Five things to do in Venice when it floods

Gondola in Venice Grand Canal at sunset. Photo: Shutterstock
Gondola in Venice Grand Canal at sunset. Photo: Shutterstock

Gondola in Venice Grand Canal at sunset. Photo: Shutterstock

There are lots of news reports today of the heavy flooding in Venice, some of the worst the Italian city has experienced in years. Many areas are submerged, with knee-high water disrupting trade and tourism. 

The only city in the world built on water, the threat of flooding looms over Venice more than ever at this time of year, when acqua alta (or high water) is one of the city's biggest problems. This phenomena occurs when southeasterly sirocco winds combine with tides to trap the high water in the lagoon. Global warming, human intervention and industrialisation are all culpable. The 20th century saw the delicate balance of the lagoon disturbed by land reclamation, the deepening of shipping channels (including one especially deep for oil tankers) and the enclosure of sections for fish farming.


Plans to protect the city

Named MOSE after the prophet who parted the waves, a new tidal barrier looks set to save Venice from perilous floods. Despite protests and delays a substantial amount of the work on the mobile barriers is complete and they should be in action by 2014. 

The MOSE tidal barrier is being installed across the three lagoon inlets, using 78 steel floodgates lying on the seabed to close the entrances to the lagoon by floating to the surface when floods of more than 1.1 metres (3.4ft) above sea level threaten. The barrier should operate three times a year, based on current sea levels, and could hold out tides as high as 3 metres (9.9ft). The lagoon’s 60km (40-mile) outer coastline has been reinforced with artificial reefs and new beaches backed by effective breakwaters. 


What to do in Venice when it floods

In the meantime, though, what can you do in Venice when it floods? Here are our top 5 Venetian water experiences:

1. The Grand Canal

By vaporetto (line 1): leisurely palace-spotting along one of the world’s greatest waterways. 

2. Gondola ride 

Clichéd but memorable, particularly along the romantic back canals, rather than the bustling Grand Canal. 

3. Traghetto crossing 

Standing room only on the cheap but authentic gondola ferry across the Grand Canal.

4. Water taxi trip 

A private motor launch around the lagoon is wildly extravagant but worth it to travel in style to lesser-known Venice. 

5. The Brenta Canal 

Take a barge from Venice to Padua to see a clutch of historic Palladian villas. 


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