Most of us have seen the news reports about Venice in the last week. The city has seen the worst flooding for 50 years.
Water has flooded St Mark’s Square badly enough that authorities have closed it and hundreds of volunteers are helping residents and tourists cope with the flood.
It is not unusual for Venice to flood and tides of 80 to 90 cm, although high are seen as manageable. The tide that hit Venice on Sunday was recorded around 150 cm, and the Tuesday before reached 187 cm, just short of the record of 194 cm in 1966 (official records began in 1923). There has been a project in place to help combat the rising tides, called MOSE. The project started in 2003 and is thought to be finished around 2021. The project is for around 70 underwater gates, placed across three inlets between the Adriatic Sea and the Venetian lagoon. The gate rise during high tides, sealing off the lagoon
It has already costs billions of euros, but has been never been completed (it was only supposed to take 8 years) due to delays, increases in costs, but also corruption and bribery allegations.
Flooding is not uncommon throughout Italy and has been documented, especially Rome. Rome has also seen its share of excessive water, with heavy rain in 2011 causing a flood which closed the Colosseum.
Rome started on Palatine hill, surrounded by the flood plains of the river. It was in the 6th Century that engineering work started to drain the flood plains, mainly for agricultural use. This was later built as the city expanded. Building on the flood plains meant that the city would often be flooded. The river is now safely enclosed behind huge walls that were built in 1875. When the walls were built to contain the river, many historical buildings were demolished and some of the bridges had to be alter, like the Sant’Angelo and wharves were completely removed, like Ripetta Wharf. However, a walk along the the banks, you will see the remains and flood plaques.
The Santa Maria sopra Minerva church has a wall with a few flood plaques, which is interesting.0