Home Blog Newsletters About

Venice submerged

When the city of Venice is underwater.

On Tuesday, 12.11.2019, the entire city of Venice was underwater. The tide rose to 187cm above sea level. The record to this day for the highest water was set in 1966 with the tide of 194cm. For reference. Most of Venice is located 110 - 140 cm above the water. The lowest part St. Marc Square is 64cm above sea level. So yeah, water tides of 80-90cm are considered high but manageable. While 187cm is way beyond normal.

I visit Venice in November every year. Sure there’s the risk of floods, but the upside is fewer tourists. So I take the risk. I went to Venice on Friday at 15.11. Water was already falling, so I decided to go anyway. Most of my family was advising against it. My dad who’s crazy about floods and high water:

I already paid for my shuttle and the hotel, and I wasn’t getting my money back. So I grabbed my camera and the new small and light 35mm lens. I got a pair of boots and headed to Venice. The shuttle driver was like which idiot is going to Venice at this time. Response when he saw me:

Aha someone going photographing.

Call me crazy, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity.

The shuttle dropped me off at the Venice central bus station. I jumped into my boots and headed into the city. It was around 2pm, so the water levels were already falling. There were still twenty centimeters of water in some parts, though. I managed to get to my hotel, 99% dry. Yes, there was water in the hotel lobby :) But the owners didn’t seem to bother.

Really reporters?

St. Marc square was full of reporters on Friday evening. They were there to report how bad it was. Every media outlet is rambling how there was a natural disaster in Venice. Sure two people died. Italy declared a state of emergency. Those facts are entirely accurate.

But sorry, reporters. 99% percent of the information you are publishing is just to get clicks and views. I Googled for an hour before I found useful information on how to proceed in Venice in case of floods. I’ll share my learnings in Floods and how to navigate the city.

On Saturday morning I decided to have some fun and catch the reporters producing the “news” Guys filming the last bit of water on San Marco square:

Filming the last bit of water on St. Marc Square for news

Not sure what news outlet they worked for. But they look professional to me. Another reporter was talking to the camera on the St. Marc square standing in the last drop of water she could find. There was dry land two meters to her left. Water to the knees makes a better scenery I get it.

There’s water?

Locals. They go around like floods are normal. More on that in the upcoming article on Daily life in flooded Venice. Most of the tourists don’t bother either. A bit of water won’t stop us:

A bit of water can’t stop the tourists.

Sorry I’ve got to walk my pet. No matter the weather:

Got to walk my pat. Even in the floods.

Oh, and someone still didn’t tell the tourists that the suitcase is a no go in Venice. OK, it works you are willing to carry it

City recovery

The race I was supposed to attend initially was canceled. So I had plenty of time on my hands. I bought the Vaporetto ticket and drove to the Giudecca island. 10 minutes drive from San Marco square.

Local students organized themselves and were picking up trash and cleaning up the city. I noticed that they were dispatching volunteers to places where help was needed the most. Cause yeah, there were piles of trash all over the city. Suitcases, couches, laundry machines, sleeping mattresses, chairs. You name it.

Though my jaw dropped when I found this boat:

Stuck boat in the ally.

Yup stuck in the ally a few meters from the shore. And the wooden pillar. I would guess it was in the seafloor not long ago serving as a boat mooring. Power of the water at it’s worst.

You could see that the city was waking up from the floods. Though I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that a new wave of water was about to hit the city. The tide predictions were low, but all the locals were securing their shoops extra carefully. We’ll Sunday morning clarified my fear. The city was underwater again. More on that in the upcoming article Saved by a stranger.

Word of advice

Floods are no joke. When I was walking around the city, I stepped on some slippery stone. It felt like I stepped on the ice. Before I noticed, I was on the ground lying on my back. Luckily I got stopped by one of the platforms they use to elevate streets when water is high. No damage to the camera or me.

I was in Venice once before when it was flooded, but the conditions this year were way worse.

So take the high fishing boots with you. Yeah, the ones that are up to your belly. Then watch where you walk.

Upcoming series

That was my 8th visit to the city. I somehow discover new sites/things every time. This time my goal was to acquire content for a series on Venice, where I join my passion for photography, data science, and writing. I’ll let my readers judge the success of my attempt.

Stay tuned for the rest of the series in the upcoming weeks:

Get the weekly experiment newsletter to your inbox: