Flood of 1966

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On November 4, 1966, an abnormal occurrence of high tides, rain-swollen rivers and a severe Sirocco wind caused the canals to rise to a height of 194cm or 6ft 4in. Although Venice is known for their [aqua altas] or high waters which often flood the streets, this flood left thousands of residents without homes and caused over six million dollars worth of damage to the various art throughout Venice; therefore making it the worst flood in the history of the city. After being neglected and quietly deteriorating ever since the defeat of the Venetian Republic by Napoleon about a century and a half prior, Venice was suddenly recognized as a city in urgent need of restoration.[1]


Timeline of Events

Doge's Palace in St. Mark's Square on November 4, 1966.

This is the Doge's Palace in St. Mark's Square on the day of the great flood. It was covered with 150 centimeters of sea water (194 centimeters when measured from the average sea level), and boats can be seen navigating the piazza. Three days of heavy rain continued to deteriorate the city and left residents walking in water up to their shoulders. Although other Italian cities in Northern and Central Italy such as Florence, Trento, and Siena were all affected by the weather, Venice was the most severely affected. The city remained isolated for 24 hours and having been unprepared for this type of emergency, more than 75 percent of businesses, shops, and artisans' studios along with thousands of goods were either seriously damaged or destroyed completely.[2]


Watch a video of the aftermath caused by the flood of 1966 here.

Funding and Assistance

Funding and assistance came from all across the globe as the tragic event reminded many of the need to preserve Venitian art and architecture. Funding was received from:

Other organizations initiated efforts to help Venice such as:

Conservation and Environmental Measures

Schematics of the MOSE Project.

While at first the Arno River’s Florentine destruction seemed more severe, it was Venice that demonstrated to be more difficult to conserve. John pope-Hennessy, a British art historian, detected that for the first time the full extent of the city’s problems was seen:

  1. “It was not just a matter of the flood; rather it was a matter of what the flood revealed, of the havoc wrought by generations of neglect. For centuries Venice lived off tourists, and almost none of the money they brought into the city was put back into the maintenance of its monuments. And that had been aggravated by problems of pollution, an issue of the utmost gravity.”'

In response, several national, along with international organizations, began working tirelessly in both Venice and Florence, making remarkable development in conserving countless individual sites. The most notable of organizations included UNESCO, Venice in Peril, Save Venice Inc and the World Monuments Fund. In the early sixteenth century Venice’s perilous physical situation was realized, when its doges tried to safeguard the lagoon city and its harbor by diverting rivers from the lagoon to prevent river silt from accumulating and blocking the lagoon. Despite these efforts, over the centuries as the mean sea level gradually rose and the foundations of many buildings settled further into the mudflats. The Venetians also gradually raised their islands, as verified by the deepest archaeological layer in St. Mark’s Square, which is located approximately 10 feet below the present pavement. Thus today's continuing flooding problem is worsened by an obsolete four-hundred-year old lagoon-dredging program and a sinking seabed.[3] In combination with measures such as coastal reinforcement, the raising of quaysides and paving and improvement of the lagoon environment, engineers at FIAT designed the MOSE Project. These gates are able to protect the city of Venice from extreme events such as floods and morphological degradation.[4]

See Also

Various Institutions now work to preserve and restore the city along with conduct research on marine studies around Venice specifically the hydrodynamics of the canals.


  1. "Venice: After the flood". 
  2. http://www.veniceword.com/news/9/acqua.html
  3. "Architectural Conservation in Europe and the Americas". 
  4. "MOSE Projet". 

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