Acqua Alta, Venice
Venice has sunk in the last 100 years, a result of mainland industries pumping water out of the aquiefer below the city. As a consequence, ominously high tides that used to be a minor annoyance, have become a regular winter occurence, particularly in low-lying areas like St Mark's Square.
They will convince you to eat the fish of the day (8euro/per 100g). Little do you know that they will serve you a 700g fish and you will end up paying 56euros for terrible fish in a diner type of restaurant. Please avoid and please don't be fooled. The food is awful here including the pasta.
On the bad winter days you can find yourself walking on flooded St. Marco Square so try to get high shoes or boots.
BTW - because of the floods some houses left the first floor unoccupied.
.It was 9AM of our 2nd day.Breakfast was ending."You are leaving very soon" said the waiter. His brusque remark surprised me.He pointed to the canal-side windows where 2 inches of water was lapping at the table legs. "Rapidamente",I said.The hotel elevators were off, so we climbed to our room.We had planned to walk to the Ca d'Oro(opens at 10) but there was now no hurry. It was lunch before we descended. The water was up to the second step! A booted porter passed in the hall below. "Hey! How do we get out?""No problema". He disappeared and shortly returned with 4-30 inch green plastic garbage bags and 4 yellow long plastic ties. Properly attired we waded out into the Lista, mounted the boardwalk and 2 blocks further waded to the Brek Tavola Calda(on higher ground). These boots and garter-type fasteners(!) should be in your coat pockets if you possibly arrive during AA.If you do not use them,put your soiled laundry in them. I admit we did not try them out on a long walk thru a submerged area,but during the flooding there were places where they were helpful.
Pick your time and season to Venezia carefully. When the water is high, you will need waders.
Photo is from a very old cover copy of USA Today © (I think). (film @ 11:00)
I would never stay and / or take a picture in Venice if the water was this high!
As you probably already know, Venice is slowly sinking which makes it suseptible to flooding which happens many times during a year particularly around March and November (but it can happen any season). This creates all sorts of problems for tourists, not to mention the locals. I am sure the moisture makes maintenance of their homes a problem and the city's population has diminished to half what it was 50 years ago.
When we were eating one night we encountered a family from Louisiana who had been in Interlaken (they pronounced it with a long "a"). They said it was raining so much there that they decided to come to Venice. We left the next morning and found this photo in one of the newspapers. We found it amusing that they had come to avoid the rain, but I am sure they were not amused in the least!
In the fall, especially in October and November, it very often happens that the tide rises and the water overflows the banks of the canals, flooding the city: the foundations, the alleyways, the fields, the ground floor of the houses, the churches and the shops. The rising water is a problem for the Venetians but it is an unusual, exciting experience for tourists as it is a unique event. Seeing Piazza San Marco flooded by a still lake of water is most certainly a unique, magical moment, which has been immortalized several times over the years by famous photographers.
Do not be bewildered by “acqua alta”: you can still visit the city by using the wooden walkways.
For information, visit the website of the Centro Maree (Tide Forecasts and Reporting Centre) or call 041.2411996.
Be aware that flooding no longer occurs only in the winter months. Even in June we experienced one evening of "acqua alta" (high water). It was only in Piazza San Marco and its surrounding area, but that's where we were that night so it did affect us. We were going on a moonlit gondola ride and the gondolier had to take a different route than we had planned, because the water was too high for the gondola to get under some of the bridges. Afterwards, we had to try several different routes back to the hotel before we found one not blocked by water. I didn't get a decent picture of the flooding in the dark.
It was interesting to see for one night, but any more might have been a problem. I suppose we just would've bought boots and gone on...
Plans are afoot as well to improve Venice's treatment of sewage, which for centuries has been dumped directly into the canals. Venetians are now installing septic tanks as buildings and market areas undergo renovation, and authorities hope that within the next two decades, traditional sewer pipes can deliver the city's waste to mainland water-treatment facilities. Finally, St. Mark's Square, the city's lowest point and most frequently flooded area, is slated for a $50 million project to rebuild its drainage system.
The debate over how to safeguard Venice and preserve its buildings and art treasures for successive generations will not end soon. Indeed, it will likely be years before construction of any kind begins, whether of the mobile gates or some entirely different solution.
*On May 15, 2003, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's Prime Minister, officially launched the gates project, which is expected to take eight years to complete at a cost of $4 billion.
Watch out for high tide in Venice or 'ACQUA ATLTA' as it is known. We didn't realise it was going to happen but the locals did - they were carying their wellies around for the lower parts of Venice, like St Marks, to change into. Other people in the square had great fun trying to avoid getting their feet wet.
So what sea levels constitute an acqua alta, well here's a guide I found:
80 and 100 cm, there is generally only flooding in central areas. This is still "acqua alta", but pretty modest.
at 100 cm, 5% of the city is below water
at 110 cm 15% of the city is below water
(sirens forecast this high water 3-4 hours in advance)
at 120 cm, 33% of the city is below water
at 130 cm, 62% of the city is below water
above 140 centimeters is a flood emergency.
The worst one recently was Nov. 2002 at 147 cm - the 5th worst in the last 100 years!
The website below will show the sea levels for the next few days so you can see if an acqua alta will affect your visit.
The phenomenon of high tides is such a common experience that the Venetians have come to accept them without any big fuss. It has been possible to see gondolas on the Square or even beneath the arcades.
If you are caught by high waters, under no circumstances be tempted, even if you see others doing so, to remove your shoes and walk barefoot. As soon as possible wash your feet and shoes carefully under plenty of fresh running water because the floodwater is saline.
Everyone knows that Venice is drowing. If few years ago high water was a dangre only few times a year - now it changes for worse. Sometimes in the evening you can see water on the street that goes along San Marco place.
Venice is sinking!!!!It is said it sinks at a rate of about 10 inches a century! Be sure to visit!!! I doubt in our lifetime, it will be gone..but they do experience problems with flooding. In the winter ,they experience'acqua alta' or the 'high water' and the streets get flooded. When this happens, elevated wooden planks are erected to make sidewalks at the more frequented areas.
During full moon and high tide, water bubbles up through Venice sewers flooding areas including St. Marks Square. While I watched the beautiful full moon and listened to outdoor concerts, water crept silently closer to my feet.