“And of course, the giant cruise ships have disappeared.”

The National:

La Serenissima’s hundreds of canals have been emptied of motorboat taxis, transport and tourist boats. The vaporetti water buses now run on a reduced timetable. Even most of the gondolas are moored.

The clarity of the water has improved dramatically. Cormorants have returned to dive for fish they can now see. At the Piazzale Roma vaporetto stop, ducks have even made a nest.

“Someone has put up a sign saying, ‘Don’t tread on the duck eggs,’” Beggiato said. “All totally unimaginable a while ago.”

As the death toll from coronavirus in Italy rises, the government has tried to keep citizens safe at home through a combination of social media and police controls.

The apparent cleanliness of the water is not in fact due to a lack of pollution, said Davide Tagliapetra, an environmental researcher at the Institute of Marine Science. He told a local TV station that the reason is the absence of motorised transport, which churns up the muddy canal floor.

The Venetian economy, relying as it does on tourism, has taken a bruising hit, but in the meantime locals appear to be quietly rediscovering their city.

“We Venetians have the feeling that nature has returned and is taking back possession of the city,” said Beggiato.

“If you ask me today – sunny blue skies, clear canals – then, yes, we would all like Venice to stay like this for a while.

“But we need – and look forward to – the return of tourists, though maybe not the 20 million a year that we have had to cope with.

“I honestly believe we should take the opportunity of this lockdown to reflect and see how we can be more organised in the future to find a balance between the city and tourism.”

It is hard to see beyond the current crisis of the coronavirus, but perhaps nature is showing us the way.