Libreria Acqua Alta is Instagram worthy. Extra than 30,000 people acquire tagged themselves visiting the spell binding book shop, but no longer like different popular constructions in Venice, Libreria Acqua Alta is now no longer a church or canalside palazzo. It be quintessentially Venice in any other manner: It be designed to outsmart the floods which acquire plagued town for centuries.

Inside you will discover books on Venetian delicacies stacked inner bathtubs. English and Italian fiction titles are wedged beside every different, packed tightly in a gondola stretching from one aspect of the exiguous store to the different. They’re now no longer beautiful there so to add ambiance. When the Italian city floods, as it does dozens of cases a 365 days, the bathtubs and gondola drift, safeguarding the books inner. 

Libreria Acqua Alta gets its name from this phenomenon: Acqua Alta, that methodology “excessive water,” refers again to the excessive tides from the Adriatic Sea that blow into the Venetian Lagoon. These floods acquire been a truth of lifestyles for Venice since the fifth century, but as a result of rising sea phases precipitated by local climate commerce, they now pose a harmful risk. 

There acquire been 34 cases of acqua alta between 2014 and 2018 that exceeded A hundred and ten centimeters (43 inches), sufficient to flood chunks of town and place off power damage to its infrastructure. There acquire been beautiful 30 such events between 1875 and 1951.

Town’s residents, historical constructions and irreplaceable art are at risk. Some contend Venice itself will seemingly be unlivable by the end of the century. Numerous solutions acquire been proposed, reminiscent of pumping water or liquid cement below Venice to raise town, as well as further fortifying the lagoon’s natural defenses.

Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta suffered flooding in November 2019.


Instead, the Italian authorities is pondering on a grander scale. It be spent the previous 17 years constructing MOSE, a multibillion-euro infrastructure project revolving spherical Seventy eight faraway-controlled gates that can rise when essential to block excessive tides from entering the Venetian Lagoon. 

On July 10, all Seventy eight gates had been raised for the first time within the midst of a public demonstration, but the authorities is light anxious to reassure Venice’s electorate that the belief, which is maybe now no longer totally purposeful till the shut of 2021, will work. Beset by corruption and delays, MOSE itself has turn into a mission. Critics affirm that the gates is maybe now no longer as efficient as the authorities envisions and that they’ll must light be raised so regularly that Venice’s sewage will seemingly be trapped within the Lagoon, killing off its ecosystem. 

“Right here’s the loss of life of Venice,” stated Fabrizio Antonioli, a geologist at ENEA, a public sustainable development agency. 

If the whole lot had long gone to space, the MOSE gates would acquire been ready in 2011. However nine years later, and four billion euros over the authentic 1.6 billion ($1.Eight billion) euro budget, MOSE could well per chance never rise to the area of saving Venice. 

The biggest acqua alta in historical previous came in 1966, reaching 1.ninety four meters.


Native climate catastrophe

Resting on the northern end of the Adriatic Sea atop 118 islands that are linked by bridges and separated by canals, Venice is defined by water. After centuries of Venice ruling portions of the Mediterranean Sea as a maritime energy, town’s iconic canals now attract spherical 20 million vacationers a 365 days. Yet the water that stable its first settlers from invasions has turn into town’s most troubling authorized responsibility. A excessive tide and a solid wind from the sea, blowing the Adriatic’s water into the shallow lagoon, is all that’s essential to flood Venice’s decrease districts.

Robert Rodriguez/CNET

Adore Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice is designed to work with flooding. Electrical junction containers are saved the place even the supreme of tides cannot attain. Elevated wood walkways, or “duckboards,” are place up rapidly to connect constructions when sidewalks are submerged. Gondola are designed so as that their heads could well per chance even be eradicated (and later reattached) to develop sure pleasurable passage below bridges as water phases rise. However closing 365 days one immense acqua alta arrived so rapidly town had no time to react. 

“It started out of the blue,” remembers Diana Zamda, an employee at Libreria Acqua Alta. “I’ve never considered the leisure look after that.” All it took was once “forty or 50 minutes” for a long-established day in Venice to transition into chaos.

Zamda is describing Nov. 12, 2019, when Venice was once ravaged by catastrophic floods. Water rose as excessive as 1.87 meters (6.1 feet), half of a meter better than anticipated, inflicting an estimated $1.1 billion in damage. Historic constructions had been deluged, accommodations had been shut and two people had been killed. And Libreria Acqua Alta’s defenses had been overwhelmed, with an complete bunch of books broken or lost. 

St. Stamp’s Square, the tourist and historical centerpiece of town.


Most productive one flood within town’s recorded historical previous was all once more destructive than 2019’s, support in 1966. A 1.ninety four-meter acqua alta, identified as the Acqua Granda, ravaged town. 1000’s of electorate had been pressured to evacuate their properties, an estimated Seventy five% of outlets had been broken and $Three billion in artwork was once lost.

Since then, Venice’s inundations acquire skyrocketed with out a signal of abating. St. Stamp’s Square, town’s historical and tourist centerpiece, flooded lower than 10 cases a 365 days within the first decade of the twentieth century. In every of the previous five years, it be flooded 60 cases

One in all Venice’s decrease facets, St. Stamp’s Square now floods spherical 60 cases a 365 days.


Venice’s floods are now no longer precipitated by local climate commerce, but global warming is a chief part. Gracious as local climate commerce provokes bushfires in Australia by worsening preexisting conditions look after drought and dry soil, it magnifies Venice’s inherent vulnerability to floods by rising sea phases — from 2.5 millimeters a 365 days within the twentieth century to spherical 6 millimeters a 365 days in fresh a long time

Venice’s methodology of water-level dimension evinces the extent to which local climate commerce has magnified the narrate. Inappropriate level, zero centimeters, refers again to the water level of 1872, when the first tide gauge was once installed. When officials repeat that town begins to flood as sea phases attain 80 centimeters, they mean 80 centimeters above the 1872 level. However the sea level has risen by spherical 30 centimeters, or 12 inches, within the a hundred and fifty years since. With this raised sea level, the new unofficial common, tides simplest wish to rise 50 centimeters before substances of town beginning to flood. 

Native human task is exacerbating town’s water woes, too. A post-World Battle II space to industrialize a nearby town ended in excessive pumping of Venice’s groundwater from the ’50s to the ’70s, inflicting town to sink 12 centimeters and positioning it mighty more precariously. (And as a result of tectonic task, town continues to sink about a millimeters every 365 days.)

“Flooding of Venice has occurred over and over within the midst of its historical previous,” wrote Caroline Fletcher and Tom Spencer in their 2005 book on Venice, but “the closing 50 years represents an out of the ordinary interval of frequent and intense events.”

Duckboards are saved on hand for quick development so electorate can fade about their day within the midst of soft floods, which happen dozens of cases a 365 days.


Venice’s authorities has been actively combating flood conditions since 1966’s Acqua Granda. In the years that adopted, explains Carl Amos, Southampton University’s professor emeritus of earth and ocean sciences, the local authorities bolstered town’s defenses. Canals had been dried out so town’s foundations could well per chance per chance be fortified, walkways had been raised to stand as a lot as increased tides, and salt marshes and mudflats within the Venetian Lagoon had been cultivated to block incoming ocean water.

“Many of the work was once done by the municipality of Venice. It was once all local,” says Amos, who’s been discovering out Venice for over 25 years. He stated these renovations, though now no longer spectacular, had been efficient. Unfortunately, many treatments could well per chance even be enacted simplest as a lot as about a extent. That you can raise pavement but now no longer doorways, as an illustration, so further elevating walkways would mean electorate crouching by doorways. (One in all the more regularly proposed selections to MOSE is to continue working on the Lagoon’s mudflats and salt marshes.)

In the Eighties, Italy’s national authorities decided it could maybe actually well per chance per chance repair Venice’s water complications once and for all. It conceived a project known as MOSE, quick for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico (Electromechanical Experimental Module), and Italian for Moses. It could maybe maybe well per chance per chance be named after a biblical figure, but now, nearly forty years later, few are convinced MOSE is the acknowledge to Venice’s prayers. 

MOSE woes

The theory that sounds plausible. MOSE’s Seventy eight cell gates could well per chance per chance be constructed alongside the three inlets that connect the Adriatic Sea to the Venetian Lagoon. Adore London’s Thames Barrier or the Maeslantkering conserving Rotterdam from the North Sea, the gates will seemingly be remotely erected when tides rise, blocking water from entering the Lagoon and saving Venice from heavy floods. The gates are then remotely retracted once the sea level lowers.

A easy belief, but a huge project. Consorzio Venezia Nuova, the physique place as a lot as preserve watch over the scheme, had to originate something that would defend Venice from floods without endangering its ecosystem or growing a immense structure that can blight its beauty. That supposed, no longer just like the Thames Barrier or the Maeslantkering, the gates would wish to stay underwater.

The MOSE gates are the three entrances to the Venetian Lagoon.

Robert Rodriguez/CNET

“MOSE is the most easy reply to this impossible area,” argues Giovanni Cecconi, an engineer who labored on MOSE for 28 years. 

The foremost feasibility probe for cell dams as a reply to Venice’s floods was once submitted in 1971, with legislation passing on the proposal two years later. Politicians and engineers argued over and modified the project for 30 years before development began in 2003. For the time being, its worth was once estimated to succeed in 1.6 billion euros over an eight-365 days development interval.

That forecast proved to be extravagantly optimistic. Nine years after the scheduled completion date, work on MOSE continues. In 2014 the as a lot as this level worth was once €5.5 billion, 343% over the authentic budget. Now some estimate MOSE’s steady constructing charges to be spherical Eight billion euros. The most up-to-date estimate is for the gates to be operational in unhurried 2021. This cuts a bit out of MOSE’s planned lifespan. 

“It was once alleged to be accomplished in 2011,” says Jane da Mosto, an environmental scientist and co-founder of We Are Right here Venice, an NGO devoted to town’s preservation. She notes that Italy’s authorities designed MOSE to closing for a century. “We have already lost 10 years of the so-known as 100 years operating time,” she sighs.

Tardiness is a ways from MOSE’s simplest narrate. While deployed, the gates would block ships from reaching and leaving ports, a in point of fact necessary half of town’s economy. Extra importantly, they would trap sewage, which flows out from town into the Adriatic Sea, within the Venetian Lagoon.

As a result of these aspect effects, MOSE is simplest supposed for “very intense excessive tides,” the salubrious categorization of those that prolong A hundred and ten centimeters. These place off the most deleterious floods, but are uncommon sufficient, occurring simplest a handful of cases a 365 days, for MOSE to now no longer seriously agonize the lagoon’s ecosystem.

Or on the least, they had been uncommon sufficient. There could be any other area the project’s designers did no longer look forward to: A woeful underestimation of sea level rise methodology the gates will seemingly be deployed mighty more regularly than initially planned. The authorities accounted for a 20 centimeter rise over MOSE’s 100-365 days lifespan, in line with da Mosto. A 2019 file by the World Panel on Native climate Exchange says a 60 centimeter rise is more seemingly.

Idea art that reveals how every gate erects from its underwater lodging.

Consorzio Venezia Nuova

“MOSE needs to be broken-down now no longer two or three cases a 365 days [as officials thought]” says ENEA’s Antonioli, “but as an illustration 25, 30 cases a 365 days.” Others estimate the gates will in the end must light be deployed an complete bunch of cases a 365 days.

This could maybe extinguish town’s ecosystem. Sewage from Venice could well per chance per chance be trapped during the lagoon for extended classes of time, inflicting heavy algae development. This algae would suck within the total oxygen, killing the whole lot else. 

“If you fade across the lagoon, there is a vivid fishing community, a clam replace, a fishery, there are fish farms south of Venice,” Amos defined. “You’re having a leer at [hundreds of millions of euros] a 365 days in worth within the fisheries. … All of that’s seemingly to be in risk.”

Experts acquire different gripes, too. Decrease areas look after St. Stamp’s Square can flood with tides as low as 80 centimeters, as an illustration, that methodology MOSE will mostly leave it vulnerable by style. Equally, substances of Venice flood from below as a result of antiquated piping programs, any other area MOSE could well per chance now no longer solve.

Cecconi acknowledges the complication of a rising sea level, but says this doesn’t gash MOSE’s necessity. He concedes that MOSE could well per chance now no longer closing for its 100 supposed years, but says the diagram will seemingly be more ample to Venice within the midst of its years of operation, since it must be essential more regularly than anticipated. He’s now no longer a stalwart defender of the project, but rejects people that state that MOSE is designed to repair all of Venice’s complications.

“If you’ll be oversimplistic and likewise you beautiful affirm ‘this closing reply is going to closing with out a sign of ending or it will fail,’ oh mosey, it will fail,” he says. “It has never been stated that right here’s the closing reply. Right here’s insurance coverage to put time for any other reply. Right here’s the that methodology of adaptation.”

Nonetheless, early checks of some of the most project’s gates demonstrate a more deflating area. MOSE could well per chance now no longer even operate as supposed — on the least, now no longer without exorbitant repairs charges. Numerous distorted hinges on the spoiled of gates had been came across within the midst of June 2019 trials shut to Lido, one in all the islands of the Venetian Lagoon. They’d mostly been corroded by salt, in line with La Nuova Venezia. Extra rusting and salt corrosion was once chanced on in Could per chance furthermore simply.

“If you distort the hinges, then clearly they’ll now no longer rise well,” explains Amos. “Basically, they’re rendered ineffective.”

Consorzio Venezia Nuova did now no longer acknowledge to more than one requests for negate. Alessandro Soru, MOSE’s most up-to-date project manager, closing 365 days told the Wall Avenue Journal: “It be a long direction of that takes tweaking, and in line with the checks we acquire now got done there is in actual fact no indication that MOSE could well per chance now no longer work.” 

Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s top minister, watches the MOSE gates rise on July 10.

Anadolu Agency/Getty

Watergate scandal

With doubt mounting over MOSE, the consortium sought some vindication on July 10. In a ceremony attended by Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s top minister, all Seventy eight MOSE gates had been lifted in a public take a look at designed to affirm the diagram’s competence. Consorzio Venezia Nuova had beforehand tested sections of MOSE, but never before had your complete place of gates been raised simultaneously. 

With the disclaimer that climate conditions will seemingly be mighty more violent when MOSE is essential — winds had been four cases as solid within the midst of closing November’s Acqua Alta — the demo went off without a hitch. Yet even the top minister was once cautious about being too optimistic.

“We must forever all hope it in actual fact works,” Conte stated to journalists, after acknowledging the project’s historical previous of “corruption and malfeasance.” 

MOSE’s injurious reputation is now no longer beautiful a matter of wretched planning, but venality too. In 2014, MOSE grew to turn into the guts of a vast corruption case. Consorzio Venezia Nuova is accused of funneling money a ways off from the project and the exhaust of it to bribe dozens of politicians and officials in alternate for supporting the more and more scrutinized project.

Venice’s mayor, Giogio Orsoni, was once accused of misusing 20 million euros in funds embezzled from MOSE to finance celebration actions. In June 2014, he was once positioned below home arrest and pressured to step down, but now no longer before blaming his Democratic Occasion, asserting it instructed him to fair web the funds and claiming different mayors before him had done so too. Giovanni Mazzacurati, head of the Consorzio till 2013, was once charged with bribing politicians, reaching a plea deal before dying at 87 closing 365 days

July 10’s ceremony purchased the attention of many voters who’re in opposition to MOSE. The project has considered immense-scale protests on a whole lot of cases. 

Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/GETTY

“The engineering and the near and the affords broken-down are very demanding,” explains da Mosto, “but even worse than all of that’s how the complete project has, and is being, managed.”

Cecconi blames many of the project’s delays on “the bottleneck of paperwork.” Since the corruption scandal in 2014, work on the project has turn into glacial. The Italian authorities tasked a fee with running the consortium, a turnover which lost a 365 days of development. In 2018 the consortium’s commissioner stated MOSE was once Ninety three% performed, up beautiful Eight% from the reported completion fee in 2013.

“There could be a vast lobby by Venetians by distinction complete project,” says Amos. “No longer simplest is it siphoning money from different initiatives spherical Italy, but it methodology that there is now no longer sufficient money left for doing the day-to-day replace inner Venice. At some phases, there wasn’t even sufficient money for garbage disposal.”

Critics worth that MOSE is more about politics than area fixing, a stigma predating its development. Cecconi notes that, even within the 90s, the project was once a “political flag” for those that had been for or in opposition to it. This has poisoned discussion.

“There are two parties, they put now no longer talk to every different. One which claims MOSE is vast replace, ample simplest to the those that invented it on the detriment of the electorate. Utterly different is the celebration of doing, [who say] MOSE could well per chance per chance be the closing reply for town. Both of them are nasty.”

The lagoon that saved Venice’s first settlers from invasions could well per chance now be its undoing.

Kent German/CNET

Hostile by environmental groups, Italy’s influential national green celebration and the Venice Metropolis Council (one in all a whole lot of bureaus linked to the project), MOSE had been mired in political quagmire for relating to 2 a long time — since the Consorzio Venezia Nuova was once tasked with safeguarding Venice in 1984 — before the first brick was once laid in 2003. The gridlock was once broken by Silvio Berlusconi who, after turning into top minister in 2001, enacted an infrastructure law that enabled him to sidestep the paperwork that slows down necessary national initiatives. 

Amos describes MOSE as a Berlusconi “conceitedness project” and says that the top minister was once attentive to the pink flags but insisted or now no longer it be constructed “attain hell or excessive water.” The project has never been universally popular: As Berlusconi inaugurated development with a ceremony in 2003, environmentalists on diminutive boats tried to disrupt the festivities. A hydrologist dropped at Venice to review MOSE was once requested in 2003 by CBS (CNET and CBS acquire the the same guardian company, ViacomCBS) whether or now no longer he notion the scheme would work. “I put now no longer think so,” he answered. “I put now no longer think you’ll be going to march forward, now no longer an toddle.”

Even after development began in 2003, there was once a chief push to shelve the project. In April 2005, after an anti-MOSE mayor came into energy, Venice’s city council ordered police to finish development, and environmentalists began protesting with renewed zest. However Berlusconi rejected the mayor’s quiz to pause the project. “The closing doubts acquire vanished,” he stated on the time. “MOSE will seemingly be made.”

Berlusconi’s office was once reached for negate but did now no longer acknowledge.

Silvio Berlusconi (second from moral within the entrance) returns to Venice after 2019’s floods, irritating MOSE be performed.

Filippo Monteforte/Getty

Da Mosto says there’s better than sufficient blame to head spherical. “Your complete governments that came after [Berlusconi’s] could well per chance acquire done something to commerce it,” she says. “That you can commerce these vast infrastructure initiatives, or stop them or reverse them when you happen to get new files and tag it be the nasty part to be doing.”

The flooding area will simplest get more pressing within the following few a long time. Over 5,500 square kilometers of land, at the side of Venice, will seemingly be underwater by 2100 if local climate commerce is now no longer halted, in line with a 2017 explore led by ENEA’s Antonioli. (Cecconi disputes the methodology of the explore, which regarded at deserted millstone quarries across the Mediterranean fly to determine sea level rise over the closing millennium and extrapolate anticipated sea level rise over the subsequent century.) Unlike most different coastal cities, Venice’s woes will get global attention. However there’s light a risk that it must pick too long for MOSE to be confirmed an empty reply. 

“Till people wake as a lot as the truth that MOSE is now no longer going to solve Venice’s area, different choices are now no longer going to be taken seriously,” says Amos. “However to truly be ready to affirm [that MOSE isn’t going to work] will pick any other 20 or 30 years, in which interval it be going to be too unhurried for Venice.”

High Minister Conte hinted that MOSE, or half of it, could well per chance per chance be broken-down later this 365 days if it looks look after town will seemingly be ravaged by an aqua alta as vicious as closing 365 days’s. “We are all anxiously ready,” he stated, “we all hope it will put its operate.” 

Libreria Acqua Alta’s Diane Zamda is amongst the residents of Venice to acquire lost faith, especially after the book shop’s submersion in November. “I put now no longer think MOSE will seemingly be a reply,” she sighs.

Zamda says she hopes to never peruse a flood that frightful again. The odds are in opposition to her.