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February 2011

Last night's flooding in Venice

Last night, Venice had its first acqua alta (high water) of 2011. The 112-cm water level was relatively minor, compared to some acqua alta tides, but it was enough to inundate the Piazza San Marco and other low-lying areas of the city.

Below is a short video that was taken around 11 p.m., at the high point of the acqua alta in our San Polo neighborhood. (If you've spent time in Venice, you'll probably recognize the Fondamenta del Vin, a pedestrian street near the Rialto Bridge where several restaurants have outdoor tables alongside the Grand Canal.)

Friday update: We noticed that the city's warning sirens didn't sound before the acqua alta, as they're supposed to do when the tide is expected to reach 110 cm. A local newspaper, Il Gazzettino, is now reporting that the sirens weren't working because the Centro Maree (Tide Center) hadn't received maintenance funds.


Public works in Venice


ABOVE: Utility workers install a water main in Venice's historic center.

In a city where many buildings are more than 500 years old, public-works officials take the long view when maintaining infrastructure. Streets are paved with stone blocks, which offer three advantages over concrete or asphalt: The pavement looks better, it lasts longer, and the stone blocks can be pulled up and replaced after utility work without leaving unsightly patches or potholes.

In the video above, you can see workers installing a water main in a hand-dug trench along the Zattere, a pedestrian promenade that faces Venice's Giudecca Canal. After the plumbers add sections of pipe, their colleagues put back the paving stones that were removed and--where necessary--replace worn or chipped stones with new ones.

The photos below show the work site, the type of stones that are used, and a section of finished pavement.

Note that the stone blocks are flat on top and irregular in shape on the underside.This design requires less work in the quarry than flatter stones would need, and--just as important--the thick, heavy stones stay firmly in place after being set on a base of sand. (The narrow gaps between the stones are filled with a porous mixture of sand and cement that promotes drainage after acqua alta or a rainstorm.)

Venice paving project  

Venice utility work

Venice paving stones before installation

Venice paving stones - top and bottom

Venice stone pavement



See the Dolomites through your camera's viewfinder

Hiking in the Dolomite Mountains

ABOVE: Summer hiking in the Dolomite Mountains near Venice.

The Dolomites are a figurative hop, skip, and jump from Venice. (On a clear day, you can see the mountain range from the city's northern waterfront.)

Dolomite Mountains srl, a 15-year-old local tour operator, is offering two new itineraries for photography and videography enthusiasts this summer: a photo tour that features an imaging expert from Adobe, and a video tour led by multimedia artist and producer Carlo Zanella.

For more information, see "Dolomite Mountains announces photo and video safaris" on our Europe for Visitors blog.

Photo: Dolomite Mountains srl.