What makes Venice so beautiful and attractive to tourists is also it’s Achilles heel. The canal city, famous for its winding canals, is also highly susceptible to flooding, and those floods can prove particularly disastrous. When Venice is flooded, it looks completely different than it usually does. The floodwaters inundate the city’s iconic piazzas, alleys, and canals, with waters rising up to over a three feet high. The current is often so strong it even disrupts the normal movement of boats and gondolas.
When Venice floods, locals use raised wooden walkways known as “passerelle” to navigate the flooded streets, cafes and shops block their doors with wooden boards to keep water from entering, and many Venetians evacuate to higher grounds to avoid damage to their homes. When the water rises to knee-high, it is called “acqua alta,” meaning “high water.” When it reaches waist-high, it is referred to as “acqua granda,” meaning “big water.”
Although these floods can cause significant damage and disruption, they are part of Venetian life and have played an important role in shaping the city’s culture and infrastructure. In fact, Venetian architects and builders have developed special techniques to deal with these floods, which include the use of concrete and steel pylons to reinforce structures, and the creation of elevated walkways called “sestiere.”
Overall, the sight of a flooded Venice can be both breathtaking and terrifying, highlighting the city’s beauty while also reminding us that beauty is fragile. Despite the logistical and economic challenges that come with these floods, Venice remains a city that draws visitors from around the world, even during the times when it’s inundated with water.