Tuscan Traveler’s Tales: High Water in Italy

They say a combination of heavy rain, strong winds and warmer than usual temperatures have put Italy under water this week. But I know the truth. My friend – let’s call him Giorgio – arrived in Florence this week after causing that wet thing called Sandy a couple of weeks ago in his hometown of Washington, DC and his other place out in Virginia.

Remember how low the Arno was in August?
Remember how low the Arno was in August?

Now the Arno is getting to the highest level since the flood of 1966 (nobody knows where Giorgio was that November). Be warned! Giorgio plans to stay in Florence until December. He’s also scheduling a side trip to Rome for the Vermeers (luckily the Scuderie del Quirinale are on a hill).

Now when were we going to dredge the Arno channel?
Now when were we going to dredge the Arno channel?

Giorgio has lived many places. One of which was Florence, a decade ago, where his apartment was below the water table, cut into a hill in the Oltrarno. To add to the problem, his upstairs neighbor’s 100-year-old pipes broke and leaked through the bedroom ceiling.

Time to get the gold and silver out of the Ponte Vecchio shops?
Time to get the gold and silver out of the Ponte Vecchio shops?

Something similar happened in his apartment in London and although they blamed it on climate change, the rain in central England during the years of Giorgio’s sojourn there reached record levels. He sold up and moved. In Washington, he lives in a once-famous place with an H2O name. There, his plumber broke the pipe to his bathroom sink causing the building to have its water cut off for repairs. (I may not be remembering this accurately, but somebody, besides Giorgio, was very angry.)

Near the northern Tuscan coast
Near the northern Tuscan coast

When he left Florence for London, he kindly gave me his sisal area rug. Two months later, the workers repairing my roof failed to cover it properly on a weekend when it rained continuously. The livingroom ceiling (200-years-old, made of terracotta bricks, plaster and insulated with straw – thus, yellow- and siena-colored water poured through) caved in, ruining Grigorio’s carpet.

A vacation of a lifetime.
A vacation of a lifetime.

I have posited the theory that in a past life Grigorio got on the wrong side of Neptune and he has been paying for it since. Just two days before the recent rains brought the high water in Florence, the residential water was turned off (ostensibly for for street repairs) in a two block radius around the apartment building he is staying in near the Duomo  Now the Arno, which still has a riverbed as shallow as it was in 1966, is rising.

Need a gondola?
Need a gondola?

In Venice, visitors expect to see water – but not this much of it. This past week tourists have been wading through waterlogged cafes and swimming across St. Mark’s Square after heavy rainfall caused some of the famous Italian city’s worst floods in years.

Waves in the Venice canals
Waves in the Venice canals

Authorities say 70 percent of Venice was underwater this week. Water levels rose as much as 5ft above average in the past few days, which makes it the city’s sixth-worst flood on record.

Can you say "Waterborne disease?"
Can you say "Waterborne disease?"

Even before the storm (and to be fair, before Giorgio arrived in Italy), Venetian waters have been higher than normal for more than two weeks now. The seasonal “acqua alta,” or high water, periodically occurs when high tides coincide with strong prevailing winds.

Most widely posted shot of two idiot tourists
Most widely posted shot of two idiot tourists

The same bad weather caused floods and mudslides across northern Italy, with some 200 people evacuated from parts of Tuscany, including the neighborhood below Orvieto and in the Maremma region.

Near the train line passing Orvieto
Near the train line passing Orvieto

Italy is the country that found the scientists guilty of manslaughter for failing to predict the earthquake in 2008 that leveled L’Aquila. Giorgio, or whatever his name really is, should be worried if the Arno continues to rise. (I should be worried because he is taking care of my cats.)

2 thoughts on “Tuscan Traveler’s Tales: High Water in Italy

  1. Your friend Giorgio must have the same “luck” my husband and I have–but his trumps ours by far. 🙂 Generally, when we travel something crazy happens. In January 1995, we were in Virginia together and then Richmond was hit with three ice storms in a row. In August 2011, we were hit with a triple punch during our trip to the US–the East Coast earthquake–my grandfather’s death–Hurricane Irene. In August 2012, a tropical storm hit the coast of Virginia and we were waterlogged in Richmond for two days (thank God we had a great waterproof B&B to stay in with plenty of wine and cheese).

    By the way, have you ever read the book “The Sixteen Pleasures” by Robert Hellenga? It’s set in Florence in the days following the 1966 flooding of the Arno and it’s about a book conservator who goes there to help preserve Florence’s wealth of art and literature and ends up finding a rare book of erotica that takes her on a journey of self-discovery. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *