Sunday, November 11, 2012

After the Storm, San Marco

photo credit: Joe Lay
As I post this we are actually right in the middle of a storm, so the title is wishful thinking at this point.

Two weeks ago we had the highest acqua alta in two years (140 cm above sea level). This morning it has been even higher: 150 cm, for those of you keeping score at home (as they used to say on radio broadcasts of American baseball games).

Not knowing the state of things this morning, Jen and Sandro went to Via Garibaldi to find that their normal rain boots were not high enough for the waters there--which had, in any case, closed all of the stores that are usually open for a few hours on Sunday morning. In Piazza San Marco a little flat-bottomed sandolo would be the only good way to get around. Though, actually, the water is so deep a motor boat would also work.

The photos above and below were taken by a visiting friend near the end of September, after one of those sudden late afternoon storms that can seem so refreshing in late summer and early fall. Today's storm is a low gray one, and gives little hope of concluding with such dramatic lighting. I think we'll be looking at a dim early sunset today, when the sun, who really hasn't bothered to get out of bed today anyway, simply burrows deeper under the cover of clouds and calls it an early night.

But we're going to a San Martino Festa this evening, so perhaps something will come of that. We'll see--and hopefully I'll get some photos so that you will, too.

photo credit: Joe Lay


  1. 150 cm! Good grief, that's almost five feet.

    With high tides such a regular event, how do Venetians keep ground-level stores and apartments from flooding? Have doors and windows been constructed or retrofitted in such a way as to make them watertight?

    Wishing you clear weather for this evening's Festa.

    1. Yes, Brooks, and it's quite bad, but it's 150 cm above sea level, not above the pavement of Piazza San Marco. At least for now. You probably know this, but sometimes I lose sight of it.

      I just noticed that the Wikipedia article on acqua alta lists today's as the 6th highest since they started recording them in the 1960s:

      And you can see what purport to be low water-tight barriers in the outer doorways of many ground floor stores and apartments here. I believe they work pretty well and a customer or resident can simply step over them. But there remain a lot of places that still simply get flooded (and set everything above a certain height from the floor). Even the expensive shops along Piazza San Marco must squeegee out their interiors after the higher instances of acqua alta.

      Alas, the weather continued rather rainy this evening, which made it impossible to do the little candle-light procession in boats that was planned at my son's preschool. But more about that tomorrow.

  2. "'s 150 cm above sea level...You probably know this..."

    I'd forgotten, actually, so thanks for reminding me.

    "...shops along Piazza San Marco must squeegee out their interiors after the higher instances of acqua alta."

    What a grind!

    Do Venetians have a least favorite season? Commerce aside, I would think summer takes the honors. Wonder if I'm right about that.

    1. Brooks,

      I edited the post above to include a reference to the measure being based on sea level because it's so easy to think otherwise when you see the pics. And the international press never seems to clarify this. I suppose it would be slightly less dramatic if they did.

      I also wonder about least favorite season... Summer is hellish, but for many it means money. And it also includes the August break. And it also includes the whole elaborate Lido beach scene, which is so important to many Venetians. So I'm not sure.

  3. We're coming to Venice on Saturday for a week and really hope the worst is over. We're staying next door to San Maurizio church and I guess that's an area that gets flooded. It's just arriving from and leaving for the airport that really matters. Other times we just stay in play mahjong and drink wine till the water subsides!

    1. I think and hope that even the worst acqua alta will only alter by a couple of hours the time you might have to leave for the airport or arrive from the airport, Andrew, rather than cause any major misadventures. That's bad enough, but at least it's not a blizzard--or hurricane (knock on wood).

      My son saw some hip-high rubber boots hanging up outside a store and suggested I buy them. I think it was very good advice that I may still take. But your plan for dealing with high tides actually sounds even better!

  4. Beautiful photos - thanks for posting them. We were visiting Venice for the first time, and the 150cm hit the day after we arrived. I was very impressed with the way the locals took the flood in their stride even though it was higher than even they were used to, and they must be so very tired of water invading their shops and homes.

    I have to say, I haven't been as impressed with a city in a long time and will definitely be going back, and November is still an excellent time to visit even if there is a risk of getting your feet wet!

  5. Thanks for your praise of the photos, I will pass it along to the friend who took them. I was happy to be able to post them.

    I'm glad to hear you liked Venice. And I think you're right about November being good time--in spite of the high water. In November it seems you can finally get onto a vaporetto and be able to find space to breathe, and certain calli you thought you should avoid forever because of how crowded they were in October suddenly clear out.

    And I think the winter sunsets here are the best of the year!