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Navigating Venice's Rising Tides

What it means to a traveler when Venice experiences its regular flooding

Venice commonly experiences rising water levels, and tourist areas are frequently affected, so plan your visits accordingly.
The Italian term “acqua alta” refers to the regular, temporary influx of water into Venice, an increasingly common phenomenon in the City of Canals. The flooding is caused by unusually high tides, and can cause trouble for Venice’s sightseeing highlights, as well as the tourists trying to see them.

The rising water level is most common in November and December, and commonly affects low-lying areas such as the famous Piazza San Marco. Locals deal with the extra water by erecting elevated planks for visitors to stand and walk on as they make their way to the Basilica or Doge’s Palace. Visitors can also buy rain boots and umbrellas, which commonly show up for sale as the water levels rise.

Travelers should note that over the past decade, winter flooding in Venice has become more dramatic and frequent, and parts of the city can become disruptively flooded, affecting daily life in the areas. Floods can’t really be predicted in the long-term, though the city does issue warnings 48 hours before likely floods, depending on the height of the tide.

The take-away for Venice visitors is to plan accordingly for the water levels when visiting spots that are frequently affected by flooding, like the Piazza San Marco. For example, families with young children or visitors with disabilities should consider whether they will be able to traverse the raised planks. It’s also advisable to bring or buy high rain boots, and to dress for the wet weather. Above all, always exercise caution and good sense in flooded areas.

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