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A Garden in Venice

Garden art & lifestyle

Another Acqua Alta in another November

Today and last night, Venezia and the lagoon have been suffering from an exceptional acqua alta, with waters not receding for 15 hours on end, and another peak is expected towards midnight (1.20 meters). 
This morning - can you recognize that this is Riva degli Schiavoni, with the usual "traffic jam" on Ponte della Paglia
Today's acqua alta has rung a bell with us: Venetian grandparents use to tell about the acqua alta eccezionale that practically submerged Venice on 4 November 1966. Literally any Venetian living in the centro storico has this catastrophe at the back of his or her mind. And you cannot help coming across this ricordo every day: Many houses in Venice have drawn lines or marks on the outdoor and indoor (!!) walls that show the level the flood back in 1966 reached, spilling over into the houses. Our house has a line drawn like that in the entry hall. At Venice Wiki, I have found an entry of a person that has witnessed the acqua alta in 1966, you can read it here (Italian). In 1966, Piazza San Marco, the acqua alta hit quota 1.94 meters.
Quota 1.94 in Piazza San Marco, photo by Associazione Piazza San Marco
In 1966, Venice was cut off from the world, with electric power and telephone lines destroyed. First, the catastrophe of the Venice lagoon submerged completely had been overlooked, as the damage done to Florence where the Arno had flooded the city, had been severe enough. But Venice could not be reached by the world, with people dispersed and chaos everywhere. My grandmother told me how, after a day spent outside Venice on the terraferma, she came back in the evening to find she had to swim back home (she said that it was not so very cold on that day back in 1966). Below is a RAI telegiornale reporting on 4 November 1966.
The Acqua Alta marks at Ca' Farsetti 
This time, while I am writing, Venice is again hit by an acqua alta eccezionale. Now anyone online can witness it live, and it is broadcast by TV all over the world. All you need to do is click here, for a webcam viewing Piazza San Marco.
Yes, Venetians are used to acqua alta, while I find sometimes that visitors look out for the sensation of acqua alta, a new experience reduced to a "surreal photo opportunity". Some visitors asked me if I knew when the next acqua alta would be taking place, they would make sure to return to Venice at exactly that time. Other visitors react quite worried, and I have even served as a "model" when my Venetian grandmother explained how Venetians protect themselves from acqua alta, simply by putting on plastic bags (garbage bags are also suitable) and wearing them wrapped around the legs with shoes on, knitted above the knees. Well, this handy Venetian solution would not have worked this time, as the level of the sea rose to 1.43 meters at Piazza San Marco. 
Sensitive ecosystem - a view from a plane landing in Venice, from the Fusina direction towards Venice
Why in our time, do we have to witness acque alte of this frightening dimension? When I was doing research for my thesis, I literally delved into scientific evidence on the origin of acqua alta, which I found rather conflicting. In short, scientific evidence converges at least on one fact, that at the times of the Serenissima, the landscape of the lagoon was different in the sense that the capillar arteries, i ghebi, (and the absence of man-made deep and broad waterways), were there to absorb the tides, and spread the waters flushing into the lagoon into a thousand side arms. 
Lagoon landscape today, seen from above: ghebi, barene and velme


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