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Acqua Alta

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.

inside the basilica

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.

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Comments (10)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Wow Annie, these photos are incredible. Thanks for posting them so quickly. It's really something to see the Basilica floors under water like that. And the water level at the Rialto bridge looked pretty high. And that's a great shot of the infamous boots ...

I'm looking forward to seeing your next series of the Piazza at night . . .


Wow, that IS so weird to see the Basilica floor under water! Fantastic photos. And thanks for the tip on the boots, and insoles - great idea to take a pair just in case.

Wow is right. Those pictures are definitely very interesting. We stayed not far from the Rialto Market and I found it interesting to see how high the water was in that area.

Thanks for posting the pictures.


Wow, Annie -- great pictures. It really is wild to see the Basilica underwater and how high the Grand Canal had risen.

I guess those were boots provided by your lovely hotel? And thanks for the excellent suggestions about sizing up and using sox to try to ensure your comfort! There are so many funky rubber boots on the market these days that it might be worth it to have your own for next time. I can just imagine how hot and uncomfortable ill-fitting boots could become!

(Which reminds me to maybe look for my own pair before the ST GTG in 2010 in Venice!)

Alessandro and I had some flooding on our last trip, well, I've had flooding on a few trips I suppose, but not as bad as that of course. :)

Thanks you for sharing these great photos. It makes me very sad to see the level of the flooding.

Thanks everyone.

Marta, I walked through the Rialto area after dinner one night and the water was incredibly high in that area.

Sandra, yes the B&B had a whole closet full of boots. I think most places have them to loan (and they were for sale for around 12 euro). I travel much too light (with carry-on luggage only) to haul my own pair over, but I do think I will take some insoles from now on.

Leslie, I think the flooding that I experienced in May 2004 was higher than any that I saw this year, but that time it was a one-day only experience. What was bad about this was the fact that it just kept on happening day after day. I checked the Internet and it kept flooding on Sat., Sun. and Mon. after I left! I don't know about today, but that is pretty unusual, I think.

Wow those photos are fascinating. But sad to see the Basilica in water like that, you're right that it is eerie!

So what is this about a Venice GTG in 2010? Can that be worked in with you being my guide in Venice (I have offered to pay for it in an earlier comment! The ST Churches and Shrines of Venice tour!)

Chiocciola, there's a long thread on Slow Talk in the GTG forum. It would be so cool if it all works out! I've got it in the back of my mind, even though October is not really a great time for me to get away from work. And of course, I'll be your shrine and church guide (but only for free) - what a blast!

That is very eerie seeing the water in the Basilica. Great photos!! I am glad you didn't fall in :)

Great photos!! Thanks for posting them.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 16, 2008 12:10 PM.

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