Destinations

Venice: Low tide sees canals become impassable by gondolas

Many of Venice’s famous canals were reportedly impassable, last week, as a result of an “exceptional” low-tide event that left many waterways dry.

Tourists to the city of Venice have been met with a stark contrast to November’s high tides, which saw nearly 85 per cent of the city flooded, with low tides last week causing many of its canals to become impassable by gondolas.

According to multiple reports, a number of the city’s waterways were littered with boats unable to cruise down canals, after a reported tide peak of 45 centimetres below sea level.

Reports described the low tides, known as acqua bassa, as “exceptionally low”, but are far from the lowest on record, which is believed to have been a peak of 121 centimetres below sea level, recorded in 1934.

Sea Going Green, a sustainable tourism consultancy that specialises in measuring and managing carbon footprints for the marine tourism industry, says the tide levels in Venice are at their lowest in decades.

“For the 2nd consecutive year, Venice has hit a record low tide this week,” Sea Going Green tweeted.

Low, but not unprecedented

But while the tides have been exceptional, they are not unprecedented: Venice’s low tides are known to vary between half a metre or more throughout the course of the year.

The conditions are, however, a stark contrast to last year’s acqua alta events – periodical high tide peaks that occur in the northern Adriatic Sea –, which saw some of the city’s tourist sites flooded to the highest levels in 50 years.

Within the space of a week, Venice was hit three times by tides higher than 1.5 metres – peaking at 1.87 metres – which caused the closure of Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square).

Venice faces the combined threat of its city’s foundations sinking into the mud and higher acqua alta tides attributed to rising sea levels, which the city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, consistently maintains are linked to climate change.

According to Brugnaro, flood damage caused by November’s floods was estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of euros. Italian officials declared a state of emergency for the area, shortly after the events.

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