Oh Venice! Venice! when thy marble walls
Are level with the waters, there shall be
A cry of nations o'er thy sunken halls,
A loud lament along the sweeping sea!
As Byron's lines suggest, Venetians long have been preoccupied with a ghastly civic problem: their lovely city is slowly sinking into the water. Already, in the stormy autumn and winter seasons, Venetians sometimes move through St. Mark's Square in gondolas, and housewives occasionally have to do their shopping in fishermen's boots.
The trouble comes partly from the artesian wells and methane gas taps that weaken the substrata on which the city is built....