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Venice Canals Are Running Dry, Should Travelers Avoid This Destination?

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Travelers worldwide are eager to visit Italy this year, and the most iconic places, like Venice, are usually on everyone’s bucket list. Despite the clichés and the large crowds, this destination remains attractive and keeps charming its visitors, but there’s currently a peculiar situation, and this time it has to do with drought.

Gondolas in Venice during sunrise

According to the most recent information spread across news outlets, Venice is going through an arid winter, and its canals are running dry. Experts and local authorities are concerned, especially considering that the summer season is coming soon and last year Italy declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions. 

It seems contradictory as Venice is also sinking and could disappear by 2100, but the weather conditions in this tourist place are complex. Right now,  there are canals with very low levels of water, and water taxis, gondolas, and even ambulances are having trouble moving around this roadless city. 

There are different reasons why this is happening: 

  • The Alps received 53% less snow this winter.
  • A high-pressure system.
  • Lack of rain. 
  • Sea currents, low tides, and a full moon.
@guardianaustralia Exceptionally low tides and a lack of rain in Venice has left some of the city's famous canals almost dry. Boats and traditional gondolas, which are used for transportation inside the city, have been almost beached in some of the canals. The problems in Venice are being blamed on a combination of factors – the lack of rain, a high pressure system, a full moon and sea currents. Latest weather forecasts do however signal the arrival of much-needed precipitation and snow in the Alps in coming days, although the country still faces a severe drought this year. #venice #drought #climatechange #weather #italy #europe ♬ original sound – Guardian Australia

Other lakes and rivers in Italy are also suffering from a lack of water, especially in the north. Local authorities and experts expect that this dry season will be compensated for in Spring and that a rainy season can help canals go back to normal. At the moment, here’s what travelers should know. 

How It Affects Travelers Right Now

It might be shocking to see grounded gondolas and dry canals, but Venice has 177 canals, and not all are affected. Recent videos on TikTok and other social media channels show travelers enjoying the recent carnivals and riding gondolas at this beautiful destination.

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@iva_in_venice el canal, chi ga sugà el canal😂 #venezia #venice #fanny #canal ♬ suono originale – Iva_in_Venice

However, there are certain things travelers should know:

  • Certain gondolas and canals are not operational: The deepest canals, like the main canal, are still navigable, and there are gondolas available for tourists to enjoy a ride, but certain routes cannot be used, and gondoliers are already struggling to move passengers around.
  • Emergency services are impacted: travelers should bear in mind that water ambulances and taxis are having trouble navigating. It might be difficult to get medical attention quickly at certain locations.
  • There’s an unpleasant smell: Travelers must be ready for uncomfortable conditions like bad odor at certain locations. “The smell is terrible”, said a tourist interviewed by France24. 
@abcnewsaus Venice’s famous canals have been left dry after drought and severe low tides. #ABCNews #Venice #Italy #Weather #Drought #Canal ♬ Italy, acoustic guitar, accordion(1176984) – TranceparentBlue

Locals are worried about how it can affect their living conditions in the upcoming days as they depend on canal transportation for their day-to-day needs. Authorities expect to have favorable weather and rainy days soon, but it is still uncertain.

As reported by Reuters, Massimiliano Pasqui —from the Italian scientific research institute CNR— said that the water deficit situation has been affecting the northern region of Italy since 2020. In order to avoid another critical drought situation, rain is needed. Pasqui added: “We need to recover 500 millimeters in the north-western regions: we need 50 days of rain.” 

Aerial view of Venice

Venice Comes With A Warning

Visiting Venice is starting to get complicated due to over-tourism, the new bureaucracy, and weather conditions. 

The Italian government has already warned international travelers about a fee to visit this destination —the ticketing system launch has been delayed— since it’s been heavily affected by over-tourism, and is also making efforts to promote off-the-beaten-path destinations

Group Of Female Friends Smiling As They Choose Food From A Menu In A Restaurant Overlooking The Colosseum In Rome, Italy

Since Venice is also sinking, many travelers are looking forward to visiting it before it gets lost underwater, so this city’s popularity seems to be unstoppable. If you want to avoid large crowds, maybe this isn’t the best destination for a relaxing experience —and it’s been considered an overrated destination for 2023.

Venice with Crowds

Travelers visiting right now might encounter dry canals, an unpleasant smell, and high demand for operational gondolas, but during various times of the year, it might also be flooded.

Those looking forward to visiting this charming —and complex— destination soon must stay up to date with local news and be prepared for the different conditions they might encounter upon arrival.

Tourists Boarding Gondola In Venice, Italy

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Robert Harris

Thursday 23rd of February 2023

I think that this article needs to be put in context!

The primary driver of Venetian canal water levels in the height of the nearby Adriatic Sea, which is affected by the tide (phase of the moon, and proximity to the equinox), the wind and atmospheric pressure.

Fresh water entering the lagoon does make some difference, and if it is reduced through drought then the canals will indeed be lower.

But all this is short term. Give it six hours and it will be high tide. Give it a week and it will be neap tides, with possibly a southerly low pressure and low pressure.

Dramatic photos and videos of empty canals and smelly mud are just snapshot moments. I don't think that there is any reason to regard this as the new normal.

Janet

Saturday 25th of February 2023

@Robert Harris, I was in Venice last year in early June and everything was fine. Still, not much snow in the Alps and the Po which runs through Florence is also quite low.