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Published: December 13th 2009
The guys suited up as the water recedes.
Our last few days in Venice were lovely. The mornings started out bright and warm; a treat, as we had not had sun for more than two weeks. This lovely weather came with something else, though: the acqua alta, or high water. Frequent in the fall and spring, this acqua alta brings water into Venice's streets and squares and houses and shops. Piazza San Marco floods routinely, but in Dorsoduro, where we lived, not so often. But our last week in Venice, starting at midnight, we heard the alarms sound.
If you are unprepared, the alarms are, um, alarming. They sound like air raid sirens. There are different alarms that sound in different areas of the city and they sound a code: how high the water is and when it is coming.
We awoke one of those mornings to find water coming into the library and canal entrance of Casa Artom. Not much, just a few inches. But when we stepped outside the calle door, wearing our wellies (our house has about twenty pair for just this occasion) we found the area nearly impassable. By the time the boys had gone a block, the water was
This man is wearing thigh-high boots --a neccesity for the working Venetian.
up to the top of their boots, and the going was slow. Boats, too, can have a difficult time moving through the city during the high water. We watched a barge back out of the canal next to our house when the driver found that he couldn't clear one of the bridges.
This high water is a threat to Venice, of course, and is exacerbated by rising sea levels and sinking foundations. The water from the canal is also polluted. This creates a perfect storm for the degradation of old buildings already ill-served by salt and sea air.
On a day-to-day basis, though, the Venetians are remarkably sanguine about it: they put on their boots and go about their business. Many working Venetians, particularly those who are responsible for transport or moving of goods sport a thigh-high boot, much like fly-fisherman wear. Most businesses were slow opening, and many shopkeepers were mopping up, but all seemed used to the routine.
For the tourists, however, it was all a lark. People sloshed through San Marco and many seemed unconcerned with getting wet. They also seemed to find it amusing to walk over the tables and benches set up
all though the city in flooded areas. For those of us who had to travel through the water to get places, however, it was less than fun. I knew I was finally living in Venice when the tourists irritated me, and when I no longer started at the sound of the high water alarm. This, and a hundred other things, finally felt familiar--just at trip's end.
After two days of acqua alta, as the water receded and the tide went out, so too did we.
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