Venice Floods

Tourists ruined Venice. Now floods are making the lagoon city inhabitable

The floods, which have become more frequent, disrupt the city's rhythm, suspending Vaporetto boat lines that connect stops on the Grand Canal to outlying sites like Murano and Burano

Two weeks after high tides and fierce winds produced the worst flooding in Venice in more than half a century, sirens sound about 6:30 am to warn the fragile lagoon city’s weary residents that “acqua alta” is arriving again.

Less than two hours later, temporary wooden platforms are in place to allow pedestrians to move through ancient cobble-stone streets. Vendors hawking cheap water-proof boots appear out of nowhere to cater to ill-prepared tourists. Sergio Boldrin, one of Venice’s most renowned mask makers, is used to the ritual. But the floods aren’t the only sign of decay. The feeling in the city is that climate change is hastening a downfall that started with mass tourism.

“The city has become ugly. It’s lost its soul,” said Boldrin, as thrifty day trippers stream by to gawk at but not buy his masks, which can cost as much as 1,000 euros ($1,100). “These people just don’t recognise its real beauty.”

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