Unfolding Equilibrium

Venice · Lagoon · Islands

Unesco World Heritage Centre


A visit to the Lagoon of Venice  in winter time. The occasion is a visit to Donatella Ricci for the 1st Anniversary of her World Altitude Record with autogyro.

Donatella trains and flies in the air space known as ‘Triveneto, which offers many opportunities for discoveries related to history, archaeology, nature, sightseeing, traditional regional gastronomy worldwide renowned.  The  flight over the Lagoon of Venice with Donatella is once more incredible. Very much missed flying with a great pilot, who conveys a sense of peace and constant marvel.

The views of the lagoon ecosystem, the colors of wildlife, the horizons open all the way to the coastline to the Venetian Prealps are true jewels. The augtogyro allows flexible speeds from fast to slow travel, which allows to reflect and write about some thoughts related to this unique city and its ecosystem. A Unesco World Heritage Centre, the Lagoon covers an area of 50,000 km² /20,000 mi²,  where nature and history have been closely linked since the Vthcentury.

The community of Venice Lagoon has identified itself with water since the first inhabitants ventured in this inhospitable area around the fifth century: land and sea, nature and people became linked through centuries of constant adaptation. People fled from nearby Roman cities of  Aquileia, Padua, Treviso, Altino, Concordia to the relatively safer lagoon area, populated by fishermen. Among the new settlers also the Lombards, originally Germanic people leaving the Eastern Roman Empire.

Venice Lagoon
Venice Lagoon

According to tradition Venice was officially founded on 421 A.D. Its enterprising spirit, social organization developed Venice into a city-state, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, ‘Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia’, by the ninth century. A flourishing center of trade between Western Europe and the Mediterranean world, Venice was also  known as the ‘La Dominante’ and ‘Queen of the Adriatic’.

Nowadays this World Heritage Site faces the task to protect the delicate and fragile balance between land and water, the equilibrium between residents and visitors, the relationship between the community and its cultural heritage.

Oasis Environment

The Lagoon of Venice has an avarage depth of approximately 3feet/1metre, filling a surface area of about 550 square km long and 8 to 14 km wide, which include  north, central and south lagoon, crossed by a network of tidal channels and navigation canals connecting Venice and its islands.

The fauna  is mostly a termophile species, adapted to seasonal medium and high temperatures. Large colonies of amphibians, mammals, birds and reptiles found in this lagoon their natural habitat all year round, thanks for all the fish, and the salt-marshes  ‘barene’. ‘Barene‘ are higher-level ground areas covered by water only at high tide; they are irregularly distributed around the Lagoon and range in size from a few square metres to several hectars. They are essential structures for attenuating the tides and currents within the Lagoon, and regular upkeep determines the health of its waters and wildlife.

Another feature of the Logoon are the mudflats ‘velme and ghebbi’,  low-lying areas exposed only at low tide. They drain off the minor channels and influence salt marsh accretion and erosion processes. Rich in invertebrate life, including clams harvested as economically significant, they are important feeding grounds fo migrating waders, such as the redshank and sandwich tern.


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Striking are the winding canals on blue-green waters suitable for a great number of species, birds being the most common in this habitat. Indeed, at a closer angle, white and black storcks, wild ducks, a large colony of flamingos, herons/egrets, ibis, cormorans, falcons  are well adapted to contained levels of ground, water and air pollution, when compared to other areas, and well adapted to the tidal excursion: between 80 cm and 30 cm including spring neap tide coonditions, and water exchanges through the inlets delimit three large-scale circulation patterns: north, central and south Lagoon.

The Lagoon closer to Venice town has a different impact on visitors eyes. The presence of deep navigational channels for tankers and cruise ships, land reclaiming and human activities, coastal subsidence and erosion are influencing how the city acts for its architecture, residents, tourists, and Lagoon ecosystem.

Venice historical center. Cruise ship and St.Mark's Square. View from S.George island
Venice historical center. Cruise ship and St.Mark’s Square. View from S.George island

While to protect Venice historical center and its lagoon from flooding  there are plans to complete the MOSE Project in approx one/two years, the city releases proposals for building a new cruise ships terminal: among the suggesstions Punta Sabbioni water transportation terminal, North Lagoon.


Image © ISMAR - DMMMSA | Positive values mean uplift, negative land subsidence. White triangles show the position of the permanent GPS stations
Image © ISMAR – DMMMSA | Positive values mean uplift, negative land subsidence. White triangles show the position of the permanent GPS stations


The subsidence of Venice is well known not by reason of the magnitude of the ground movement but because it has seriously compromised the heritage and the safety of the city in relation of its small elevation above the sea”. Read more: land settlement occurred in the Venice lagoon area over the XXth century.




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