You kind of expect a visit to Venice will include some water. This uniquely Italian city, first settled by the Romans along a chain of islands on the Adriatic Sea, has always been inextricably tied to its watery origins. The city rose to prominence due to its wealthy seafaring merchants, and most iconic images of the town inevitably include a canal vista complete with gondolier, happily serenading lovestruck passengers.
Unfortunately, water-loving Venice is for once longing for some much needed dryness. The liquid-loving capital has been plagued for the past two weeks by unusually high tides, leaving many parts of the city like the famous Piazza San Marco submerged under as much as three feet of filthy water. Though the floods are beginning to recede, the municipality of Venice has been coping by erecting tall wooden platforms along heavily trafficked paths and many businesses and cafes are closed or have limited hours.
The city’s floods don’t seem to have dampened the spirits of its hotel owners, however. Ever the entrepreneurs, visitor packages have recently been announced offering special “flood discounts” as well as a free pair of rubber boots for tramping around in the muck. How’s that for hospitality? Room service and a pair of waders.
It’s an ingenious, albeit curious, solution to keep the city’s tourist lifeblood flowing during an obviously difficult time. Flooding is a fact of life in Venice – but the current waters warn of far-more grave issues for this historically aquatic metropolis. As the forces of global warming exacerbate the damage of rising water and cause further harm to the city’s businesses and architecture, Venice is facing some hard choices about the city’s sustainability and its tourist future.