It has been more than 50 years since Venice experienced such severe flooding. The 1966 flood saw a deluge raise the canals to a height of 6ft 4in (1.94m), leaving thousands homeless and causing extensive damage to some of the most valuable works of art from the city. Italian leaders have blamed the effects of climate change on rising ocean waters and swelling rivers that lead to the city, with said the mayor on Twitter the city is “on its knees”.
Here are some of the famous landmarks and tourist favorites that were hit by high tides during the current flood:
Known as Piazza San Marco in Italian, St. Mark’s Square is a top attraction. Millions of tourists from all over the world come to stand and take selfies in the square which is said to have been dubbed by Napoleon “the living room of Europe”. The water levels turned the square into a glorified swimming pool, and indeed, a man was seen swimming near St. Mark’s Basilica.
St. Mark’s Basilica, completed in the 11th century, is Venice’s most popular site, attracting tourists for its Italo-Byzantine architecture and connection to the Catholic Church. The crypt under the church was flooded with water for only the second time in its history. Many fear that internal flooding and damage to some of the exterior windows could be the worst. The structure has long caused concern over flood damage to the columns that support the historic church.
Banksy’s “castaway girl” mural
Guerrilla artist Banksy painted an image of a young refugee holding a pink rocket in May in response to ‘Barca Nostra’, a salvaged shipwreck dedicated to the hundreds of migrants who died crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2015. work overlooks the Rio di Ca Foscari, one of the busiest points of the Grand Canal in the heart of the city, which suffered most of the flooding.
Along the Grand Canal, Palazzo Gritti is famous for hosting royal visitors to Venice, politicians and other celebrities. Formerly a private residence, it has been converted into a luxury hotel. Flooding this week resulted in an evacuation of guests. Many decorative rugs and chairs had to be piled up to escape the reach of the unusually high water.
Years of constant flooding inspired Libreria Acqua Alta, or High Water Bookshop, to store its vast collection in tubs, watertight bins and, most notably, a full-size gondola. But even this bookstore built with flood potential in mind could not have foreseen the events of this week. Hundreds of books were lost in the shop hailed by tourists as one of the finest in the world, causing great consternation in the community. “We expect high water levels, but not at this level,” said one of the owners.
A major maritime traffic corridor, the Grand Canal is one of the most recognizable landmarks, winding past the Doge’s Palace, the Royal Gardens and the Rialto Bridge. The combination of a full moon and strong winds, called sirocco, pushed seawater higher into the city’s canals, trapping it as the tides continue to rise. Ferries and gondolas were overturned as many of the new flood barriers designed to protect the sinking city were overrun.
This historic museum offers visitors the history and insight into “the city of the lagoon”, as well as some of Venice’s most dazzling designs and architecture. Its central geography makes it one of the must-see attractions for thousands of tourists who make the trip each year. Videos on social media showed deep waters flowing near one of the city’s main thoroughfares, and next to the palace, large waves crashed over the stone pavements pounding boats moored outside.
Chico Harlan, Stefano Pitrelli and Andrew Freedman contributed to this report.