Peter Popham: A high-water mark of tourist culture

Venice Notebook: Waiters splosh through the winding calle dressed in dinner jacket, bow tie and galoshes

Full moon, damp sirocco wind from the south, the wettest February in recent memory and the rain still seeping out of the clouds – conditions in Venice were perfect this weekend for an Acqua Alta ("high water") to remember. In 1966 when the tide in St Mark's Square reached 194 cms – well over six feet – the conditions were similar. On Saturday it peaked at 124cm or four feet.

The joy of Venice's perennial natural irritant is that it punishes the rich first – Harry's Bar, Caffe Chioggia and all the other posh emporiums crowded around this, the smartest corner of the city. The inundation is nowadays so regular that the natives waste no time gazing at it: forecasts are monitored attentively and within minutes of the angry little waves breaking over the St Mark's quayside, elevated catwalks are slammed into place across the piazza and in the other lowest-lying, most heavily frequented corners, and the tourists – of whom there are plenty even in soggy, post-carnival February – squeeze and jostle along them. Waiters splosh through the winding calle (lanes) bearing trays with outside orders, dressed in dinner jacket, bow tie and galoshes; shopkeepers near the square hawk bootees made of flimsy pink transparent plastic at €10 a pop, but many locals merely pull off their shoes, roll up their trousers and wade.

"What about Mose?" I ask the man who shows me to my hotel room. The famous mobile gate system of that name, designed to save Venice from flooding, was first discussed after the great flood of '66, and has been under construction now for the best part of a decade. "Who knows if they will ever finish it?" he says. "And who knows if it will even work?" Meanwhile the giddier young tourists snap each other frolicking through the flood and cackles of hysterical laughter echo through the watery city.

Sighs at a mayoral legacy

As Venice's philosopher mayor Massimo Cacciari approaches the end of his term, two things about him will stick in my mind: Silvio Berlusconi's identification of him as the lover of his (then) wife, Veronica, when by all accounts the pair had never even met; and his decision to allow some of Venice's finest buildings to be obscured by huge advertising hoardings. Today there is a socking great ad opposite the Duomo screaming "Istanbul – the ultimate destination"; a few steps away, the Bridge of Sighs is almost invisible under a carapace of publicity. The bridge's nickname has never seemed more appropriate.

The Orient expressed

There is something hallucinatory about Constantinople vaunting itself in the very heart of its ancient enemy; equally so is the fact that every other snack bar, in the town that invented trade with the Orient, is staffed by Chinese girls, some of whom speak no Italian at all.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence