The acqua alta that I experienced last week was nothing compared to the major flood that happened on December 1, which was one of the worst in Venice's history. What I experienced was fairly typical for winter, I was told, although it was a bit unusual for it to happen so many days in a row. Flooding in Venice is connected to the tides (and the moon and the winds) and it's not like a bunch of water pours into Venice and just sits there for days at a time, it rises and falls with the tides.
So even though the water was not that high, boots were essential. I noticed that only the people without boots used the high-rise sidewalks and the Venetians (and others) wearing boots would just plow on through the water. So that's what I did too, although there were a couple of times when I came to a place where I couldn't tell how deep the water was. I thought about what Girasoli said about how it would be easy to walk off a fondamenta into a canal (!) and I'd turn around and find another route. Most of the time, I could tell how high it was (and usually it only came up to my ankles) although a few times, it got dangerously close to the top of the boots! If I hadn't had the boots, I would have been very limited as to where I could go (the high rise walkways are set up for the major sites and also for the vaporetto stations, but they are not all over the city).
An early morning scene of Piazza San Marco. This water was gone by noon and then came back later that night.
This one was taken from inside the Basilica. I was standing on a riser in the atrium, and you can see how much water was inside the church. It's such an eerie feeling to look down on those ancient floors and see them underwater. The people with umbrellas outside were walking on the high-rise sidewalks.
This one was taken from the vaporetto and you can see how the Grand Canal has overflowed into the Rialto Market area on the right.
Sloshing along a calle. You have to kinda shuffle a bit so that you don't splash your neighbors or yourself!
Here are my feet underwater in the infamous boots. My feet are still recovering from walking many miles in these things for three days straight! Next time, I'm taking some kind of comfort insoles to put inside.
Just a few notes about the boots, in case anyone else finds themselves in Venice during acqua alta. It is much better to go up a size or two, and wear heavy socks or even two pairs of socks, instead of wearing boots that are your exact size. I learned this the hard way - on the first day, I wore a pair that "fit" and they didn't have any give at all (and they don't breathe) and after you walk a long way, your feet get hot and swell and the boots rub blisters. I traded that pair in for one that was two sizes bigger, and it was so much better. Also, gotta give a shout out for Smart Wool socks - they are awesome for doing lots of walking in cold weather!
Next up, some scenes of the flooded piazza at night.