Venice Museums Reopen After Dangerously High Tides and the Worst Flooding in Decades

The floods come less than a month after a UNSECO report warned that the city was at a severe risk due to climate change.

Venice's Piazza San Marco flooded on Monday. Photo courtesy of Royal San Marco hotel, via Facebook.
Venice's Piazza San Marco flooded on Monday. Photo courtesy of Royal San Marco hotel, via Facebook.

Museums are reopening today after a dangerously high tide struck Venice’s picturesque canals on Sunday and Monday, leaving three quarters of the lagoon city underwater as water levels rose by more than five feet. Venice is built to sustain the rising waters that come in the fall and winter, a phenomena known as “acqua alta,” but the recent surge was the worst in at least a decade.

Among the submerged areas is the popular Piazza San Marco, home to the art-filled Basilica di San Marco and Doge’s Palace, as well as the Museo Correr. As the city instituted a high water alert, Venice’s museums, run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, shut down for the day on Monday, as did some pavilions of the Venice Architecture Biennale, on view through November 25.

The 11 city-run institutions include Saint Mark’s Clock Tower, the Ca’ Rezzonico, the Ca’ Pesaro, the Glass Museum, the Lace Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Palazzo Mocenigo, the Palazzo Fortuny, the Casa di Carlo Goldoni, Doge’s Palace, and the Museo Correr. The Venice Naval Historical Museum also closed because of the flooding.

Fortunately, early reports indicate that the floods have had no lasting damage to local cultural institutions. A representative of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection told artnet News in an email that while the museum had closed early on Monday, “the high tide didn’t affected [sic] the interiors of the museum.”

The city museums also reopened for business today, according to the Musei di Venezia Twitter account. Museums president Maria Cristina Gribaudi was also quoted on Twitter saying that the flooding had caused no damage at the institutions.

On Twitter, the Palazzo Fortuny shared a photo of its flooded garden and a video of stranded pedestrians, as well as a painting and photograph from its collection illustrating how common flooding has been throughout Venetian history.

“‘Acqua alta’ has been a peculiar phenomenon of the high Adriatic Sea for centuries,” wrote a press representative of the Venice Biennale in an email to artnet News, noting that the exhibition welcomed 3,000 visitors after reopening on Tuesday. “It is normal for Venice to flood from time to time, and the city has developed precautions over the years on how to manage such floodings that are not implemented in any other parts of the world and contains damage as much as possible.”

The city of Venice shared Carlo Naya's photo of the Piazza San Marco flooded (circa 1875) on Twitter. Photo courtesy of Comune Venezia.

The city of Venice shared Carlo Naya’s photo of the Piazza San Marco flooded (circa 1875) on Twitter. Photo courtesy of Comune Venezia.

But while flooding has long been an occasional hazard of life on Venice’s maze-like streets and canals, especially between October and December, the problem has become more pronounced due to the effects of climate change. As the polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise, many port cities are in danger of becoming permanently submerged underwater.

Earlier this month, UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural preservation branch, released a report warning that Venice and other World Heritage Sites on the Mediterranean Sea are at severe risk due to rising sea levels. Heritage organization Europa Nostra previously named Venice the world’s most endangered World Heritage Site in 2016.

Many areas of Italy have been hit by severe storms and flooding in recent days, and CNN reports that nine people have died in the country. Other major Italian cultural sites, including Pompeii and the Colosseum, were closed due to windy conditions and heavy rains. Early readings indicated that the water levels in Venice had reached five feet and three inches, which is the highest since December 1979.

The tide will again be well above average today, with an expected height of at least 43 inches, according to CNN.

Venice hopes to prevent future flooding by building underwater barriers that would be raised when tides reach that level, the Associated Press reports. The €7 billion ($9.5 billion) MOSE Project, nicknamed Moses, has, however, been plagued by corruption, leaving it over budget and behind schedule.

See more photos of the flooding below.

Venice's mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, looks out at flooded Piazza San Marco in this photo posted on Twitter by the city of Venice. Photo courtesy of Comune Venezia.

Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, looks out at flooded Piazza San Marco in this photo posted on Twitter by the city of Venice. Photo courtesy of Comune Venezia.

Venice's Piazza San Marco flooded at night. Photo courtesy of Venice's mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, via Twitter.

Venice’s Piazza San Marco flooded at night. Photo courtesy of Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, via Twitter.

The city of Venice shared this photo of the Piazza San Marco flooded on Twitter. Photo courtesy of Comune Venezia.

The city of Venice shared this photo of the Piazza San Marco flooded on Twitter. Photo courtesy of Comune Venezia.

The city of Venice shared this photo of the Piazza San Marco flooded on Twitter. Photo courtesy of Comune Venezia.

The city of Venice shared this photo of the Piazza San Marco flooded on Twitter. Photo courtesy of Comune Venezia.


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