This weekend, Venice took the first step in preventing the high tide from flooding the city centre by deploying its new sea dams in an unofficial test drive – even though there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done.

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Acqua alta floods are sadly a recurrence in Venice’s lagoon, and that same warning had been raised over the weekend when continuous rains brought weather alerts and damages throughout Northern Italy. On Saturday October 3, Venice’s city council decided to lift the MOSE.

A picture of a restaurant in Venice exceptionally dry during high tide
The past weekend brought massive rains throughout Northern Italy and high tide back to Venice's lagoon © Stefano Mazzola / Awakening / Getty Images

The MOSE Project (which stands for MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, or Experimental Electromechanical Module) consists of a system of mobile dams located around the lagoon which can be raised when the need arises to isolate the city from the Adriatic Sea and protect it from the high tide.

A picture of the yellow mose dams being lifted during a test run
The MOSE barriers are meant to protect the city by temporarily detaching it from the Adriatic Sea creating a sort of "step" between the two © Giacomo Cosua / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Construction for the MOSE dams started in 2003, and the project took seventeen years and 7 billion euros to complete – the 78 bright yellow barriers that make up the system were tested for the first time earlier this year. While the MOSE held back the high tide on Saturday, the same didn’t happen on Monday – the tide was lower than the MOSE deployment threshold, so the dams remained in the sea and the city centre ended up flooded, including Saint Mark's Square and Saint Mark's Basilica.

A picture of a dry Saint Mark's Square during high tide
The MOSE dams protected the city during the weekend but they weren't lifted on Monday, and so the city centre ended up flooded again © Stefano Mazzola / Awakening / Getty Images

The general consensus and takeaway are that Venice certainly took a step in the right direction, but there’s still work to be done and calibrations to do so that the MOSE can be an effective tool to protect the city. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about Venice’s dam system you can check out the MOSE Project’s official website here.

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