January 07, 2010

What you need to know about Acqua Alta in Venice

The above video by the city of Venice tells tourist that acqua alta, high water or flooding does not make Venice inaccessible. It shows how "effortless" life in the city continues.

These days Venice has acqua alta every day. You can find the forecast here.

It shows you when it reaches the peak, eg. very high tide of 110 cm tomorrow morning at 3.15 am. This does not mean that the water will reach your bellybottom. It is measured from the average sea level.  Shops and bars around St. Mark's square are likely to be flooded at ground floors as well as some alleys. With gum boots you will be able to easily cross San Marcus square - or use the many set up footbridges - if you are already up early in the morning.

Centro Maree forecasts the level day by day - Here is what you need to know:

  •  if the water level in St.Mark's basin is 65-68 cm, expect to find some water on the ground in front of St.Marks' church entrance. Important: do not think you'll see water 65 cm high in St.Mark's square! This measure refers to the sea level.
  • if the level is up to 85, expect some big puddles in St.Mark's square and in some "calli" (streets) in Venice. The middle area of St.Mark's square will be dry, as it is not perfectly flat. Wear water-proof boots!
  • at 90 cm, St.Mark's square will be a lake of salty water. Some vaporettos (public boats) routes will be cancelled and alternative routes will be used. This is because they won't be able to pass under some bridges. Quite a confusion at boat stops. Lower areas in Venice can be accessed via special "walkways"
  • at 110 cm, you'll hear sirens: this informs population to get ready. Most shops and warehouse at ground floors are likely to be flooded.
  • from 120 cm to 140 cm, Venetians will get worried. Important: again, do not think you'll see water 120 cm. high all around in the streets: this measure refers to the sea level. Acqua alta can result in a 50 cms. water in the streets: which is not little anyway.
I have never really seen San Marco flooded. But I saw the water coming up the gully drain on my wedding day and my wedding dress getting wet.
--> matrimonio bagnato matrimonio fortunato ! ;-)

photo by Manuel Silvestr/Reuters via corriere della serra


  1. Susie what a great video! Beautiful reflections but it breaks my heart to see this. How long has this been happening... I guess for many years. It will only get worse is my fear. I have yet to visit there! Fabulous city! Thanks for sharing this! Carol

  2. Suzie,
    you'd better get boots with waterproof zippers...

  3. Hi Suzie,
    Thanks so much for explaining this to me this way. It's very helpful.

  4. fascinating post! i've never visited venice during high water season, but i bet it's an experience!

  5. I really wanted to go last Sunday, lunchtime high tide 85 cm on Piazza San Marco - but we did not all have gum boots and worried to depend on the foot bridges.
    But now, after researching for this post, I learned myself that maybe arriving in the afternoon would have ment just to find some puddles.
    But one day, I want to explore it with gum boots (real ones, no zippers)

  6. How fascinating. And I love the picture of the little "bridge". I'd love to see Venice (and Florence, and Rome, and Padua, and Siena and....) but living in Italy just seems to make that all the harder!

  7. Never seen it flooded either and thank god because I love it... thanks for the pointer just in case I get to go in this time of the year... :)