Gondolas Sit In Mud As Lack Of Rain Leaves Venice’s Canals Dry

Photo by ANDREA PATTARO/AFP via Getty

Alyssa Blakemore Contributor
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A recent stretch of dry winter weather in Venice has run gondolas aground in the city’s narrower canals, stoking fears of drought across Italy.

Unusually low tides are one of several factors wreaking havoc for water traffic in car-less Venice, where crews struggle to navigate, Reuters reported. Experts linked the ebb tides to a lingering high-pressure system spanning much of the country, according to the AP.

High atmospheric pressure and the lunar cycle together create conditions for low water levels during ebb tide, noted environmental scientist Jane Da Mosto in Reuters. (RELATED: Historic Italian City Bans ‘Ethnic’ Food To Protect Culture)

A gondola is pictured in a canal during a severe low tide in the lagoon city of Venice, Italy, February 17, 2023. REUTERS/Manuel Silvestri

A lack of rain and snow only compounds the high-pressure system. The Alps have received less than half their normal snowfall, Reuters reported, citing scientists and environmental groups. Italy’s longest river, the Po, is down 61% from average levels at this time of the year, the Legambiente environmental group said Monday.

Shrinking lakes in Italy’s north also led to the reemergence of a small island in Lake Garda this month, where visitors were able to walk across a stretch of land part-way into the lake, Reuters noted.

Only in July did Italy declare a state of emergency for regions surrounding the Po, as the country faced its worst drought in 70 years, Reuters recalled. “We are in a water deficit situation that has been building up since the winter of 2020-2021,” said climate expert Massimiliano Pasqui from Italian scientific research institute CNR, according to Reuters.

Ambulance boats in some parts of Venice meanwhile struggle to reach their destinations, with medical crews lugging stretchers by hand where watery canals have shrunk to mud, the AP reported. Gondolas carrying tourists find themselves relegated to main waterways, forgoing passage under some of the city’s iconic bridges.