Local Government Profile
Venice - Italy
Size : 415 km2 sq km
Population : 2011 - 270 851
Part Of : Veneto Region

Cultural Heritage protection

The historic city of Venice is an "open-air" museum and its cultural and artistic heritage is of inestimable value. Venice has always had to defend itself and its lagoon "against sea, rivers and men" (C.Sabbadino, XVI century). Nowadays the city defense is not only a matter of protecting lives and economic assets, but also of conserving its cultural heritage, recognised by UNESCO as a relevant world’s patrimony.
The territory of Venice, which include the lagoon, the islands and the mainland, is very complex, due to its different social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects. The range of hazards Venice is facing spreads from floods and fires (mainly on the historic city) to industrial risks (mainly on the industrial area of Porto Marghera).
The historic centre is subject to flooding tide events (“acqua alta”), whose frequency and intensity have considerably grown during the last decades. This phenomenon is caused by meteorological factors (winds, air pressure, storm surges) which enhance the astronomic tide oscillation. The rising of the relative sea level (due to global climate change and to local subsidence), is making flooding tides more frequent and the consequences for the city more serious. The event occurred in 1966 was the highest, in terms of water level in the city, and most frightening, with the risk to lose the city forever. During the XX century the frequency of flooding tides has increased about 13 times, up to 18 events registered in 2010. During the period 2000-2010 a number of 6 exceptional events occurred (the same number of events happened from 1960 to 1999). During these events, about 90% of the city surface and 55% of the public space dedicated to pedestrian use are flooded : the consequences for population, economic activities, buildings are considerable.
The conformation of the urban area, characterized by ancient buildings, high density and the large use of wood in constructions, makes the historic city exposed to an high fire risk. Moreover, fireplaces may result of difficult access to the fire brigade and the fire extension can enlarge very quickly, making dramatically high the risk of involving a cultural asset of inestimable value. One of the most serious event recently occurred was the fire which destroyed completely La Fenice Opera house the 29 January 1996.
To defend the city against floods a number of structural measures have been adopted: the most known is the mobile tidal barrier system (MOSE) which will allow to close the inlets in case of high tides. The construction of this infrastructure, under the responsibility of the Italian State (Ministry of Infrastructure), is at 65% and MOSE is expected to be fully operational in 2014. The restoration of the ancient (1774) “sea walls” already occurred 10 years ago and a large beach nourishment reinforce the natural barriers that separate the lagoon from the sea. Finally, the pavement raising in the city, which ensures the practicability of the pedestrian streets in the occurrence of “medium” high tide events is undergoing.

Non-structural measures against floods, i.e. monitoring, forecasting, information and alerting activities, are carried out by the Tidal Forecasting and Early Warning Centre (ICPSM), instituted in 1980 by the Municipality of Venice. The monitoring activities is carried out through different monitoring networks. The ICPSM technical staff elaborates, three times a day, the two days long tide forecast and communicates it to the citizens through different means (website, local newspapers, info points, graphic displays, answering service). In case of flooding tides, alerting services are activated (siren alarm, call manager, alerting sms, phone calls).

The fire risk has consistently diminished after the initiatives carried out by the Civil Protection of the Municipality of Venice, especially after the serious fire who destroyed completely La Fenice Opera house in 29 January 1996. A deep study on the fire risk assessment in the historic city was conducted, taking into consideration, among the risk factors, the artistic and cultural value of the buildings. On the basis of this study, a new anti-fire system was adopted in 2006. The hydrants’ position ameliorates the accessibility to the fire place and diminishes the intervention time. The updated fire risk assessment has shown that high-risk areas no longer exist in the city centre. Moreover, using fresh and clean water (instead of the salt water of the lagoon) allows a better protection of cultural assets.

Among the non-structural measures of prevention, preparedness and response, Venice can rely on the strong awareness of its citizens and their capacity to adopt adaptation measures in order to protect their assets and, thus, the cultural heritage of the city. Examples of this kind of measures are the protection and improvement of ground floors, the adaptation of electrical systems, the arrangement of steel barriers to be applied at the entrance of the buildings.
Giorgio Orsoni Interview's
Giorgio Orsoni statement's at the Global Platform
Venice - an icon of resilience