Venice Floods History

Venice floods history, from the first recorded flood events up to the most latest records for high tides in the lagoon.

The earliest recorded flood event (an event known as “Rotta della Cucca“) in the Venetian lagoon happened on October 17, 589.

The city had been founded just about hundred-fifty years earlier, in 421 AD, and had very few residents at the time.

First well-documented (rather than just recorded) ‘acqua alta’ (flood in local dialect), however, was in 782.

One of Venice’s most devastating floods happened in 1110, when a sea storm (possible tsunami from an earthquake) and floods destroyed the current-day Malamocco (Venice’s political centre before Rialto).

Another devastating flood happened in 1240, when the chroniclers of the time reported that…

“the water (that) flooded the streets (was) higher than a man”.

On November 10, 1442 floods took another turn for historical highs, with record-keepers putting down descriptions for water “four feet above the usual“.

Yet another historical flood happened in the year 1600, December 19th, with chroniclers noting that violent sea storms and floods had…

“broken indeed the shores in several places, entered the towns of Lido Maggiore, Tre Porti, Malamocco, Chiozza, et cetera”.

Maybe Venice’s historically highest floods happened on November 5, 1686, with the water levels reaching the “outdoor floor of … [Sansovino’s] Lodge“, the entrance to the Campanile di San Marco.

That same level of flooding was seen three-hundred years later, onNovember 4, 1966, when the Campanile entrance was reached by water levels again.

Up to the 18th century, record-keeping of these Venice floods had been mostly disorganized and lacking in detailed descriptions.

From the 18th century, these records became, however, much moreprecise (including exact flood heights) and more frequently updated.

For example, during the Venice floods history, chroniclers recorded maximum floods of 140 cm (55 inches) in 1848 and 153 cm (60 inches) in 1867.

This exact record-keeping was strengthened with the founding of the Tide Monitoring and Forecast Centre of Venice, which lists the top 10 flood levels in Venice as:

  1. 194 cm on November 4, 1966
  2. 166 cm on December 22, 1979
  3. 158 cm on February 1, 1986
  4. 156 cm on December 1, 2008
  5. 151 cm on November 12, 1951
  6. 149 cm on November 11, 2012
  7. 147 cm on April 16, 1936
  8. 147 cm on November 16, 2002
  9. 145 cm on December 25, 2009
  10. 145 cm on October 15, 1960

During the 20th century, floods became worse for the city, as the city began to subside from the many artesian wells that were sunk into the lagoon (to draw water for local industry)

The sinking slowed down markedly since these wells were banned in the 1960s, but frequent low-level floods are now very common.

Because of these developments, the Italian state has been building, since 2003, an experimental project, MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico), to control the floods with hollow floatable gates.

This experimental flood control system is to be completed by 2014.