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What is the high tide in Venice?

Acqua Alta takes place every year in Venice and today we will tell you all about this phenomenon.

Ana Patrícia in Venice - Credits: Ana Laura @fotografabrasileiraemveneza
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What is the high tide in Venice?

Last year the phenomenon of Acqua Alta in Venice became news worldwide due to its intensity: 145 cm of water! The city was flooded and the water caused some damage to the owners of some establishments, not even the iconic St. Mark’s Basilica escaped! But after all, what is the high tide in Venice?  What is the city hall plan to minimize the impact of Acqua Alta in the city? How long does it last? To answer these and other questions, we made a special post for you with everything you need to know about this subject. Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams!!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”


Several restoration works will be necessary as the sea water mercilessly damaged some mosaics on the floor and several columns inside the Church. Some data say that the city, which receives about 20 million tourists every year, is being slowly and gradually taken in by sea water. It is estimated that the city “sinks” about 2 mm per year; in fact, what happens is that the tide is getting higher and one of the main reasons is the global climate change. Check out our Section on Climate in Italy!

Verified Fact

Acqua Alta in Venice seems to increase more and more over the years and, without mercy, dominates the city! Authorities and their teams have already installed several piles under different constructions around the city to avoid this problem, but over the years it has been proven that this attitude was not so effective.

Anyway, there are architects, engineers and authorities who study, every day, how to minimize the effects of the sea in Venice and, mainly, how to “save” and prevent Acqua Alta from damaging its priceless heritage. They try, perhaps not to block completely, since it is not known exactly when the tide will rise excessively, but contain as much water as possible in these places.

1) What is the high tide in Venice? UNDERSTAND THE PHENOMENON

Acqua Alta is nothing more than the rising tide. The phenomenon affects the city mainly in autumn and winter, when the combination of winds and the sea increases the volume of water in the region. The change in tide level that we can see in Venice combines two essential elements: the astronomical tide, which is directly related to moon / sun movement and weather conditions, such as low atmospheric pressure and very strong winds. When the elements ‘unite’, the Acqua Alta phenomenon occurs.

It is also common for the tide to be much lower than normal (it is rarer, but it happens!), making it difficult to move around through the water. As we have already mentioned, the climate has changed a lot over the last decades and, with this, there are two other phenomena that also affect the city, which are: eustatism (frequent sea level increase) and subsidence (soil decrease due to natural or man-made causes). As a result, the city ‘sinks’ mm by mm over the years.

2) What is the high tide in Venice? GET TO KNOW ABOUT THE ALTITUDE OF WATER

How is Acqua Alta characterized? The tide that exceeds 80 cm in Venice is already called Acqua Alta. With this altitude of the water, transport and moviment of tourists is already impaired, especially in the lower parts of the city, such as St Mark’s Square. When the tide exceeds 100 cm, 5% of the city is flooded and this begins to affect the routes of travel around the city (both by water and land).

With 110 cm of water, 12% of the city is affected and when the water reaches 140 cm, 60% of the city is filled with water, which is when the phenomenon is considered exceptional (in the worst sense of the word!). The record, in centimeters, of this phenomenon is 194 cm and happened in November 1966.

3) What is the high tide in Venice? UNDERSTAND THE DURATION OF THE PHENOMENON

Relatively little, but enough time, when the volume is large, to disrupt the lives of residents and tourists, flood historic buildings and establishments and cause many other inconveniences! Acqua Alta in Venice lasts approximately between 2 and 6 hours, and can also only last 10 minutes.

4) What is the high tide in Venice? GET TO KNOW THE PHENOMENON PERIOD

Acqua Alta in Venice usually takes place in the autumn-winter months, with more intensity between November and December. In this period, the phenomenon can happen every day, with little volume, or in a single day, with an exceptional tide of more than 140 cm. The biggest floods happen, generally, with intervals of 3 years between them; which does not mean that large volumes cannot dominate the city every year. In the figure below it is possible to check the water level according to the centimeters of the tide.


The level refers to the zero tide of Punta della Salute, which lies between the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal, considered the lowest point in the city, and was calculated in the early 20th century as an average sea level around Venice. Currently, the level is 26 cm higher than the reference level.

What is the high tide in Venice?


How does the city administration deal with Acqua Alta? When there is a forecast of Acqua Alta exceeding 110 cm, the city hall issues audible warnings to the population and sends SMS with information (whose data are the responsibility of Centro Previsioni e Segnalazioni Maree – CPMS – “Center for Forecast and Warnings of Tide”).

Platforms for Locomotion

Species of platforms are placed around the city for locomotion of passers-by and the owners of the establishments use species of barriers at the entrance of the stores, in order to work normally. Either way, it is always recommended to use galoshes, which can be purchased at various stores in the city and have very affordable prices.

Request Information

In very rare cases, the traffic of people is interrupted for safety reasons. If in doubt, if you are faced with the situation of Acqua Alta in Venice, you can request information at the hotel reception regarding mobility in the city, or to ask for suggestions on where to buy the appropriate shoes. As the Acqua Alta in Venice is simply the tide, the “runoff” does not exist, as the water does not come from any river, for example, that is: it is necessary to wait for the tide to go down. The city informs the situation of Acqua Alta, with CPMS data, through “colored” codes, as shown below.

To receive this information, the best option is to send an SMS from an Italian chip to 342 4141041.

6) What is the high tide in Venice? CITY ATTRACTIONS IN THIS PERIOD

What to do in the case of Acqua Alta in Venice? Continue the tour normally. As we already said, Venice is a city that is already used to Acqua Alta, so (with the exception of exceptional cases), life in the city does not stop! The establishments operate normally, as well as the sights. Also read our Special Post on What to do in Venice when it rains?

7) What is the high tide in Venice? EXCEPTIONAL CASES

Yes, there are “exceptions” and exceptional cases, and once every three years it may happen that the authorities do not allow circulation through the city, but many warnings will be issued. Always be aware of the information.


  • Even if the water is not so high, ALWAYS use platforms when available! If they are not mounted, pay A LOT of attention to where you step so as not to step on the wrong side and get hurt, which can even cause a fall.

Watch this video and discover: the best restaurant with excellent COST-BENEFIT in Venice!

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What is the high tide in Venice? Acqua Alta in Venice is unlikely to hinder your tour, but if you prefer not to go through this experience that, I confess, gets to be interesting, avoid traveling during autumn / winter.Oh, in March, when summer is ‘knocking on the door’, the phenomenon can also happen! ; )

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