Experiencing Venice During Acqua Alta:
As our water taxi navigates the back canals to the Splendid Hotel in San Marco, we notice that the canal water level is almost at street level. Are we about to experience Venice’s famous acqua alta (high waters) I wonder, or is the high water level in the process of receding.
As our hotel room is not yet ready for occupancy, we stroll to Piazza San Marco to find that walkways (passarelle) have already been erected and the masses that normally fill St Mark’s Square are crowded on the walkways thrilled at seeing Venice’s notorious floods, and taking snaps of the world’s most famous square covered by water.
Some who are just arriving in Venice or leaving on the vaporetti are not so fortunate. Caught out by surprise by acqua alta they struggle to find a way around the flood water as getting big cases onto the crowded walkway is an impossible task.
Flooding at Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is the lowest point in Venice and usually gets flooded first.
As Tony takes off to video the spectacle around St Mark’s Square, I stand in the middle of the Piazza witnessing the lagoon’s water slowly filling the square. Some parents let their young ones splash around in the water, obviously more confident than I am about the cleanliness of the canal water. It is amusing to see the tourists wading through the water and posing for snaps – the Russian girls take the trophy for their elaborate poses.
And The Band Plays On
As the water level creeps up, the souvenir vendors shift their overloaded carts, trying to keep their goods dry. They hold position for as long as they can, refusing to retreat from the Piazza, just in case somebody needs to buy a last-minute “I Love Venezia” t-shirt or a gondolier’s hat. However, the sight that impresses me most is the action at Cafe Lavena. Some tourists continue to have their expensive drinks at the Cafe, sitting with feet in the water. The waiters have to be commended for their dedication to their work. Decked in gumboots, they wade through the water and continue to serve brightly coloured Aperol Spritz and other beverages to the customers. The Cafe’s band continues to entertain and acqua alta notwithstanding, the music plays on.
Acqua alta is a regular occurrence in Venice during the months of October to February but here we are in mid-September and it is already flooding. The waters usually recede after a few hours and life at Piazza San Marco and elsewhere in Venice gets back to normal.
The Venetians are very used to the flooding and life carries on as usual during the floods. They do however get warnings if intense high water levels of 110 to 120 centimetres are expected. You can read more about Acqua Alta here.