Venice’s Acqua Alta – Italy

Venice is currently in the spotlight on international news, with the worst flood in over 50 years with the city’s high tide rising up to 187cm on Tuesday the 18th of November.

Venice is a city located on the Venetian Lagoon in Italy, originally build on 100 small muddy islands. Completely surrounded by water it was once a strategic area to place a city, today it is vulnerable to high tides, the Acqua Alta which threaten the cities longevity.

In the current crisis with 70% of the city underwater, climate change has been blamed as one of the factors behind the ever increasing tides the city has to battle with. The high tides of between 80 and 90cm is normally manageable by the city, but the mean sea level is estimated at a 20cm rise above the level it was a century ago.

There is a plan by the Italian Government to build a flood barrier to protect Venice from high tides but the project is running late and only expected by the end of 2021.

Flooding is more likely to occur in Venice during the autumn and winter months, with October through to January as the typical season although the city can flood at any time during the year.

The city of Venice is actually slowly starting to sink, about 2 millimeters per year – mostly due to climate change and the the consequent melting of the glaciers. The Rialto Bridge has already sunk 1.7 meters since construction finished in 1591.

Rialto Bridge

Touring venice during acqua alta

If you are planning on visiting Venice during the months when high tides are more likely during the autumn/ winter months, there are a few things you can do to plan around the tides:

  • If you can, pack light. If there is flooding it will be easier to get on and off the island if you have a backpack rather than a large bag with wheels.
  • Make use of the passarelle – the elevated walkways which are higher above the normal high tides. If you use them walk on the right side of the walk-ways to allow flowing foot traffic.
  • Try avoid the lowest lying area of Venice if the flooding is bad – St Marks Square.
  • Normally the high tides will last a few hours and decrease when the tide goes down. If the tide does get very high then it might be a good idea to find some rain boots in Venice. There are some hotels who loan their guests rubber boots if they have which is helpful.
  • Walk carefully and make sure you are not barefoot! Accidents can happen and you could get hurt or end up falling into the water if you aren’t paying attention.
  • Pay attention for any sirens in the city. Thanks to their warning system of a siren network, if there a problem forecast, you will be notified and can prepare accordingly.
  • Water taxis can be affected by the high tides if the tide is particularly high, so keep this in mind.
St Mark’s Square

Despite the challenges of the high tides in Venice, if anyone I knew was heading out the Venice, I wouldn’t let the tides dissuade them. Venice is still one of the most beautiful cities I have had the pleasure in visiting and I hope that the government is able to mitigate the impact of the flooding. Many generations down the line deserve to enjoy the beauty of Venice.

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