Venice’s Acqua Alta: A Survival guide

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Recently, the acqua alta in Venice reached such heights (… that it was featured everywhere. 70% of Venice was submerged. In fact, Venice’s water level reached 149 cm (4 feet 10 inches) last weekend. This is the 5th highest flood level in 150 years. (View some amazing photos of the acqua alta . ).

Guide to Surviving Venice’s Acqua alta

These photos are breathtaking: People swimming in St. Mark’s Square with merchandise floating in shops and locals paddling to their jobs. What is it like to live or visit Venice during acqua alta? This survival guide explains everything you need to know.

What is Acqua alta?

Photo by ParisSharing Flickr: Woman walking in Venice’s Acqua alta.

Acqua alta is literally “high water” and that is exactly what it really is. Venice is a unique island that is criss-crossed by canals. This makes it very sensitive to rising water levels. The island of Venice is more vulnerable to flooding when water levels in the Venetian lagoon rise.

Acqua alta is usually seen in winter due to the combination of tides, strong south winds, and periodic movements of seawaters. It has been occurring more frequently and getting worse in recent decades due to Venice’s increased sensitivity to climate changes.

It was found that the island was sinking at a rate five times faster than originally thought. This is a rate of just 2 millimeters per annum. Although it may not seem like much, it adds-up: For example, the Rialto Bridge has fallen 1.7m (5 feet) since its first construction!

Because of climate change and melting glaciers, Venice is sinking. Also, it’s partly due to issues specific to Venice, such as the industrialization of Mastre-Marghera, and the increased pumping of water from the ground.

What is the frequency of acqua alta?

Statistics show that exceptional high tides, which are when the water level in the lagoon rises 140 cm above the sea level and floods more than half the island of Venice, occur only once every four years. However, minor flooding is more common: At 110 cm, water floods 14 percent of Venice.

If you are coming to Venice in the winter, especially November or December, be aware of the possibility that there may be acqua alta. Prepare for the magic of Christmas at Venice!

What is the average length of acqua alta?

It usually lasts only for a few hours, but not always. It all depends on where it was hit and how severe.

How can I tell when acqua alta will hit Venice?

The city notifies those who live in Venice by SMS or phone. If acqua alta is particularly severe, all residents are notified by the city via SMS or phone. You should keep your ears open for whistles. The more, the more dangerous it will be. You can also visit Venice’s acqua alta website.

You can also ask your hotel about the probability of acqua alta coming – you can bet they will!

What can I do to get around Venice when it is flooded?


Passarelle for navigation in Venice; photo by Gwenael from Flickr

Keep in mind that the island is likely to be dry at least half of it. The area surrounding St. The area around St. The passarelle are elevated walkways that rise above the water. To avoid being an obstruction to locals, please walk to the right. ).

You will probably get wet, even though the passarelle doesn’t always connect at all points. But it will keep you from getting worse.

Do I pack my rain boots?


A stall selling rain boots during the acqua alta! Photo by Julie Macnam, Flickr.

Not necessarily! Remember that even with the horrible flooding last week, nearly half the island was still completely dry. Many people would rather wait in their hotel, or in a more dry area of town to experience the acqua alta. Rain boots are also useful, but they can take up a lot of space in your suitcase, so it might be worth considering buying them once you arrive in Venice, if they are necessary. Some hotels will even lend rubber boots to guests.

This is a great opportunity to take photos and swim in St. Mark’s Square. It is possible?

No. It could also be dangerous. It will be extremely cold. It’s also very dirty. You’ll notice it as soon as it appears. It’s full of bacteria and probably not something you would want to immerse your body in. The smell is sometimes not pleasant.

Take precautions and do not go barefoot in flooded areas. ).

What happens to transport and sights?

Venice continues to trundle along as normal during acqua alta in many ways. Some things are difficult. Some bridges may prevent boats from passing under them. Some shops, restaurants, or sights may have to temporarily close.

What does Acqua alta refer to and how much should I pack?

Strange question? It’s not! People don’t really think about what they will do if the walk to their hotel is flooded. Your suitcase is no longer available for you to carry around, unless you really want it to soak. You must be strong enough to lift your suitcase above your head. This is something to remember if you visit Venice during high-risk months.


It’s sometimes difficult to see where the canal ends and land stops during acqua alta. Photo by Susan Poupard, Flickr.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Yes, you should be careful when walking on sidewalks that are flooded next to canals. It’s often difficult to see the line between the land and canal due to flooding. If you don’t want to get soaked, be careful!

All of this sounds very serious. You say it will get worse. What can people do about it?

Great question! Great question! It is a $5 billion project so everyone is optimistic that it will work. It is expected to be completed by 2014.

Critics claim that the project did not take into account how high the sea level is expected to rise and that it would prove ineffective. This is a very scary prospect.

What can I do?

It is, in many respects, an integral part of Venetian life. However, acqua alta can also be devastating… and the outlook for the city’s sinking is not good.

If you love Venice, or simply want it to remain around for your grandchildren, then please consider supporting Venice in Peril. Consider supporting Venice In Peril. The Fund’s mission is to raise awareness about Venice’s fragility, and to fund conservation and restoration projects in Venice. It has completed 46 projects as of 2010.

Donate to Venice in Peril Here, or Become a Member to get access to events and lectures.

Continue reading: How to Travel to Venice on a Budget

Don’t forget to check out our video below about what it’s like being a local in Venice and living on the canals (acqua alta also included).