Yesterday’s Venice Flood Worst in Over 20 Years
Even if you’ve never been to Venice, Italy before, most people know that it’s a city defined by water–its vaporettos, gondolas, and arched bridges are essential to the city’s romantic, Renaissance charm. But much like New Orleans, Venice’s seaside perch has always been precarious, and yesterday’s flood comes as no surprise to residents whose feet in December are intimately familiar with rain galoshes.
According to the BBC, the city sees some level of flooding 200 days out of every year (locals refer to the floods as “acqua alta”), but this flood is the largest Venice has seen in over 20 years. The mayor of the city warned both residents and tourists alike to remain indoors unless absolutely necessary, meaning many tourists had an excuse to snuggle up at their hotels and just watch the waters rise. The flood waters did recede a bit Monday afternoon, but are expected to rise again with the tide in today’s early hours.
Photo: St. Mark’s Square during a December 2006 flood.
Not to make light of a serious situation, but I’ve been in Venice during a December flood before–although not nearly as bad as this—and, because of the flooding, I had an absolute blast. Mind you, when I was there the mayor did not issue any kind of warning about going outside. And so with boots on I waded through tiny alleys where restaurant diners sat with their feet submerged in water, eating their pizzas and gelatos as if nothing unusual was taking place. I’ve walked on raised planks from one side of St. Mark’s Square to the other in a parade of umbrella-holding pedestrians (see photo above) and watched the water rise so high in the canals that, at first, the gondoliers had to duck dramatically to pass beneath them, and then later, couldn’t pass through at all. I also watched children in colorful boots splash and play with the pigeons at the water’s edge.
During the last century in Venice, the frequency and severity of these floods is on the rise, most likely due to pollution and global warming. The government has been talking for years about fixing the situation through Project MOSE (also called Project Moses), which would build a system of movable gates to protect the city from the vagaries of the Adriatic Sea. Opponents argue that without the regular cleansing influx of Adriatic waters, lagoon contaminants would fester, eventually damaging the environment and harming area animal and plant life.
So is Venice doomed? Will it be the Atlantis of our modern time? And, would you travel to Venice during flood season?
My name: Rachel Berg.
Favorite way to get around: By Venetian gondola during starlit high tide, gliding past decaying and slightly spooky palaces, with perhaps a bottle of prosecco placed between the gondola seat cushions.
View that took my breath away: Unable to sleep in the mystical city of Sfat in Israel, I wandered outdoors predawn and was treated to a purple-on-purple sunrise below the mountaintop that seemed to emerge feet-first through ground-level clouds.
Greatest travel lesson learned: Sunny weather isn't everything. Some of my best travel memories involve go-karting through a deluge turned mud-fest in Mexico, drinking tea in the cold Denali tundra, and watching electric thunderstorms roll through national parks out West.
Most challenging travel moment: Getting leveled by altitude sickness in Cuzco and realizing that my body was forcing me to slow down and rest despite the fact that there was so much to do and see.
Travel ambition: To see the northern lights.