A Warning About Hotels in Venice

Water-damaged buildings along the canals in Venice

Venice is one of the world’s most interesting and unique cities. But sadly, nothing good can last forever and though it probably won’t happen in our lifetime, Venice is a city that is slowly sinking. What that means for you, fellow traveler, is that you have to be very careful about where you stay when you visit.

During certain times of the year, Venice is partially submerged by high tide, also known as acqua alta. If you want to reduce the likelihood that you’ll be in Venice when it is heavily flooded, you should avoid traveling there during the months of October, November, and December when it is most common. However, these floods can occur at any time of year. In order to prevent a vacation disaster, you’ll want to keep this in mind when you book your hotel in Venice, because some hotels are more prone to flooding than others. The good thing is that the flooding usually only lasts a couple of hours, but that’s plenty of time for your things to get ruined.

Some of the most low-lying areas of Venice are also the most popular, the area around Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and the Rialto Bridge. Though they are convenient locations to stay for the purposes of sightseeing, if you do experience acqua alta during your stay, it might end up affecting you. The areas least likely to flood are around the train station or in Dorsoduro, which are higher and less likely to flood.

For a couple of reasons, staying in a hotel in a low-lying area is not advisable. The most obvious one being that if you end up getting a room on the first floor and a high tide sweeps through the city during your stay, your bags, clothes, and other valuables can get wet or ruined altogether. You don’t want to come back to your room to find your luggage learned to swim. Even if water does not get into your room, getting to and from your hotel might end up being a problem, especially if you arrive in Venice during an acqua alta. Unless you travel exceptionally light, you probably don’t want to have to lift your bags over your head while you wade in a foot of water to get to your hotel. But aside from those severe inconveniences, even if you’re going when flooding is unlikely, your hotel may have telling signs of past flooding, like the unpleasant smell of water damage, mildew, or rotting wood.

Your best bet, aside from staying in areas where flooding is not as common, is to diligently read hotel reviews on several different websites. Trust me, if a place has flooded during someone’s stay, they want everyone to know about it. People post useful pictures of the hotels, the neighborhoods, and all sorts of wild stories from their trip. So listen. It may save you a major headache on your vacation. And when in doubt, pack rain boots!