Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Venice - The New Atlantis?

(Venice, Italy) First, I must correct Monday's blog about the high water in Murano. Apparently the person I spoke to on the phone was the only one in Murano who was not affected, because, as you can see by that photo there on the left, Murano received more than its share of aqua alta.

Yesterday, British Sky TV asked me to participate in a feature Sky News was doing on the flooding in Venice after finding Venetian Cat - Venice Blog (which "amused" the producer), and I agreed -- especially since the ninemsn online chat scheduled for 7AM that morning (5PM for those of you in Australia) never happened due to a "glitch." We will reschedule after the New Year; I'll keep you posted, or check the ninemsn website for updates:

So, off I dashed to an Internet Point, and we did the Sky News by webcam and Skype. I'd never used that technology before, and it was so cool to be hooked up with England while sitting in Venice with a headset. Nan McElroy, who also lives here in Venice and has her own blog, Living Venice, participated by phone. To read Nan's blog, go here:

Apparently our mayor, Massimo Cacciari, would like to clarify his remarks that tourists should avoid coming to Venice. He was correct to say such a thing on Monday, because it was impossible to move, and tourists would have only been a distraction, if not an outright impediment. You can come now if you behave yourselves:)

This morning at the gym we spoke about how we felt: almost as if we had been abandoned. It was kind of spooky -- as if we were here all alone, just the handful of residents. We wondered if that's how the people in New Orleans had felt when the water starting gushing in. It all happened so suddenly, without much prior warning. We thought that a tide so high would have been anticipated, and that it was one more trick to get rid of us:)

Later this morning, however, I did see Marino Folin, who is the former Chancellor of IUAV University (for architecture), over by Rialto -- I sat next to him on the jury for the Festa delle Maria during Carnevale two years ago. I said, "I am so happy to see you! We thought we were left here all alone. As long as you are here, it means we are still alive." Marino laughed. "That's the most important thing. That we are still alive."

The Venetians explained to me what they were concerned about. Underneath the buildings are septic tanks. If the water had risen just a little higher, the sediment in those tanks would have bubbled up through the toilets on all the ground floors of Venice. When the tide goes out, they can clean up after the sea water, but the septic tank water is sporca and smelly, and would have left a dirty, unsanitary residue.

These particular Venetians accept MOSES because they think it is the only hope, and they wished the money had been spent first on that than on the Calatrava Bridge. Personally, I believe we should incorporate everything -- MOSES, changing the direction of the tributaries that run down to Venice, restricting the cruise ships, raising the level of the ground -- even incorporating the irrigation system of the San Francesco della Vigna friars wherever possible.

Aqua alta is nothing new. Venetians have been raising the level of the ground for centuries. But, somehow this aqua alta felt different, and not just because it was the highest in 22 years. To me, it's another warning that things on this planet must change, and change quickly, or Venice will really become the New Atlantis, a once thriving civilization filled with sophisticated thinkers. Humanity will lose all the magnificient art, culture and information we have stored here. There is only a small window of opportunity.

Ciao from Venice,


  1. Cat I am so glad you're safe. It must have been very traumatic for you. I remember the first time I experienced aqua alta it felt like the earth was standing still. I had a strang sense of...well I can't describe it really. It felt like the sensation one has when there is a solar eclipse.

    Chris Patzke

  2. Cat, I too am glad to hear you're ok - I also always worry about the cats and dogs, hope they all find higher ground.
    Is Sergio Boldrin and his shop ok?