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Acqua Alta

High Tides and Flooding in Venice
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Venice flooding photo

ABOVE: A flooded fondamenta in Dorsorduro, between the San Basilio vaporetto stop and the Campo Santa Margherita.

What to expect during acqua alta:

Most of the time, acqua alta is only a mild nuisance: You might have to sidestep a pond or two in the Piazza San Marco or avoid water that's splashing onto a fondamenta, or sidewalk, next to a canal.

However, if you hear a siren wailing, you should be prepared for more serious flooding, especially in low-lying areas of the historic center. A siren means that an unusually high tide will peak in three to four hours. Depending on the height of the acqua alta and where you are in the city, you could encounter flooding for several hours before and after the tidal maximum. Such flooding can vary from a few centimeters to a major inundation like the one in the picture above.

(It's worth noting that Venice's Tidal Center claims that its three-hour forecasts are 95% reliable, with an accuracy of plus or minus 10 centimeters.)

The city provides elevated wooden walkways in areas of the city that are prone to flooding; you can see a map of these pedestrian routes at most ACTV vaporetto stops.

How to prepare:

If you plan to spend time in Venice during the fall and winter months, you may want to pack rubber boots--especially for visits near the full moon or new moon, when acqua alta is most likely to occur. Alternatively, consider packing several plastic garbage bags and strings or elastic bands to hold them in place. Garbage bags may not be elegant, but they can help to keep your shoes and legs dry. If you live in a country where NEOS waterproof nylon overshoes are available, a pair of Adventurers or Trekkers might be worth tossing into your bag.

Another option is to buy rubber boots in Venice or acquire temporary plastic rain boots from souvenir stands and street vendors. However, if you have large feet, you may have trouble finding boots that fit--and in any case, you'll need to buy protection before the waters rise.

  • Tip: For rubber or plastic rain boots, try Ratti, which has an excellent selection of men's and women's wellies in a wide range of sizes. The long-established hardware and housewares store is a few minutes' walk from the Piazza San Marco.

Again, it's unlikely that acqua alta will be more than a mild nuisance during your stay, and it isn't a danger to human life. (No one drowned during the record acqua alta of 1966, when the entire city was flooded.)

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Acqua Alta pictures with captions:

 


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