10 December 2008

12 December 2008 - strike in Italy

There is a general strike due to take place this Friday, 12th December 2008, in Italy. Travellers should be prepared for delays and inconvenience. Try to avoid journeys within Italy on Friday if you can. The government may step in and ensure some services, but it will nonetheless be a difficult day for travel in particular.
> Our article about strikes in Italy, with further links for transport information

11th December: Italy has been hit by bad weather this week - including flooding around Rome - and in recognition of the problems caused, the unions are calling off some elements of the strike (including transport in Rome, and national railway services). This should make things a bit easier for travellers, although many Italians will be travelling into cities to demonstrations which could cause further chaos.

More floods in Venice

After the big flood in Venice last week - the highest level of water for a couple of decades - this week is due to see more abnormally high tides. Anxious not to be caught on the back foot, the local council has issued 'code red' warnings for the next few days. Tonight as I write this the high tide was measured at 116cm (lower than the predictions but still unusually high; you need wellies to get around some bits of town). Tomorrow morning there is an extremely high tide forecast at 140cm which is likely to flood large areas temporarily (though it hopefully won't rise to last week's measurement of 156cm). The next couple of tides will be almost as high, according to the tide-measurement centre.

As we've noted elsewhere, a high tide of 140cm doesn't mean that pavements are covered with that height of water - it's a measurement above a tidal average, not above ground level. But, provoked by rain, wind and an area of low pressure, it is higher than Venice is accustomed to seeing. If you have wellies - or ideally, waders - it is a good chance to get some unusual photographs and enjoy the drama. If you want to get around and keep dry, avoid the couple of hours around high tide. Walk carefully, look out for the white marble strip which marks where the pavement ends and canal begins, and if the water seems too high for your boots, take refuge in a bar or on higher land (or a bridge) until the tide recedes.

If you are unlucky enough to arrive in Venice at high tide and find your way blocked with water, sit it out at the bus or railway station. It's no fun dragging a suitcase through several inches of lagoon water; you're better off waiting for the water level to go down again. Similarly, if you are due to leave Venice and the tide is forecast to be higher than about 110cm, set off an hour or so in advance of high tide.

My advice, if you are arriving here in the next day or two, is to try to bring wellies, or obtain some on arrival (your hotel may help). Don't panic, as tidal floods are not uncommon and Venice recovered in hours from last week's well-publicised acqua alta (and just think how jealous others will be if you witness this famous phenomenon). But do take note of the tide times and heights published on the council's website to help with your planning:
> Comune di Venezia (look under 'previsione maree')
> Our page about acqua alta
> Journal of last week's flood

11th December: Either this morning's tide forecast was over-dramatic, or the weather did change significantly, since the high tide was just 105cm (water outside St. Mark's, but nothing unusual). The predictions are still quite high for this evening's high tide, and Friday morning, but reduced to 'code orange' i.e. less alarming. A bit of an anti-climax so far.

3 December 2008

Floods in Venice update - don't cancel!

> Read our eyewitness account of Monday's floods

Anxious travellers shouldn't believe the fearful warnings in the international press. Venice was flooded for a few hours on Monday but there is no need to avoid the town - and local businesses would much rather you didn't. The town was never 'under five foot of water' - a massive exaggeration caused by a misunderstanding of the city's tidal measurements. Venice frequently has shallow tidal floods and Venetians are used to them; Monday's was higher and caused far more damage than normal, but by Tuesday, tourists would barely have noticed the after-effects. If you didn't have a shop or goods stored at ground-floor level, it was actually quite a thrilling spectacle. Don't be put off travelling; such dramatic floods are extremely rare and would generally only represent a temporary inconvenience for tourists, anyway.
> Read more about high tides in Venice

1 December 2008