Venice Flood p- Saint Mark's Square
BLOG, Italy, Travel




Recent dramatic photographs and headlines regarding the flooding of the city of Venice, Italy, are causing global speculation as to the long-term outlook for the iconic city. Heavy winds, dramatically high tides, a sudden change in air pressure, and an incomplete underwater tidal barrier system known as MOSE, have combined to create a ‘perfect storm’ that has resulted in the massive flooding of one of the most beloved cities in the world.

The city of Venice is made up of 118 islands connected by over 400 bridges that span 150 waterways between the islands. This network of manmade islands is located within a large lagoon with three openings through which ships can enter and exit the lagoon.

Image 2: Strong winds from the south push water to the north where Venice waits at the top of the Adriatic Sea.
Image Credit: Image courtesy of


Lunar tides known by Californians on the Pacific Coast are not the same kind of tides experienced in the northern Adriatic Sea. In Venice, a local phenomenon occurs that is known locally as the Acqua Alta or High Water. It occurs mainly in the Spring and the Autumn when astronomy combines with Sirocco and Boro winds from the south, which push the waters northward. The north end of the Adriatic, where Venice is located, is nearly surrounded by mountains creating a cul-de-sac where the north-moving waters back up and raise before receding back southward again.


Another ingredient in the mire of havoc-creating events this week in Venice was a rapid change in air pressure. “Monday, this difference has reached 0.44 to 0.59 inches of mercury (15 to 20 millibars), which is quite significant. This pressure difference tends to lift water at the north end of the Adriatic Sea (thus Venice),” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews.


Image 3: The MOSE project was designed to control the amount of water that enters this vast lagoon area by installing underwater ‘gates’ that could raise and lower at each of the three entrances to the Venice area. Image Credit: Image courtesy of


After the ‘great flood’ of Venice in 1966, the city met with engineers from around the world to formulate a project that would prevent these periodically dangerous floods from doing further damage to this historically preserved city. After many years, a solution was decided upon, and the project began construction in 2003. It was designed to place an underwater ‘gate’ of sorts at each of the three entrances to the Lagoon: the Lido, the Malamocco, and the Chioggia, from north to south. During normal weather and tides, the gates are passively withdrawn. When a high tide is in the forecast, the gates could be raised enough to create a barrier against the influx of waters from the Adriatic Sea.

This is all well and good. However, the project has stalled on many occasions due to heavy-handed politics, as well as deeply-saturated corruption and arrests of city officials ‘on the dole.’ The consistent slowing of the project has deflated the confidence of many local Venetian residents, who roll their eyes at the mere mention of the project. Although the project has seemed to pass the 90% completion mark, a growing number of voices are now protesting the total completion of the project since it has already cost more than $5 billion euros, and its design uses what is now considered to be old technologies.


During the early 400s in the area that we know today as Northern Italy, Attila the Hun’s formidable army ransacked many of the townships and left a path of frightened citizens scattered throughout the countryside.

Questioning their fate, many folks decided to move to the islands to escape the onslaught. This was a difficult decision because the hundreds of little islands in the Venetian lagoon were not much more than swampy, muddy, mushy, marshland. But flee they did, to the island of Torcello (pronounced tor-CHEH-lo).

With limited materials, they created temporary shelters in which to live until they knew it was safe to return families back to their original homes on the mainland. Most did return, but some enjoyed the marshy life on the island of Torcello and began to build further.

The marshy land was not easy to dominate. They had to find ways to not only strengthen the soft land but also to claim more land from the surrounding waters. They built a wall of pilings to widely surround the swampy land that stuck up above the water, pounding them deep into the natural clay foundation. They filled this newly-created basin-like area with rocks, shells, and any other hard materials that could easily be acquired and transported. They covered this layer with another thick layer of dirt which they pounded to make it hard and flat. This was the new land that could be inhabited.

Over time as the population grew, they repeated this process, adding more islands as needed. These efforts left them with many pieces of usable land. Small foot-bridges were then added so that they could easily walk from one island to the other.


Venetians are probably the most creative and resourceful population in the world when it comes to dealing with flood waters. This little city has championed flood-related issues for over 1,500 years and are considered experts at the complications caused by living in a water-surrounded community. So much so, that Venetian city engineers have been teaching other cities how to manage flood waters, fires, refuse, and health emergencies for many years. Adding to the complexities of an island population of 54,000 residents is the fact that the little city of Venice, over 30 million visitors each year. Tourism causes a completely different kind of flood to the city, the kind that is doing more damage than the seasonal waters. But as elegantly as the city handles this myriad of complex scenarios, it still needs to deal with the long-term issues creating by flooding waters and the flood of tourism.

Image 1: 1966 marked the year of the highest waters in recorded Venice history. The current season high water ranks as the 5th highest water mark ever recorded.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Owner – Unknown


Every time the waters rise in St. Mark’s Square, the world asks this question. Here is the answer: Since the 1890’s, the altitude of Venice has had a measurable loss of 23 cm (approximately 9 inches). In the 1970’s, Venice stopped extracting water from under her skirts. Freshwater is now pumped in from the mainland. “Due to the elasticity of the aquifer,” said Andrews, “Venice has actually regained 2 cm since the 1970’s.”

The melting of the polar ice caps is causing all coastal cities in the world to think about their own future. Venice, because of her geological makeup and position, is more vulnerable than many other coastal cities. But if any city will devise answers to solve this global problem as it unfolds, it will be Venice.

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About the Author

Patty Civalleri is a globally award-winning author of Tourist books for Italian cities. Her latest book “VENICE – Keys to the City” was released in October and is widely available on,,, and in bookstores and retailers in the US, Canada, and the UK. Please visit for more information.


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Florence archway
Art | Art History, BLOG, History, Italy, Travel

What Was the Italian Renaissance?

Simply stated, the Renaissance was a series of events that triggered the end of the Dark Ages, aka, the Middle Ages. Loosely speaking, think of the Dark Ages as people who’s thoughts and deeds were limited to the rules of the church and/or their local rulers. They couldn’t speak their minds openly, or anything else.

A Florentine family of well-educated wealthy bankers known as the Medici family, were huge fans of the concept of Free Thinking (a la Dante Alighieri). Also, they were enamored with the Greeks and the Roman Empire from 1,000 years earlier. The Greeks and Romans had tons of art, architecture, literature, mathematics, science, etc. After the fall of the Romans, during the nearly 1,000-year-long Dark Ages, much of this had been squelched.

Along Comes the Money

Being Art aficionados, the Medici paid a bunch of artists to learn to paint and sculpt like the ancient Greeks and Romans did. That began a rush of artists and architects, and writers that all wanted to create from their own minds, rather than only what the church approved.

This formed a groundswell of popularity around Europe, and the art became the ‘voice’ of expression that people hadn’t known for 1,000 years.

This, in a nutshell, took about 200-ish years to unfold. A guy named Giorgio Vasari coined the term “Renaissance,” which is French for “Rebirth.”

P.S. Many of those artists, architects, and writers became so famous that their names and works have remained famous for over 500 years. They were Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Raphael, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Galileo, Botticelli, and oh, so many more wonderful people.

P.P.S. I know this is brief and leaves out tons of info, but please consider the forum. If you would like to learn more about the Renaissance, please read my book “FLORENCE Gems & Giants” available on 

Enjoy, Patty


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Archaeology, Art | Art History, BLOG, History, Italy, Travel

6 walled cities of Tuscany – with a great surprise at the end

Many luxury travelers have seen the major tourist cities in Italy such as Rome, Florence, and Venice. They have probably even visited the second-tier hot spots of Cinqueterre, the Amalfi Coast, and Sienna.

An area of Italy that is difficult to visit is Tuscany. Not because it is hard to find nor even hard to get to. But because it is so vast and there are hundreds of tiny pockets of Italian goodness. Point of fact: did you know that there are over 200 ancient walled cities in Tuscany? Most of the guidebooks take you through the same few towns and villages, so when you get there, they are packed with tourists.

Here, I will take you through several of these ancient towns and villages, beginning with the most common, and ending with a real surprise that is certainly off that beaten path. Along the way, take the time to enjoy some of the most excellent Tuscan wines from the Chianti region.

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Patty Civalleri, Author
Archaeology, Art | Art History, BLOG, Italy, Writing

The Secret to Writing


People often ask me how I manage to get any writing done with this crazy lifestyle of mine. It’s easy. I just sit down and write. I don’t think about it, I don’t put pressure on it. I just sit down and write. 

Many folks have told me they would LOVE to write a book, but they don’t know how to get started, or how to fit it in. But I guess I see it backward: I am constantly trying to figure out how to fit my crazy life into my writing time. Odd, I know.

I wasn’t born a writer, or perhaps I was. My 92-year-old Dad was a writer and still is. My 28-year-old son is a writing fiend. So I suppose that writing was supposed to come naturally to me as well. 

I was born with nothing

But I am one of those people that nothing came naturally to, so I overcompensated by over-learning everything until each thing became natural. Like playing classical piano, or singing, or cooking, or sailing, or photography, or graphic design, or computer technology, or science, or photoshop, or biology, or archaeology, or history, or or or…

Crazy is what crazy does

I have incorporated most all of these things (and many more) into my normal life’s flow. For example, I have served on the Director’s Council of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA for 17 years, I have built over 250 websites for just as many clients, I have taught Photoshop, I have photographed the darkest corners of our ancient world for nearly two decades, and I am the Commodore of a boating club. Periodically, I perform random acts of Public Relations for myself and others. I have a family, a dog, and three elderly senior loved ones that need consistent love and attention. I published a book last year that needs daily marketing or it dies. I love to travel, so I do. I was away from my home a total of five months during 2017. So yeah, I have a bit of a crazy lifestyle.

Fall in Love

With all of this going on, what keeps me motivated to write? That’s easy. I love the subject. Last year, I published a book about a city that I had unexpectedly fallen in love with: Florence, Italy. This year, I fell in love with the city of Venice. Trips to Italy and research for these books has made me fall in love with Renaissance Art History. These topics and images roll around in my head 24 hours a day. I dream about them, I hear their whispers, I see their images reflected in my morning coffee, I simply can’t stop thinking about them. Clearly, I am in love. And when you are in love, nothing can stand in your way.

This must be the secret to writing: let yourself fall hopelessly and madly in love with your topic, and it will write itself. The words will flow with consistent grace from your keyboard; the ideas will flourish in your mind’s eye and it will all happen with an ease and a style that will invoke envy in all who peer into your office. Well, maybe that, plus some serious research and some much-needed elbow grease!

Just fall in love.
Happy writing, Patty

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Archaeology, BLOG, History, Italy, Travel

Haunting Images That Will Put Pompeii On Your Bucket List

One of the intrinsic benefits of luxury travel is getting to wander off the main tourist path and visit places that can are stimulating from an intellectual point of view. The ancient city of Pompeii on Italy’s west coast is just such a place. It experienced a catastrophic ending, and within 1 day, it was completely buried for the next 2,000 years. Today, it can be visited on foot thanks to over a century of archaeological excavations. After reading her story, I encourage you to add Pompeii to your bucket list.

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BLOG, Italy, Travel

Cinque Terre: 5 Pearls of the Italian Coastline

For the luxury-minded traveler, Cinque Terra is the gift to yourself that never stops giving. It will provide you with a lifetime of memories that, because of the unusual scenic treasures, will stand out from the other trips you have taken in your lifetime.

It is both a National Park as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. A masterpiece of coastal beauty, it shares words like insanely picturesque, deeply colorful and wildly natural all at the same time. Recently, it has been named the “Cinque Terre Riviera.”

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view from St Mark's Square, Venice
BLOG, Italy, Travel

VENICE: Hacking St. Mark’s Square

Everyone that visits Venice will go to St. Mark’s Square, period. And you must as well. But how can you do it differently than the millions of selfie-taking tourists while garnering food for your brain and staying cool to boot? Most consider St. Mark’s Square to consist of the Basilica, the Doges’ Palace, and the Bell Tower. But this World Heritage site houses so much more for intellectually-driven luxury travelers; and those that enjoy moving at less than the break-neck pace to which the typical cruise ship tourists must adhere.

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BLOG, Italy, Travel

GETTING HIGH IN FLORENCE: 7 Climbs to get Stunning Photos

Cameras have evolved into a permanent must-have part of our mainstream culture. Whether it is a part of a smart phone, or a high-end DSLR, we use them to communicate online and off, for email and social media, for business and education. This article will show you how to get stunning photos when you get to Florence, Italy. 

When traveling, cameras have become as ubiquitous as a passport. Even more so, because some of us carry more than one type of camera.

Getting good photos in Florence, Italy: If photography is of interest to you, then you know how important it is to find good angles from which to shoot. Most guidebooks have terrific photos, but they don’t often let you know from where they were shot. Here are a few of the places in Florence where you can climb up to take great scenic shots of this wonderfully ancient city. As you can see, a picturesque palette awaits your climb. Some may require you to purchase a ticket, some are free, and some may require you to enjoy a local Tuscan vino!   😉

But no matter which you choose, you will enjoy this rare perspective into the ancient past from above.

Il Duomo

Simply entering this formidable structure inspires awe. And the climb to the top will only add to your amazement. Looking down over the city from the Duomo will give birds-eye views from every direction. BONUS: The unusual part of this view is that Giotto’s Bell Tower, or The Campanile, stands tall right across the same piazza from you. Which means that if you and a friend each climb one of these structures at the same time, you will be able to get a great shot of each other from these lofty heights!


Giotto’s Bell Tower (il Campanile)

In addition to marvelous views of the city and the Arno from all sides of Giotto’s architectural wonder, next door you will get an up-close view of Brunelleschi’s great architectural creation, il Duomo. This view comes complete with its own scintillating shot of the cupola that is the crown of the city. From atop the north side of the Campanile, you can look down on the eight-sided Baptistery in the foreground, and further away you will see another dome: the Cappella de’ Medici (the Medici Chapel) resting quietly in the near distance. If you decide to scale the 414 steps to the top of this Campanile (Bell Tower) you will see all of Florence. From there, it is easy to imagine that you are looking back through time to the ancient past.


Palazzo Vecchio

After climbing a mere 223 steps to the top of the Palazzo Vecchio tower, a feast for your eyes awaits you at every single rest level where tiny windows give you a break and a glimpse of what lies below you. Looking southwest from the top of the crenellated tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, you will acquire a terrific view of the Bargello: Initially built as a seat for law enforcement, it later became an infamous prison where from its crenellations, you might have seen a few bodies dangling upside down as a direct message to those that might wish to break the law. Looking southward, the main scenic feature is the Church of Santa Croce (below). With a large piazza out front, you will find musicians and street performers of every kind. But inside is where all the bodies are buried – literally. From a Dante cenotaph to Donatello, and from Florence Nightingale to Michelangelo, this church has become the final resting place for many famous folks.


Piazzale Michelangelo

is a medium-effort walk from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. But whether you hike it or you take the #12 Bus up the hill, be sure to bring a picnic basket. This is one of the more popular places to end your day and to watch the sun set over the city.


This view, taken from atop the Westin Excelsior Hotel on the Arno River (Piazza Ognissanti, 3, Firenze) is clearly fantastico! Day or night, rain or shine, this panorama is quite a sight to behold. Take the elevator to the top (8th) floor, go through the bar and out the glass doors to get this sumptuous feast for your eyes. The 8th floor doesn’t seem very high, but when you are in an ancient city where most structures are a mere 2-3 stories, 8 floors is plenty high!


Hotel La Scaletta

is a gem in a hidden treasure chest! A bit tough to find: Once you have located the correct building (near the Pitti Palace) you will climb a few steps, take a rickety little 2-person elevator to the top, walk through a small lobby into a restaurant, go out the back door, up some steps to a roof-top bar, then up one more precarious narrow flight to the rooftop. There you will find a couple of small cafe tables waiting for you to savor the wine & cheese along with these fantastic views of the historical center of the city (below), and the Observatory over Boboli Gardens behind you. A VERY romantic way to enjoy the sunset.
(Hotel La Scaletta: Via Guicciardini, 13 – 50125 FLORENCE


Vasari Corridor

This view from inside of the Vasari Corridor secretly looks down over the heads of the unsuspecting tourists as they shop for gold jewelry on the famous Ponte Vecchio The mysterious Vasari Corridor also gives rare views of the Arno and the backstreets of the city as it winds its way over the tops of the buildings between the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi Gallery.

Patty Civalleri is the author of FLORENCE ~ A Traveler’s Guide to its Gems & Giants. Click to Get it NOW on Amazon.


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BLOG, Italy, Travel

What is the 1 WORD That Seduces Travelers into Repeatedly Returning to Florence?

By Patty Civalleri

There are many reasons why people find their way to Florence, some of which may be by accident. The simple facts that Florence is “on the route” between Rome and Venice, or it is “included in the Italy package” are some of the more common ways that people get to Florence.

Most time-constrained tourists tend to breeze through as many destinations that can be compressed into their limited holiday period. This often means that they are forced to zip into a city, find the best place for food and drink, look at a few buildings on the streets, then check it off their bucket list. “Yup, I’ve been there, and done that,” they say. But have they really?

The opportunity to stay longer in any single destination is truly a luxury that many travelers do not possess. But if you travel because you want to learn more about the world (besides just its restaurants), and you want to come away feeling smarter and more enlightened, then Florence is your destination.

But why is it that so many people find that Florence has become their ‘favorite city in the world?’ And why is it that so many travelers repeatedly return to Florence even as the rest of the world continues to beckon?

As difficult as it may seem, it is this one single scary word that holds the draw for so many people: no matter how you look at it, Florence simply has some of the coolest and most seductive HISTORY” in the world.

Sure, every country has cool history. But Florence holds the key that connects so many of those little dots in our heads that were left by our school teachers so many years ago.

Let me show you. I’ll start simple, then get more fun as we go. Did you know:

  • that Florence is the Capital of Tuscany? Surprisingly, few people are aware of this.
  • that a bunch of familiar guys came from Florence?
    • Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Galileo, Raphael, Dante, Machiavelli, the infamous Medici family, and scores more
  • that most of these guys actually knew each other?
  • that the combined genius of these men (along with many more great guys), turned history on its ear and yanked the Western World out of the Dark Ages?
  • that this ‘yanking’ from the Dark Ages into an enlightened age of ‘free thinking’ is what we all know of as The Renaissance?
  • that the “Pirate Pope” was from Florence?
  • that the original “Bonfire of the Vanities” occurred in Florence?
  • that Michelangelo hid underneath a chapel – for 3 months – to avoid imprisonment? And that while in there, he drew all over the walls to stay sane? And that you can visit this tiny little self-imposed prison/chamber?
  • that the Bargello Museum used to be a prison where they would among other things hang prisoners by their feet from the crenellations over the streets to warn people not to commit crimes?
  • that the Ponte Vecchio Bridge is the only bridge that remains intact after the Nazis bombed all other bridges in Florence?
  • that Leonardo da Vinci would visit his ‘secret woman’ each time he returned to Florence?
  • that the famous artists Filippo Lippi was kidnapped from the area and sold into slavery?
  • that Raphael is the King of ‘selfies’?

Florence is truly the veritable who’s who of familiar names and events in Western History. In fact, her history reads  like a Hollywood Magazine of the ins, outs and drama that has impacted our life in the West for the next 600 years.

This is why so many are compelled to return every few years. The city beckons and seduces with factoids and stories that will send you home as the smartest person in the room!

A stay in Florence can keep you busy every hour of every day that you spend there. Oh, and the restaurants and bars are pretty nice too!

Patty Civalleri, Author
“FLORENCE Gems & Giants”



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Art | Art History, BLOG, Italy

How to Make a Bronze Statue in 7 Easy Steps

This technique is called ‘the Lost Wax’ method. It is the method that Master Andrea del Verrocchio used to create his timeless sculpture of “David” among others. This method was widely used during the Renaissance period, and is still used by some masters today.

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Art | Art History, BLOG, Italy

Master of the Masters

Andrea del Verrocchio

(pron “ver-OH-kee-oh”)

Born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Cioni, he was trained under a master goldsmith, Giuliano Verrocchio, from whom Andrea took the name, which translates to “true eyes.” He grew up with Lorenzo d’Medici (aka, Lorenzo the Magnificent) as a close friend. Although a bachelor for life, he lived with and supported his sister and her children.

For quite some time, Verrocchio was considered to be one of the most important artists in Florence. Lorenzo and Piero de’Medici were

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BLOG, Italy, Travel

How Much Time Should You Spend in Florence?

I know that people have time limits when traveling, and they want to see more than one single place. But Florence is quite different than most other places because of what I will tell you in 4 short paragraphs.

If I had a limited vacation and was flying across the world, I would spend no less than 3–4 days, bare minimum. You see, 4 years ago, I spent 2.5 months in Florence, and since then I have learned about more places that I wish I could have seen. The longer you stay, the deeper you can go. But of course, this is true of every place to which you will travel. Or is it?

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BLOG, Italy, Travel

What are some lesser-known sights to see when visiting Florence, Italy?

 Note: I wrote this to answer the question in the website.

The answer to this question depends upon your personal interests, so I’ll throw out a few of my own favs.

A fantastic place from which to see the sunset over the city: Piazzale Michelangelo. You can either walk up to it, or take a local bus, but bring a picnic and enjoy the end of the day. One of the 2 full-sized copies of Michelangelo’s “David” stands overlooking the sunset as well.

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Art | Art History, BLOG, History, Italy, Travel

10 Fun Things You Should Know About the Florence Renaissance

Sure. We all know the names: Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Dante, Raphael, Galileo, the Medici, Machiavelli, Donatello, and many more.  But did you know that they were all from the city of Florence? And did you know that most of these guys actually knew other?

There are so many fun things about that period of time that will tickle your fancy so much, that once you know them, you’ll want to hop on a plane and go to Florence. Tomorrow morning.

There are so many interesting facts that I wrote a whole book about them. But for this post, I’ll stick to the first 10 quickies that pop into my head as I write this. You can find the book right here on Amazon.

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Art | Art History, BLOG, History, Italy

FLORENCE: Finding Verrocchio

Andrea del Verrocchio ~ Master of the Masters

Goldsmith, painter, sculptor

Born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Cioni, he was trained under a master goldsmith, Giuliano Verrocchio, from whom Andrea took the name, which translates to “true eyes.” He grew up with Lorenzo d’Medici as a close friend. Although a bachelor for life, he lived with and supported his sister and her children.

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City of Florence Italy
BLOG, Italy, Travel

A Fine Buongiorno – pt 2

Knowing that I was going to be in Florence for 3 months was exciting. I wasn’t staying in a hotel with all of the usual amenities and services. I had rented a little apartment in a local neighborhood called San Frediano. There aren’t any tourists here – mostly just locals. Perfect.  Because I wanted to get as close to living an Italian girl as I could. And living in a hotel wasn’t going to do that for me.

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BLOG, Italy, Travel

A Fine Buongiorno – pt 1

Many of us dream of replanting ourselves into a foreign land, even if only temporarily. The thought of immersing yourself into a world of new colors and landscapes, of enjoying the aromas of freshly-baked yummies emerging from local centuries-old ovens. Of startling your self-image with a new style of togs to match your new-found surroundings. These are things that you just know will expand your ordinary daily existence and transform you into a new person replete with ancient wisdom and insights. Wow – if only.

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