The first time I visited Venice was on a school trip, back in 1977. We’d been on a ski trip and spent a day on the way back to the airport, in the city. It was January. It was cold. And, the city was flooded. St Mark’s Square was like a pool – I remember splashing about, as water sloshed around our ankles, so looking back, it can’t have been that flooded. I also remember the smell. It was very stinky! But, luckily, every trip since, we’ve avoided conditions like this and to us, Venice is always blue skies and sunshine.
On Monday, we set off for Venice, as family visitors were flying back to England the next day, from Marco Polo. We decided to make a bit of a trip of it and booked an apartment. We knew it was going to rain, but as all of northern Italy, and into Istria, had the same forecast, we didn’t pay too much attention to the forecast. Until we got a text from a friend who was already there. It just said…
OMG, it’s awful!
To be fair, the weather as we approached Venice, looked a little ominous.
Because we were in the car, we had to park in the usual car park – you know, the one where you have to leave your keys on the dash board! – and were greeted by attendants, clearly ready for wet weather. And a ground floor that was already flooded. Once out of the car park, it didn’t look too bad, but everyone seemed to be wearing plastic style wellies. Or, and I kid you not, waders. (And, as we saw later, flip flops or even barefoot, as people just abandoned soaked footwear). So, four pairs of wellies were bought, and donned, and off we set for the water bus. Not a chance, as these were cancelled – and this made us realise that things could actually be a little bit bad.
The further into the city we walked, the clearer it became that this was quite serious flooding. Gangplank style platforms appeared and snaked their way through the narrow streets, with people trying to get to their destinations. To either side, people were wading through increasingly deeper floodwaters – tourists, porters from hotels (holding luggage aloft), business people.
The apartment where we staying was near the Rialto Bridge, and we can usually walk to this area, from the car park/station area in about 30 minutes. On Monday it took over an hour and a half as we precariously picked our way through streets which were becoming increasingly submerged. To each side, we could see shops, bars, restaurants and hotels becoming more full of water – and workers frantically trying to sweep, or pump out, the water. When we arrived at our apartment, which we chose because it was located in a beautiful little piazza, with a tiny theatre in the courtyard, the water outside was about 50cms deep and the reception area was full of water, which became deeper and deeper as the night went on. Like every other place with an entrance at street level.
However, unlike in England, where the country would have ground to a halt, life goes on in Venice. People have to work and eat and do normal things and so the city continued as normally as possible. We decided we had to venture out and eat, so the wellies were put on again and this time umbrellas were up, as it had also started to rain. Just to add to the mix 😉 We didn’t go too far, as the water was seriously rising, but we were luckily staying near a few good restaurants where we had eaten before. Although never in circumstances like these…
It was quite amazing to see things just carry on as normal. Restaurants were still full – after all, Venice is mostly made up of tourists and people have to eat. Staff were clearly used to events like this (although, with hindsight, perhaps not on this scale and speed), as they deftly carried plates of food, whilst navigating the rising water. The food was super delicious, and I have no idea how the kitchen coped, but it was a very strange feeling to be eating indoors, with water lapping around your shins. And rising.
When we woke on Tuesday morning, the waters had receded, and although it was still raining, the streets were no longer flooded. Shops and cafes were open for business – and although there was a massive mopping up/drying out operation in progress, people just seemed to be getting on with it.
And, within an hour, this is what Venice looked like. Back to its former glory.
Venice is always a spectacular place to visit. We are so, so lucky that we are now so close to it and never tire of exploring – and I have to say, this was one of those visits we won’t forget for a very long time. But, checking the weather, we don’t think we’ll be heading back over the next few days, as more flooding looks imminent…