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Is Venice Threatened by Climate Change or Tourism?
Blog...Is Venice Threatened by Climate Change or Tourism?

Is Venice Threatened by Climate Change or Tourism?

Ecology News
view of venice from water
In this article, we’ll explore why Venice might be threatened by climate change, why its tourism could suffer from the effects of climate change and how that could impact tourism.
Ecology News
view of venice from water

Venice is one of the most desired tourist destinations in Italy: known for its charming waterways, macaroon-decorated scoops of gelato, and infamous water taxis. 

With over 1.4 million tourists visiting in 2021 (a number expected to increase in 2023 now that the pandemic is over), it's a valid question to wonder if Venice will start to struggle with tourism as climate change continues to progress.

In this article, we’ll explore why Venice might be threatened by climate change, why its tourism could suffer from  – and why both of these interrelated negative impacts could harm Italy as a whole.

What attracts tourists to Venice?

Italy as a whole attracts tourists from all over the world, welcoming a whopping 74 million tourists in 2022 – with that number expected to grow as the global economy continues to heal following the pandemic. 

Some of Italy’s most visited cities include Rome, Milan, and Florence – but Venice stands out from the rest due to the fact the city is situated almost entirely on water. In fact, to get around Venice, a water taxi or gondola right may be necessary.

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Home to beautiful sights such as Saint Mark’s Square and the Rialto bridge, Venice’s unique charm is alluring to many tourists for its romance, scenic sunsets, picturesque setting, architecture, and Venezian culture.  

However, one of the most distinctive features of Venice (the fact that it is made up of 118 islands and requires residents and travelers alike to use water transportation) may also be the very thing that brings Venice to meet its doom.

bird's eye view of saint marks basilica

What is happening in Venice right now in 2023?

Venice isn’t the city it was five years ago, as in 2023 – Venice is finally suffering the effects of climate change due to unforeseen flooding.

Flooding is not atypical in Venice, as the city has been dealing with flooding for hundreds of years – meaning the rise in water levels have occurred as a result of both natural and human-based activity reasons. Usually, the season where tides in Venice are the highest is referred to as “acqua alta” – and lasts from fall through winter. This is imperative, as fall through winter is considered shoulder season for tourists in Venice – meaning the flood levels have usually been obsolete during peak tourist season (May to August).

However, as of August 2023 – Venice is currently experiencing flooding earlier than it usually would, leaving tourists left to wander around famous landmarks such as Saint Mark’s Square with water halfway up to their knees.

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In fact, after centuries of well-known landmarks in Venice withstanding the extreme floods, some architectural treasures have finally let the water damage get the best of them – such as with Saint Mark’s Basilica. This iconic monument in Venice is set to undergo a €3.3 million restoration to help restore it to its original condition before flooding became the issue it is today.

👉 The initiative to restore Saint Mark’s Basilica is a significant sign that flooding and water damage is becoming a serious issue in Venice – seeing as the famous landmark has withstood almost 1000 years of high tides before. 

Flooding is common in Venice, but it has never occurred on this scale during the high tourist season before. August is the peak season for both Europeans and Americans traveling to Italy, and high tides like these could prevent tourists from wanting to return in the coming years.

venice view in july

How could climate change threaten Venice?

Even if the majority of Venetians are used to periodic rising tide levels, tourists are not – meaning both visitors and those who live in Venice are realizing what climate change could do to this beloved city.

Climate change could continue to make flooding worse, seeing as much of the high tides occurring in Venice actually starts with strong, warm sirocco winds from the Mediterranean and Northern Africa – something that is bound to only get worse as climate change continues to evolve. This in combination with global rising sea levels means that tides in Venice aren’t going to get better on their own. 

In fact, if a plan to protect Venice from high tides isn’t developed, it could result in the entire city of Venice sinking one day – much like New York City as Venice’s ground level has been sinking by 1 millimeter each year. 

👉 If circumstances continue as they currently are, climate change could cause Venice to be nearly 4 feet underwater by the end of the century in addition to historic landmarks being destroyed due to water damage. 

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👉 Ultimately, climate change could make flooding in Venice worse, more common, and occur more frequently during high tourist season – all of which could cause the entire country of Italy enormous financial stress.

Italy, much like other Southern European countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Spain, depends on tourism in order for the country to thrive. In fact, tourism is imperative to a country like Italy – seeing as it is responsible for 14% of the country’s GDP. If high tides were to occur during peak tourist season, Venice could see a decrease in tourism, and could depress not only Venice’s economy – but all of Italy.

Many Venetians work in restaurants, hospitality services, or water transportation that all thrives in the midst of peak tourist season. In fact, tourism in Italy has provided jobs to almost 15% of the country. If high tides continue and push tourists away, less Italians able to work during high tourist season could lead to unemployment and more economic issues for Venice and Italy.

view from saint mark's campanile

How likely is climate change to influence tourism in Venice?

Let’s face it – a romantic getaway or family vacation doesn’t usually include needing to wear rubberized shoes or sloshing around in high tide water where idiosyncratic European cobblestone streets should be.

Most tourists come to Venice to devour Italian cuisine, take a Gondola ride, and walk many of the city’s marvelous bridges. Even those with the most ravenous appetites for adventure probably prefer to take pictures of Saint Mark’s Square without having to wear water shoes.

Much of the charm of Venice could also be gone if the entire city is to be flooded with water. The magic of a gondola right could become underwhelming due to immense flooding – as transporting via water would become a necessity everywhere in Venice, something that may grow tedious to tourists trying to get from one point to another.

venice at sunset

Climate change could have a devastating profound influence on tourism in Venice, as the increased flooding is bound to make future trips to Venice uncomfortable and unpleasurable, and may result in a lot of tourists traveling to Italy to skip over Venice in the future – which could harm Italy’s GDP seeing as Venice is the country’s third most visited city.

In fact, St. Mark’s Basin, the main square in Venice, could be wiped out by 2050. This is one of Venice's most iconic and beautiful spots to visit: filled with photo opportunities, a trip to the top of Saint Mark’s Campanile (a bell tower with sweeping views of the city), tourist stands, souvenir shops, and restaurants – all of which could cease to exist as the plaza is threatened by climate change.

How can Venice adapt to become more resilient to the effects of climate change?

Climate change may be in full swing, but Venice’s efforts to fight against the impact that climate change has had on its city could still be kicked up a notch.

There is still a lot that Venice could do to prevent flooding from getting as bad as it has in recent years. Despite the fact that Venice has a unique layout, climate scientists have been working with local officials for years to ensure that rising sea levels don’t impact Venice more than they already have – such as by banning cruise ships from docking in Venice.

Other ways to combat high tides due to climate change could include implementing moveable barriers underwater or installing shields for iconic landmarks in Venice: such as Saint Mark’s Square and Doge's Palace. In fact, renovations to install such a barrier in Venice have already taken place in Saint Mark’s Square – costing the city €5.3 million to install and could be even more expensive as further plans to protect Venice develop.

Another effort on behalf of the Roman Government was MOSE, or Modulo Spertimentable Electtromeccanico (Electromechanical Experimental Module in English) – which is a €6 billion euro barrier system that was implemented to help prevent massive waves from pushing the tide level higher. Venice has still suffered from high tides, but MOSE has helped to decrease the severity of the impact rising sea levels have had on Venice.

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👉 Did you know that MOSE indirectly refers to “Moses” – nicknaming the barrier after the figure who parted the seas in biblical times.

Despite the benefits of MOSE so far, more needs to be done – as many scientists have raised concerns over the fact that the barriers may prevent the lagoon water found in the canals of Venice from vital sediments that the marshes may need to survive. Other efforts Venice has taken to help mitigate the effect of climate change include banning cars from driving in the historic parts of Venice.

venice view

Ultimately, Venice is actively doing its best to adapt in the midst of climate change – from local governments to Venetians themselves supporting new developments to keep high tides out of Venice. In addition to this, Travelers can do a lot to help support Venice in the midst of climate change, too. Tourists can help to support the domestic economy by booking independently owned hotels, Venetian-run restaurants as opposed to tourist traps, and going to lesser known (but still cool!) areas in the city such as the Jewish Ghetto or Campo San Maurizio.

Climate change is inevitably catching up to Venice, and now – is up to the city, its residents, and the millions of people who travel there each year to step up and share their support to make sure Venice will still be here for centuries to come.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about Venice and how climate change might impact its tourism has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Getting ahead of the climate change crisis, like Venice should, could prove challenging, but don’t worry  – Greenly is here to help. Click here to schedule a demo to see how Greenly can help you comply with all of the upcoming regulations relevant to your company. 

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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