Venice Flooding: Is It Safe To Travel There?
January 14, 2020 9:19am
It’s been a tough winter for beautiful Venice, with November’s unprecedented flooding wreaking an estimated €1 billion in damages and causing many to question if it’s wise to travel there. But while the situation has been extreme and devastating, this incredible city is far from off limits. Here, we explain what happened, why it’s not just safe but essential to the city’s survival to visit, and how to be prepared in case of further flooding if you do.
Remind us again what happened in Venice last November please.
Last November saw Venice experience some of its worst flooding in history. Waves crashed through St. Mark’s Square, frightened tourists waded through flooded streets, and historic sites such as St. Mark’s Basilica, St. Moses baroque church, the Ca’D’Oro museum and Santa Maria Assunta suffered significant damages.
Isn’t Venice always prone to flooding though?
Yes. The tide rises and falls in the lagoon twice a day, every day. Sometimes, a full moon and bad weather contribute to unusually high tides known as ‘acqua alta’. A recurring phenomenon, acqua alta are more common during November and winter months, usually lasting two to four hours, and with authorities sounding sirens warning of their approach. A part of Venetian life, locals own galoshes and many buildings have flood protection barricades.
View this post on Instagram
Acqua Alta is a phenomena that happens regularly in Venice during winter months around October until January, the water rises everyday for 2-3 hrs then everything gets normal. . 📸: @aquaapartments ————————————— #veniceitaly🇮🇹 #venice #italy #italy🇮🇹 #travelvenice #veniceitaly #venicecanals #venicefloods #venicebuildings #veniceskies #venicewater #venicewinter #venicephotography #traveltheworld #travel #travelers #love #floods #explore #wander
OK, so what made the acqua alta of November 2019 so exceptional?
On November 12th, Venice experienced its worst flood since 1966, with water reaching 1.84m above sea level. The city’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro called it “a disaster” and a local governor declared it apocalyptic in its destruction. Furthermore, for the first time in history, high waters hit 1.4m five times in 2019 — prior to this, the maximum had been twice in one year.
Is climate change causing these extreme events?
Climate change is one of several factors. There’s also the fact that the MOSE sea-barrier project for flood prevention has been beset with corruption scandals, structural problems and delays since work commenced in 2003; there’s natural subsidence; and there’s the constant digging of the canals to further accommodate ever bigger ships, particularly cruise ships. This digging allows more water into the lagoon, and the more water, the bigger the floods.
View this post on Instagram
#Repost @unfccc ・・・ Venice, a world heritage city, is experiencing massive flooding. Not every extreme weather event can be attributed to climate change, but such events are becoming more frequent and severe as global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Let’s take a look back at Lorenzo Quinn´s piece of art created to highlight the consequences of #ClimateChange – shown at the Venice Biennale – as a reminder of the human face of climate change impacts which will only get worse if we don’t take serious climate action. #lorenzoquinn #lorenzoquinnartist #art4climate
So, it is safe to visit?
Despite all this, yes! And you really should, because Venice needs you! It is, after all, a city based on tourism, and many local businesses suffered badly in the floods. Show them and Venice your support by visiting. Just ensure you’re prepared for any flooding. Below are a few ways to do so…
View this post on Instagram
Our #AmericaLovesVenice campaign in partnership with @italyinus continues into the new year. Thanks to the incredible generosity of hundreds of donors from around the world, the fund has reached more than $500,000 to support artistic heritage recovery in Venice. We are deeply grateful to all who have contributed and advocated for this important cause. If you haven’t yet joined the campaign, please donate today (link in bio). #AmericaLovesVenice #venice #venezia #italy #veniceflood #savevennice #acquaalta #donate
Contrary to what some pretty sensational media reports portrayed, the entire city was not submerged. Venice is over a metre above sea level, so a high tide of, say, 1.4m means the water level is 40cm, and at that, flooding occurs only in some parts of the old city. Furthermore, last year’s historic high tide lasted just 1.5 hours before retreating.
Live like a local:
Again, acqua alta are part of Venetian life. So, live like a local and accept they may happen during your trip. Indeed, the more adventurous among you can even make like photographer Natalia Elena Massi and embrace them. She travelled to Venice during the peak of the floods and captured them beautifully. “The atmosphere was surreal,” she said. “Even in tragedy, I found Venice more beautiful than ever. The water that threatened it made it even more fascinating.” However, please leave such photography to the professionals. Locals don’t appreciate tourists Instagramming their distress.
If you’re in Venice during flooding, certain sites may be closed or inaccessible, or you may have to take circuitous routes or wait for high tides to fall to get to them. You may even get stuck somewhere for a while. So just go with the flow, if you’ll pardon the pun!
Be practical by…
- If you do happen to encounter flooding, Venice has many vendors selling the appropriate clothing and footwear
- Downloading the likes of the Hi!Tide Venice app, which details times for high and low tides, where in the city there’s flooding, and when and if the vaporetti (the city’s public waterbuses) are running
- Choosing accommodation wisely. If a location is particularly exposed to flood damage, avoid it, and instead consider staying with us at our brand new Staycity aparthotel in Venice Mestre. Far enough away from the city centre not to be affected by floods, but close enough for quick and easy access, Mestre is perfectly located
One last thing…
Remember Venice is quieter during winter months when acqua alta are more frequent. So, while there’s increased risk of flooding, you’ve also got the city more to yourself, and that’s a beautiful thing!
Now you’re more informed about the recent flooding in Venice, we really hope you feel confident enough to support this beautiful city by visiting. We’d also really love you to stay with us at Staycity Aparthotels Venice Mestre, our brand new 175-room aparthotel. The perfect base for exploring Venice, you could not be better located than here!