Do you ever get tired of driving? Between stop and go traffic, slow drivers and people talking on their phones not paying attention; driving can be a real nightmare. Wouldn’t it be great if there was another mode of transportation? One that lets you just sit back and relax while someone else got you from point A to point B with ought having to deal with flying or going on a noisy train. Well, one ancient city has provided such a service since the 5th century A.D.
Venice is the capital city of Italy’s northeastern Veneto region. It is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals. The buildings in Venice were not built directly on the islands. Instead, they were built upon wooden platforms that were supported by wooden stakes driven into the ground. The Grand Canal is lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces. The center of the city, Piazza San Marco, is home to St. Mark’s Basilica with the Campanile bell tower which offers the best view of the city’s iconic red roofs.
The use of wood was surprising to some because wood is normally a lot less durable than metal, but the wood has actually held on for the most part. Wood decay is typically caused by microorganisms, such as fungi and bacteria. Since the wooden supports of Venice are submerged underwater they are not exposed to oxygen, which is pretty essential to survival for any organism. In addition, the constant flow of salt water around and through the wood has petrified it over time. Thus, turning the support beams into a hardened, stone-like structure.
Of course, having an entire city on top of water does come with many challenges. Flooding is constantly an issue as the water level rises about a dozen times a year. The locals call these occasions aqua alta (high water). Generally, they are caused by unusually high tides due to strong winds, storm surges and severe inland rains. This is happening more frequently in recent years due to the rising sea level caused by climate change. To the locals, these floods are a common phenomenon but to environmentalists they are more than concerning. Although some measures of preservation have been discussed, many experts believe most of the city will be underwater in 94 years. Essentially, you better get there before it’s gone!