Welcome to this post all about the Acqua Alta Venice.
Venice is one of the world’s most beautiful cities with its magnificent architectural, artistic and historical heritage, attracting a colossal number of daily visitors.
One of the reasons why people travel from all over the world to visit Venice is for its peculiar urban landscape. Venice, also called the Floating city or the city of water, is built on small islands located in the middle of a lagoon.
As a consequence of different meteorological and astronomical factors, there are times of the year that the city is subject to flooding due to the high tide.
This phenomenon is called ‘acqua alta’ and whereas tourists might feel fascinated by it, it’s not as exciting for locals that live in the historic centre.
Acqua Alta Venice
In this guide I’ll explain what the ‘acqua alta’ is and trigger factors, when to expect to find the high tide in Venice and how to prepare to visit the city during this time.
What is the acqua alta in Venice?
The high tide phenomenon in Venice is called ‘acqua alta’. This term coined by the Venetians indicates when the tide exceeds 80 cm, which in turn floods the lowest points of the city, such as St. Mark’s Square causing disruption to the flow of footfall.
Here’s the main factors causing high tide in Venice:
The high tide increases for 6 hours and decreases in the following 6 hours. It occurs in the central hours of the rising phase and lasts for 3-4 hours.
Once the water drains, everything goes back to normal. This means that when the tide goes out, you can walk everywhere around Venice without using the elevated walkways installed in the affected areas.
Water levels in Venice
The tide forecasts and recorded levels refer to the zero on the tide gauge of the Punta della Salute (reference point).
There are 3 tide levels in Venice:
How often does acqua alta happen in Venice?
The ‘acqua alta’ phenomenon occurs more frequently in autumn and winter, but you can expect high tide in early spring but rarely during summer, as well.
If you’re in Venice in November and December there’s a higher chance of finding the high tide. Usually the ‘acqua alta’ affects the central hours of the day, more or less from 11am to 2pm and then at night time, after 11pm.
Historically, high tides exceeding the 110 centimetre level were quite rare, but have intensified over the last 50-60 years. On average there are 7 days of very strong high tide every year and 1 exceptional high tide in a year.
In 2024, the high tides in Venice already registered and the forecast for the rest of the year is of 54 ‘acqua alta’ episodes. See below how many times high tide (not above 86 centimetre) already occurred and expected to happen.
|Total number of ‘acqua alta’ episodes
How long does acqua alta last?
The high tide lasts around 3 or 4 hours in the central hours of the day.
Sometimes it can start from mid morning to early afternoon but generally it’s before midday to around 2pm. The high tide goes up again at night after 11pm, for the same length of time.
The lowest areas of the city most severely affected by high tide are:
- St. Mark’s Square
- Along the Grand Canal
- In the Rialto Bridge area, only if the high tide is over 110 cm.
Is it safe to visit Venice when it is flooding?
When high tide exceeds 110 centimetres, citizens registered to the Centro Maree sms service, receive a notification before high tide arrives.
Also, the city warning sirens advise people in Venice and lagoon islands that a very high tide is about to arrive in the next 3 or 4 hours.
Elevated walkways are installed in the lowest parts of the city so you can keep walking around. It’s absolutely safe to move around Venice with high tide, and the ACTV vaporetto service operates as usual.
Things may change slightly, when the high tide goes beyond 120 centimetre (very strong tide). In this case, it’s necessary to wear high boots to walk around the city.
Other items I suggest you have include:
You can always take a look at my guide on what to wear in Venice for more suggestions on how to dress and what to carry with you during these times.
Don’t wear plastic bags because it’s not safe. They can rip off easily and you can slip and hurt yourself badly. If you’re not equipped with high boots, for your safety, just avoid moving around the city for a couple of hours until the tide goes away.
The very strong high tide is unusual, so there’s no reason to be concerned about it. You can keep track of high tide and when it’s expected by visiting the Centro Previsioni e Segnalazioni Maree website or by downloading the app Hi!Tide Venice.
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Getting around when Venice is flooded
When there’s high tide, you can still get around Venice using the public and private transportation services available for both residents and tourists.
Acqua Alta Venice On foot
You can walk around the streets of Venice with high tide. The phenomenon doesn’t affect most parts of the city but generally only the lowest areas of the city.
If a strong high tide is expected, you can use the elevated walkways to keep moving around and wear comfortable high boots.
Acqua Alta Venice by water bus (vaporetto)
It’s possible to move around by public transport with high tide. If you want to use the water bus (vaporetto) service, be aware that some lines change their routes or are suspended.
To check the changes of the vaporetto service, just visit the ACTV waterborne services page during high tide. In any case, when changes occur to the lines, they are reported in Piazzale Roma and at the water bus stops.
Acqua Alta Venice by water taxi
With the high tide, you can still get a water taxi. Maybe you arrive at the airport and want to get to your hotel or reach a specific location of the city centre, that’s fine.
Water taxis can reach any hotel in Venice or in the lagoon, but there are some exceptions. In case of too high or too low tide, the water taxi can’t reach the private pier of the following hotels in Venice:
You will get off at the closest available point (a 5 minutes walk from the stop).
Read more about getting around with water taxis in Venice and I suggest contacting a few companies to make sure the service you want is running as usual.
Libreria Acqua Alta
The Acqua Alta bookstore is one of the best things to see in Venice that I suggest you add to your itinerary, especially if you like book shops or you’re a book lover.
In fact, the eclectic bookshop is a tribute to the ‘acqua alta’ itself (see the name!). The shop was founded in 2004 by Luigi Frizzo and Venetians and tourists have loved it since day one for its unique layout.
Books are stored inside kayaks and gondolas used as shelves but also to protect books in case of strong high tide.
Unfortunately, in November 2019, the bookshop flooded due to an exceptional high tide (184 cm!) and damaged thousands of books.
The volumes that could not be saved were transformed into the most Instagrammed installation: a book staircase that stands just outside the shop.
While visiting Venice, stop by the Acqua Alta bookshop, and get lost around its narrow hallways, exploring the impressive selection of second hand books, large prints, best sellers, comics and books dedicated to Venice in different languages.
Acqua Alta Venice
Now you should have a good idea of what ‘acqua alta’ is, what causes this phenomenon in the Venetian lagoon and how to get ready.
There’s no reason to be concerned about high tide in Venice, as long as you monitor the high tide forecast thanks to the tool suggested in the post.
This way, you can get equipped before your trip or when you get to Venice and plan your itinerary around ‘acqua alta’.
For example, you could visit one of the many indoor tourist attractions in Venice during the peak high tide hours and completely forget about the high tide outside.
If like many visitors you’re spending more than 3 days in Venice, then why not go on a pleasant Venice day trip by train to visit other beautiful places around the region?
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