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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Venetian Lagoon

Venetian Lagoon as seen by Landsat 1Venetian Lagoon as seen by Landsat 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The Venetian Lagoon
By Lukas Johannes
The fact that Venice is built on water is common knowledge to anyone who has looked, however briefly, into this Italian city. But what most tourists will probably not be aware of, as they step out of their Venice airport boat transfer, is that the city is built over a myriad of small islands, inside a natural preserve called the Venetian Lagoon.
Formed six to seven thousand years ago, in an age well before Venice airport boat transfers, vaporetti or gondole, the Venetian Lagoon stemmed from the flooding of an Adriatic coastal plain. This flooded area was then sealed off by natural debris and sediments, leading to what would become internationally known as a "lagoon".

Stretching from the river Sile (in the North) to the river Brenta (in the South), more than 80% of the Venetian Lagoon is made up of mud flats and salt marshes, which will no doubt be avoided by the driver of your Venice airport boat. He or she is more likely to traverse the 11% of open water made up by the famous canals. As for land portions (including the city itself) they account for only 8% of the lagoon's total area!
Due to its size and importance as one of a chain of estuarine lagoons, the Laguna Veneta - the largest wetland in the Mediterranean Basin - has been declared a World Heritage Site. And while this has not interfered with the city's bustling traffic of vaporetti, privately owned boats, gondole and Venice airport boat taxis, it has kept some of the city council's planned developments from actually taking place. Most notorious among these was a plan to build floodgates to prevent the acqua alta (the city's typical, periodic floods), which was vetoed because it would quickly lead to the stagnation of the lagoon's waters, destroying its ecosystem. Drainage programmes have, however, been in place since the Renaissance, gradually altering the lagoon's configuration, albeit never endangering its wildlife.
Historically, the Lacuna Veneta is also worthy of mention for having served as a refuge for Romans fleeing the Huns, who quickly found this to be the perfect spot for their new city - which we today know as Venice.
So, the next time you come to La Serenissima and take a Venice airport boat into the centre of town, remember to acknowledge what you are travelling on: one of the biggest marshlands in Southern Europe, and an important and unique natural feature in its own right.
Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct. If you're looking for a Venice airport boat transfer, Shuttle Direct provide pre-booked shuttles to major destinations all over Europe. Wherever you travel, Shuttle Direct can make sure that you don't miss your car on your holiday abroad.
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