Venice at high tide: a call at the Hotel Gabrielli

Friday, 15.11.2019
18:30 clock

To person
Francesca Perkhofer, directs the Hotel Gabrielli ( directly on the water in Venice. The hotel has been run by the family since 1856. In 1913 Franz Kakfa wrote on the letterhead of his fiancé Felice Bauer's hotel.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Perkhofer, your family has been running the Hotel Gabrielli in Venice for 160 years. How is the situation right now?


Francesca Perkhofer: In winter, floods occur more often. Now we were really affected by extreme floods – and unfortunately the forecast was not correct. We were all unprepared. That was really very, very unusual.


SPIEGEL: We all have the pictures and videos in mind, such as the flood-water hotel entrance halls, museums, restaurants, shops and squares. Can you say anything about the damage?

Perkhofer: The damage is huge. On the ground floor you are prepared for flooding in Venice, but only up to a certain height. Now it has exceeded every limit, it has been measured almost 187 centimeters. The reception desks in the hotels are destroyed, but the retailers and the people living on the ground floor have gotten worse.


SPIEGEL: Are you currently facing many cancellations as a hotelier?

Perkhofer: We have cancellations, but we tell the guests: "The city continues to function, please come! That helps us the most." This flood is something that has already caused great damage to the whole city. The government must intervene and also provide funds. The bad thing is that for 20 years, the promise of the Moses project (Read more about the blockade of Moses) is there, which just does not come. The situation is known. Nevertheless, there is a lot of money silted up, and the project just will not be finished. Whether it really works, no one knows. That's the real scandal.

photo gallery
"You can not do much"

SPIEGEL: You have addressed the barrage of Moses, the protective barrier against the floods. Can you say more about that?


Perkhofer: I'm not a technician, but as expensive as the project has been so far, you should actually assume that competent people have dealt with it and it should be close to completion. The project started in the eighties and it is still not finished. I do not understand that. You can see every day the big construction sites and cranes, we are always told that it is over 90 percent ready. It would have been good for us this week.

SPIEGEL: The project should be completed in 2021, what arrangements can you make by then?

Perkhofer: You can not do much. We realize that this flood has come with a very high force. Two days later comes again one. This is violent and makes us think. Water is a very strong force. On the other hand, the water comes and then flows off again. These are always only temporary phenomena. The city then continues. But you have to clean up a lot afterwards.

Video: "Moses" is not coming – and Venice is sinking


SPIEGEL: Now the first voices have been heard saying that the cruise ships are to blame and that there is too much tourism at all.

Perkhofer: In such a situation where the city is as vulnerable as it has been in recent days, it's more about bringing together what actually happened. Tourism as such has little to do with sea level. The questions are rather: How does one manage to preserve this city? We should focus on that. The city has been standing for 1200 years, it is still standing, and it is also very firm. It is our responsibility to keep it that way.

SPIEGEL: People photograph themselves smiling in front of St. Mark's Square in the flood and seem to regard it as an event.


Perkhofer: It's a situation where things are destroyed, where families lose their belongings. The tourists are very composed and usually understand, with which force we all meet. I would only sometimes wish a little more respect, because it is not an event.


SPIEGEL: What do you advise your guests when they want to move through the city?

Perkhofer: Today was the peak of the flood at 11.20 clock, that is to 9 clock, 10 clock you can move wonderfully – with rubber boots, coat, umbrella. Then it goes up for two or three hours and then the water falls again. Everything is forgotten this afternoon. The city is not underwater for weeks, but sometimes there are two or three hours in which you can not move. That's common here, everyone knows that.

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