Venice flooding: What does the extreme weather mean for tourists?

Helen Coffey
Venice has recorded the second highest water levels since recording began: AP

Venice is currently experiencing its second most severe flood on record, with water levels rising to over 6ft late on Tuesday night.

Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, described a scene of “apocalyptic devastation”.

“Venice is on its knees… the art, the basilica, the shops and the homes, a disaster… The city is bracing itself for the next high tide,” Mr Zaia said during a television interview.

The city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, declared it a disaster zone and is asking the government to call a state of emergency, which would allow funds to be freed to address the damage.

But what does the flooding mean for tourists?

Can I fly to Venice?

Airlines are currently operating normally. A spokesperson for easyJet, the biggest carrier from the UK to Venice, said: “We are aware of reports of flooding in Venice and our thoughts are with those affected.

“Our schedule to Venice is operating as normal today.

“Customers scheduled to travel to or from Venice who wish to discuss their booking should contact our customer service team.”

However, once they arrive, travellers may have to get to the city overland. Venice Marco Polo Airport says on its website: “Water connections to the airport remain difficult due to the exceptional level of the tide.”

Can I get around Venice?

Vaporetto (water bus) services in the city were closed by officials earlier this week but are now back up and running. Regular public transport services also seem to be operating.

The city has created a series of raised walkways on popular routes to help pedestrians stay dry, with the highest ones at a height of 120cm (3.9ft) above ground level.

Are Venice hotels OK?

The head of the Venice hotel association said the damage was enormous, with many hotels losing electricity and lacking pumps to remove water.

Tourists with ground floor rooms had to be evacuated to higher floors as the waters rose on Tuesday night, the association director Claudio Scarpa told ANSA.

Many hotels have been offering guests disposable rain boots so they can venture onto the streets, the AP reported.

Are Venice attractions open?

The popular St Mark’s Square is submerged in water, with the 1,000-year-old St Mark’s Basilica flooded for only the second time in a century.

The overnight flooding triggered several fires, including one at the International Gallery of Modern Art Ca’ Pesaro.

Local tour guide James Hill tells The Independent that the entire city is shut down, with schools, museums and offices largely closed.

There were a few exceptions. Popular tourist attractions like Ducal Palace and Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Venezia remained open yesterday; the museum tweeted to let visitors know it was open for business, saying: “High tide? No problem if you are triton or a nereid! For the record: we are open, and we are waiting for you despite the adverse conditions.”

However, today the account posted: “The National Archaeological Museum of Venice will be closed to the public this morning because of the high tide of yesterday night and the expected tide of 160 cm at 10.20am. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

What does the UK government say?

The FCO has not yet issued a travel warning or alert about visiting Venice.

Can I cancel my trip and get a refund?

It depends – but probably not. If you’ve booked a package holiday with flights and accommodation included, and the hotel can no longer house you, the provider could try and find you an alternative place to stay. If there’s nowhere available, the company would have to refund you in full for the trip.

However, if you booked travel and accommodation separately, you’re extremely unlikely to get a refund on your flights. Even if the hotel offers you a refund because it can no longer accommodate you, it’s up to you to find an alternative place to stay.

And if your hotel is unaffected by the flooding, there’s no chance of getting a refund for your trip if you cancel now.

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Highest tides in 50 years plunge Venice squares underwater