Local Government Profile

Venice, Italy  
RoleModel Venice
415 km2
270 851
Name of Mayor
Giorgio Orsoni, Mayor of Venice
  • "During its history, Venice developed a singular capacity to adapt itself to the natural phenomena, that allowed the growth of its political and economical prosperity, as well as the accretion of an inestimable cultural patrimony in architecture and arts. In this third millennium, facing global changes, we are committed to defend the city against risk of disasters, not only for the safe of citizens, but also to preserve the cultural heritage, to make it available to humankind in a sustainable and durable way" Giorgio Orsoni, Mayor of Venice

  • Hazard and vulnerability profile

  • 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.

  • Disaster Risk Reduction Activities

  • 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.

  • Role Model in Cultural Heritage protection
    • Essential 1

    The safeguard of Venice has been declared of prominent national interest by an Italian State Law in 1973: since then, the different levels of the public administration (State, Region, Municipality) cooperate efficiently and a relevant State budget has been dedicated to risk reduction, mainly through structural measures. A specific Committee for the Venice Safeguarding, chaired by the Prime Minister, includes many Ministries, the President of the Region and the Mayor of Venice , convenes at least once per year.

    In addition, the Italian national system of Civil Protection foresees some activities that should be carried out at local level by dedicated structures, fully implemented by the city of Venice. The municipal civil protection of Venice can count on a dedicated office, and has a Councilor referring to the Major. In addition to the public forces (fire brigades, police, army) involves 250 volunteers/citizens, and has drawn up agreements with 11 civil society organizations, to build up multi-sectoral committees, e.g. the "flood committees", involved in the decision-making process by the competent technical bodies. The Civil Protection Plan of Venice outlines the territory's risks and vulnerability, as well as the procedures for intervention in emergency situations, specifying the chain of command.

    A special group of volunteers was established in 1995 for the protection of cultural assets in case of disaster. The group collaborates with the Authorities in charge for the conservation of the cultural heritage.
    Regarding the flooding risk in the historic centre, the Municipality is running a Tidal Forecasting and Early Warning Centre (ICPSM) with dedicated specialized personnel active 24h/365days; it is responsible for the risk analysis and for the monitoring, forecasting and alerting procedures of flooding tides.

    The Public Works Office of the Municipality is in charge for adopting the measures needed for risk reduction in public spaces and buildings belonging to the local government.


    The State is engaged in maintain the promised flux of funding and to complete the huge public works for reducing the flooding risk and for restoring the lagoon environment. At local level, the Municipality, while trying to complete the structural measures in a framework of funding difficulties, is also committed to to achieve a greater awareness of the civil protection plan by the citizens and a better participation of civil society organizations in its continous updating, as well as to further optimise the coordination between the various components of civil protection at local level.

    Progress and achievements

    The ICPSM is committed to maintain and possibly to improve the monitoring networks and to update the numerical and statistical forecast models, in collaboration with research institutions and other organizations.

    • Essential 2

    Progress and achievements

    On the basis of the national Special Law for Venice, dedicated national funds have been committed during the last 30 years for the construction of structural measures for the safeguard of Venice. Among these, the infrastructure named MOSE (Mobile Tidal Barrier System), large-scale interventions like the pavements raising, the canals settlements and the restoration of sea-walls, and the measures to restore the natural barriers from the sea, i.e. the beach nourishments. These national funds exceed by far any local level possibilities and are in the range of 10 billion Euro already spent.

    Within the 2010 municipal budget circa €2,2 millions of current expenditures and €2,3 millions of capital expenditures are dedicated to the Civil Protection, for both risk reduction and emergency activities (it is estimated that circa € 900.000 are foreseen for disaster risk reduction measures), while €4,5 millions are committed for fire prevention in municipal buildings (municipal venues, schools, museums, stadium).

    In addition to the municipal budget,
    National and local budget is also allocated for small interventions to be made by private citizens or businesses to improve the safety of their buildings.


    For the three-year period 2010-2012 the municipal budget dedicates €5,8 millions of current expenditures and €2,5 millions of capital expenditures for the Civil Protection office and €5,1 millions are foreseen in 2011 for fire prevention in public buildings.

    • Essential 4

    Progress and achievements

    Many infrastructural measures have been implemented, by the different administrative levels, to protect the city and its cultural heritage against the risks of fire and floods.

    The mobile tidal barrier system (MOSE) is being built under responsibility and funds (circa 5 billion of Euro) of the Italian State , Ministry of Infrastructure. This infrastructure will allow to close the inlets in case of high tides and will prevent Venice from any flooding.

    Investments for the safeguarding of the historic city and of its cultural assets are covered by the funds provided by the Special Law for Venice and managed by the Municipality. In 30-year time circa 1,5 billion has been spent in restoration and preservation of urban infrastructures, canals, bridges, and pavements to reinforce their resistance to the increasing sea level. The pavement raising in the city (which ensures the practicability of the pedestrian streets in the occurrence of “medium” high tide events) is undergoing.

    The restoration of the ancient (1774) “sea walls” and the large beach nourishment took place in order to reinforce the natural barriers that separate the lagoon from the sea.

    In 2006 the implementation of a new anti-fire system started: it ameliorates the accessibility to the fire place, diminishes the intervention time and allows a better protection of cultural assets by using fresh and clean water, instead of salty seawater.
    Interventions in historic and public buildings for fire prevention are financed by the municipality of Venice.


    MOSE is expected to be completed and fully operational in 2014.

    The raising of the pavements in the city will be conlcuded by the 2025
    The anti-fire system is being completed and strengthened (200.000 € foreseen for its maintenance for the period 2010-2012).

    • Essential 5

    Progress and achievements

    In the historic city 22 schools out of 46 have obtained the certificate of fire prevention (CPI) as required by the national law, and 20 schools have already started the activities for obtaining it. Besides the national and regional requirements regarding safety measures to be taken in hospitals and health facilities, in Venice particular attention has been given in restoring and maintaining these kinds of building in order to guarantee the access to the health services during exceptional floods, through regulation and/or the adoption of good practices like the “water proofing” of all the electrical lines.


    Complete the procedure for obtaining the CPI for 20 schools and start the procedure for the remaining 4.

    • Essential 6

    Progress and achievements

    There are many national, regional and local rules, codes and plans about building and land uses containing risk assessment and to adopt the prevention principle. The Italian National law, for instance, requires for some categories of buildings a certificate of fire prevention (CPI), depending on the activity currently performed. For many of the historical buildings in Venice, as already acknowledged by the National Parliament, some of those national requirements are almost impossible to reach. The Municipality of Venice, in agreement with the authorities in charge of fire prevention, gives the possibility to homeowners to connect their buildings to the anti-fire system of the city, allowing them to obtain the CPI as required by the national law. In 2010 € 4,5 millions were spent to obtain the CPI for public buildings.

    Besides law requirements, in Venice is common practice to restore/adapt residential buildings to make them more resilient to flooding events. Some of these interventions - which include the elevation of electrical systems, the installation of bulkheads to avoid the entrance of water and of pumps for the drainage, the restoration of external walls with appropriate materials - can be financed by public funds.

    Also public utilities, such as electricity, gas, fresh water, and the sewage system, are built in order to work properly in case of flooding events of at least medium-high intensity (i.e. 120-140 cm).

    Particular attention in buildings' resistance and resilence is also given to museums, which contain cultural assets, whose integrity shall be ensured by appropriate anti-fire systems and measures against floods.


    Periodic updating of land use plans. Obtaining of CPI for all public buildings.

    • Essential 7

    Progress and achievements

    The Civil Protection organizes periodic education campaigns in elementary and middle schools, as well as information campaigns for the population on industrial, flooding and domestic risk.
    Training courses are foreseen for volunteers of the Civil Protection and periodic fire and flood drills are held, involving volunteers, citizens and competent bodies.

    The Civil Protection group for the defense of cultural assets, in particular, participates to training activities regarding the restoration, conservation and safeguarding of cultural assets and to specific emergency drills involving cultural assets.


    Increasing information for the population on the subjects of civil protection.

    • Essential 8

    Progress and achievements

    The ecosystem of the Venice lagoon is protected by interventions in defense of littorals against sea storms, funded by the Italian Government. The interventions in the city canals allow the restoration of their hydraulic, hygienic and structural functions. In the mainland some "green belts" have been restored (Bosco di Mestre, Parco San Giuliano), which have an important role against water-related risks.


    The restoration of the city inner canals will be concluded by 2014

    • Essential 9

    Progress and achievements

    Installation of a multi-tone siren alert system in the historic centre of Venice (23 sirens) in case of flooding tides, with different tones related to the intensity of the expected risk.

    Installation of a loud speaker system at the Piazzale Roma transport terminal, in case of emergency announcements can be made to public transport users.

    Installation of a siren alert system in the city areas of Marghera and Malcontenta in case of significant industrial accidents. It consists of 12 sirens located at different sites.

    Alerting activities in case of flooding in the historic centre are carried out by the Tidal Forecasting and Early Warning Centre (ICPSM), instituted in 1980 by the Municipality of Venice. A multi-instrument alert system is able to advise citizens at least 3 hours in advance. During emergencies a phone call manager is available for those who live at the ground floors and to the owners of commercial activities in the historic city who live in the mainland. A free service automatically sends alert SMS to all the registered users.
    Institutions, public service companies, police and public security entities are also alerted by phone alarms. Electronic panels in the city advise about the tide forecast continuously. The early warning system is based on advanced monitoring and forecasting services.


    Technological renewal of the siren alert system for significant industrial accidents in Marghera and Malcontenta.

    • Essential 10

    Progress and achievements

    In case of a minor emergency event, the Municipality has shelters for a limited number of displaced people, whereas for larger events, a specific area which can be used for a tent city has been selected.

    The City is sensitive to the need to “listen” to citizens who are victims of emergency situations. After the serious flooding event in 2007 (in the mainland), in order to regenerate the hit areas and to protect them from similar future events, the City was supported by “flood committees”, whose advices were taken into considerations by the competent technical bodies.

    Concerning the cultural assets whose “survival” could be at risk due to an emergency, they can rely on the "first aid" of the Civil Protection group for the defense of cultural assets and on professionals for curative and restorative interventions.


    To improve the citizens’ participation through stakeholder conferences, already foreseen for the Urban and Strategic plan assessment

  • patnerships

    CORILA, Consortium for managing scientific research on the Venice lagoon system

  • Disclaimer

  • The documents have been posted as received. The designations employed do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area, or of its authorities.