Remember acqua alta? No?


Fall is discernible here not only by the drifting leaves and deflating temperatures but by the enlivening of the tides.  Sounds like some folkloristic event, like bringing the cows down from the alpine pastures or going out to slay the tuna.

The enlivening of the tides consists of somewhat higher high tides (sometimes), and wind which at the moment is going every which way, trying to find the path that will give it the most potential for annoying people and also for enlivening the tide.  Yes, I anthropomorphize the wind and sometimes the water and also the fog and clouds and even a few people.

Which is my way of saying that at some point — maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of the winter, if not of your life — there could be high water.  We are approaching the entrance to the season of the infamous acqua alta — Flooding!! — that gets people not from here so wild-eyed and frantic.  Venice is sinking!  Man the lifeboats!  Belay the cabinboy!

Today we have a comfortably high tide. When I see water this high what I really want is not a pair of tall rubber boots but my own boat, because rowing on high water is a wonderful sensation. You feel lighter and somehow more buoyant. Feeling lighter is always a treat.

So with the clear anticipation of wailing articles to accompany the wailing warning sirens, and to somehow reposition everybody’s mind concerning this phenomenon — seeing that whenever it happens, the reports abroad make it sound as if we live our lives to the sound of water lapping at the bookcases — I’d like to share some information.

I have consulted the Tide Center’s data for acqua alta in 2011.  The last one was on February 16. And then, after six hours, it went away.

Therefore we have now lived 251 consecutive days without acqua alta.  Two-thirds of an entire year. I scarcely remember what the siren sounds like.

I just thought I’d mention this, in case anyone might happen to read an article in the next few months — or more likely, many articles — giving the impression that living in Venice means that we spend most of our time yelling “Women and children first!”

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Categories : Acqua Alta


  1. Chris@black modern glass coffee table says:

    It’s true that aqua alta or high waters is nothing to be afraid of anywhere, not just in Venice. Rowing on high water is such a pleasure. I thought I was the only one that loves it.
    Chris@black modern glass coffee table recently posted..How To Choose The Best Coffee Table

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      Wonderful to hear a kindred spirit. I’d bet that anybody who has ever done it feels the same.

  2. Mary Ann DeVlieg
    Twitter: maietm.org

    I’m currently more concerned with the normal aqua. I have felt quite superior for several years by successfully avoiding aqua alta. (Just follow any Venetian man in a superior suit and beautiful Italian shoes – they always know the streets which are passable without getting your feet wet!) However, this week I find myself splashing through innumerable rain puddles which leave my (meant-for-snow) Finnish boots squelching. Oh, for a boat! (or maybe I’ll finally get a pair of rubber boots?)