Gondolas and dry canals have drained the romantic energy of Venice, disappointing tourists in one of Italy’s most visited cities.
Weeks of dry winter weather and a lack of rain have turned Venice’s iconic waterways into muddy pits; Water levels in some canals are so low that gondolas and other water vehicles such as taxis and ambulances cannot travel.
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A series of images emerging from the Italian city on Friday showed barely visible streams of water pooling around dozens of boats next to the exposed foundations of several buildings.
While flooding is usually a primary concern in a “floating city,” environmental experts point to a lack of rain, a prolonged high-pressure weather system and high tides as the cause of the emptying canals.
Venice isn’t the only area of Italy that’s drying up. Environmental group Legambiente said Italy’s lakes and rivers were in “distressed condition” as a result of the country’s drought. They claim the Alps saw 53 percent less snow than the average for the mountain range. Meanwhile, Italy’s longest river, the Po, has experienced a 61 percent water deficit this year.
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Last July, Italy declared a state of emergency in areas around the Po, which accounts for roughly a third of the country’s agricultural output, and suffered its worst drought in 70 years.
“We are in a water deficit that has been formed since the winter of 2020-2021,” said climate expert Massimiliano Paschi of the Italian research institute CNR, as quoted by the daily Corriere della Sera. “500 millimeters should be restored in the north-western regions. we need 50 days of rain.”
The latest weather forecasts indicate much needed precipitation and snow in the Alps in the coming days.
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Venice, however, was not always dry. In 2019, Italy declared a state of emergency in the city after Venice was submerged in six feet of water, flooding homes and small businesses and damaging the city’s historic St. Mark’s Basilica.
City officials said the tide reached 187 centimeters, making it one of the highest floods in the city’s history, second only to 1966, when Venice experienced 194 centimeters of flooding.
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— With files from Reuters and Emerald Bensadoun
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