Scientific & Research

How does Venice work? By Insula



CORILA is an association of Ca'Foscari University and the University Institute of Architecture of Venice, the University of Padua and Italy's National Research Council. A non-profit organisation, it is overseen by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR). It was founded in 1999 to coordinate and manage research on the Venice Lagoon and thereby provide decision support information to policy makers and public administrations dealing with Venice. Activities are organised within the framework of three-year research programmes, which in turn are divided into thematic areas and research lines. The principal thematic areas are: economics, architecture and cultural heritage; environmental processes; data management and dissemination. The first research programme (2000-2003) cost approximately Euro10.8 million of which nearly 60 per cent was funded by the Special Law via the Ministry for Research. Co-financing was provided by other administrations as well as the research departments and other partners.

The second research programme (2004-2007) has just under Euro 6 million from the Special Law plus co-financing. Accordingly, CORILA facilitates the acquisition of knowledge and information on the physical system, territorial, environmental, economic and social aspects of the lagoon and lagoon settlements; processes the manages this information in an integrated framework; carries out interdisciplinary scientific research projects pertinent to the problems of the Venice Lagoon; facilitates interaction with the international scientific community. The four partners of CORILA have naturally been active participants in research on the Venice lagoon system and the city itself since the earliest times.



Founded in 1980, this organ within the Venice Municipality is responsible for the study and forecasting of storm surge events and alerting the city in case of flood events. Observation of sea level and meteorological parameters is carried out through a monitoring network (11 stations), that gives a real-time view of marine and weather conditions in the Venice lagoon and along the Adriatic coast. All stations measure sea level and some also collect meteorological parameters; air pressure, humidity, wind velocity and direction, waves and air temperature.



The Italian National Research Council is a high profile public organisation in the field of scientific and technological research. Founded in 1923, it is composed of dozens of separate institutes, each with a particular specialisation. In response to the increasing worldwide concern for the survival of Venice, CNR established the Institute for the study of the Dynamics of Large Masses in 1969, now incorporated within the Marine Sciences Institute (ISMAR). Created first as a laboratory, it has spread from basic research in oceanography and geology to applied research. The other Venice-based branch of CNR-ISMAR is the Institute for Marine Biology, established in 1946 as the national Centre of Talassographic Studies, which focuses on pure and applied biological oceanography, marine and lagoon biology.

The Consorzio Venezia Nuovo is a body funded by the Ministero dei Lavori Pubblici and the Magistrato all Acque di Venezia, set up for the protection of Venice and its lagoon, in implementation of Law 798/84. This law gives the government responsibility for: the hydrological restructuring of the lagoon; the reversal of the degeneration of the lagoon and the elimination of the causes of this degeneration; the lowering of tide levels in the lagoon; the defence of the inhabited areas of the lagoon (through local intervention) and the protection of these areas from the effects of exceptionally high tides, possibly by means of mobile dykes situated at the harbour entrances.

The Consorzio Venezia Nuovo consists of a group of national and local construction companies formed to carry out studies, experiments and the planning and implementation of work; because of the way it is constituted it is able to plan, organise and manage operations from start to finish, throughout all the different stages. In order to carry out its activities it has access to advice from national and international scientific bodies, and the most prestigious universities in Italy and abroad.

The Information Service is a branch of the Magistrato alle Acque-Consorzio Venezia Nuova whose task it is to organise all information and studies that might be useful for the management of the ecosystem of the lagoon. It is one of Italy's most advanced centres for the application of information technology to land management. The service is arranged in three sections: libraries, data banks and IT support services.

To date, more than 20,000 documents have been catalogued by the libraries, and more than 300,000 objects listed in the data bank. The data thus collected is used by the IT support systems to facilitate the decision-making process.

The Data, Materials and Documents section of the web-site is entirely devoted to the description of the documents available via the information service, which has a thriving production of original territorial maps, mathematical models, models of levels of pollution, and of co- ordination of the various studies, monitoring services, projects and management plans for future protection schemes.

The Information Service uses working methods, criteria and procedures which are valid for specific protection operations and for a variety of other operations in the same area. The Servizio Informativo provides constant support to other organisations, including the Regione del Veneto, the Comune and the Provincia di Venezia.

The data bank carried statistics on measurements (physical, chemical, socio-economic) supplied by geographical studies which use graphic cartography expressed in dots, lines and areas. The data bank carries a combination of measurement data (alphanumerical) and graphic data (vectorial) in a comprehensible logical structure consisting of data and programmes, usually known as GIS (Geographical Information System).

The data bank contains data on the territory collated from documents. The GIS is an information system whereby the territory is viewed as a collection of more than 300,000 different objects collated via more than one million identifying attributes (regarding land, water, the lagoon, the basin, the sea, the administrative areas, population figures, hydrographic networks and basins, fisheries, the canal system, islands, bathometry, roads and railways, monitoring stations, land structure, hydrological groups, land use, land registry, competencies of the magistrature with regard to land and land reclamation consortia, distribution of phanerogams and areas where macro-algae flourish, territorial transformations etc), and territorial parameters by two billion information elementals. The data bank provides a general outline of the geography of the territory, with data designed for generalised automatic use.

The data covers: the lagoon in all its morphological, hydraulic-ecological and socio-economic aspects; the basin as a factor in pollution and the Upper Adriatic sea, whose tides govern the level of the lagoon.

In the GIS, the geographical data is linked (in the IT sense) to corresponding alphanumerical data. For example, each area representing one territory of the ecosystem is linked to the relevant information on surface measurement, the name of the place it represents, the number of inhabitants resident in the Comune, etc.

The combination of measurement data and graphic data defines a territorial unit. The loading and accessing of data in the data bank is made possible through three main programmes: Microstation,, MGE (Modular GIS Environment) and Dynamo (Dynamic Analyst), produced by Intergraph and based on object logic.

These programmes permit access to a database consisting of graphic and alphanumerical data, or combinations of the two. Access is possible via the application of traditional comparison operators (bigger, equal, included etc) to the alphanumerical data, and contextually with the operators of the graphic elements (and, or, not), using topological relations (of belonging, exclusion, distance, adjacency etc) existing between the graphic elements. The data base is thus completely accessible, and is also integrated into the same geographical space (Gauss-Boaga, fuso EST).

These programmes constitute the Territorial Information System, one of the most advanced of the GIS systems currently available. The data bank is constituted through the definition of geographical and territorial entities, which contribute in full or in part to the construction of the data base of the data bank.


Puntolaguna is a multimedia information point on activities to safeguard Venice and the lagoon delegated to the State, implemented by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport - Venice Water Authority through the Consorzio Venezia Nuova. At Puntolaguna, the material produced during the years of work has been gathered, organised by subject and prepared for consultation.  

The centre is aimed at all those wanting information on the state of the lagoon ecosystem and past and current work to safeguard it. 

For the last four years, Puntolaguna has also been organising educational workshops in Italian for primary and middle school pupils where, through games and interactive learning processes, the children can learn more about the Venice lagoon, the transformations taking place there over the centuries and what has and is being done to safeguard it.  

Puntolaguna is located in Campo Santo Stefano, Venice, and is open every working day from 14.30 to 17.30 (tel. + 39.041.5293582) and mornings on appointment for presentations to groups and meetings with experts.


The Quaderni Trimestrali ("Quarterly Journals") provide constant and up-to-date information on the safeguarding activities implemented by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport - Venice Water Authority through the Consorzio Venezia Nuova. 

Issued since 1993, they are of a mainly technical-scientific nature and organised into a section with articles by authoritative academics and experts; a section containing information on the interventions in the lagoon and the state of progress of the Mose high water protection system and a special section bringing together and publishing institutional documents on the safeguarding activities. 

You can request a copy of the "Quaderni Trimestrali" (in Italian) by sending an e-mail to:


The internet site (in Italian and English) is dedicated to explaining the programme of interventions to safeguard Venice and the lagoon implemented by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport - Venice Water Authority through the Consorzio Venezia Nuova. It offers a level of rapid consultation and search and a more in-depth level.  It describes the lagoon ecosystem, the principal crisis elements and the vast programme of interventions being implemented during recent years in the lagoon and in towns and villages in the lagoon area. 



The Venice Water Authority is a technical agency of the Ministry for Infrastructure and Transport with direct and primary responsibility for the safeguarding, security and hydraulic protection of a large area spread across a number of regions (Veneto, Friuli and Lombardy).


Founded in 1997 by Venice Town Council (52 percent share) together with Vesta (waste management). Enel.Hydro (electricity), Italgas (gas) and Telecom Italia (telephones), Insula's mission concerns urban maintenance and, more precisely, measures such as clearing canals of accumulated silt, restoration of canal walls, foundations and facades of buildings lining canals, restoring bridges, rationalisation of urban subsoil (utility lines and sewer system), maintenance and renovation of paving, raising of footpaths above the level of medium-high tides (local protection). Project integration and works coordination (all parties involved in the operations work side by side, not least the public utilities, who are Insula's partners) is therefore essential to this complicated process to minimise inconvenience, while also boosting the efficiency, in terms of economies of scale in such a delicate urban environment.


The International Institute for Conservation is a not-for-profit, membership organization for heritage conservation professionals and those interested and committed to the preservation of the world's cultural treasures. Since 1950 IIC has been keeping the world informed of the latest news, technical advances and new directions in heritage conservation.


The Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte 'to collect discoveries, and to perfect the arts and sciences'. Its current mission is to increase, promulgate and safeguard the sciences, literature and arts, bringing together outstanding figures from the world of scholarship. The Institute also supports special research projects that concern Venice and the Veneto, and which are addressed at the international community. Together with various universities and the National Research Council, it has also set up specialised centres for research into environmental questions, into philological and literary aspects of the language of Veneto and into Hydrology, Meteorology and Climatology. It runs a programme to integrate and share environmental data among all the major institutions and research bodies.


With four faculties and 19 departments, the University dates back to the late 19th Century and its students account for a significant proportion of the local population. It covers many areas of chemistry and environmental sciences; in the area of economics it carries out specific environmental economic studies; in the area of mathematics and IT it has developed and has access to models and data management instruments; significant contributions are also made in the field of law.



Founded in 1926 it is an international reference point for architecture, history, design, and restoration as well as for town and land use planning. It also has laboratories for construction science and analysis of ancient materials. There are about 8,000 students enrolled, 209 tenured professors and 240 contract professors plus support and technical personnel.



Founded in 1222, it was the first university in the world to award a degree to a woman, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, in 1678 (in philosophy). It has 13 faculties and 62 departments and is a world leader in hydraulic engineering, biology, agricultural sciences, chemistry, mathematics and many other branches of science - not to mention centuries of tradition in law and medicine - matched by first-class facilities and instrumentation.


The International Centre Cities on Water is concerned with documentation, information, study and research into the problems and experiences of urban settlements which have a close relationship with water.

The association's main aim is to encourage and improve scientific and cultural exchange between cities on water throughout the world, and to establish Venice as a reference point for all those who are involved in restoring a positive relationship between water and city, between water and urban context.

The Centre concentrates on the main issues affecting cities on water that have developed along coasts, within gulfs, bays and lagoons, which are located on lakesides or estuaries or on the banks of important rivers.

Fields of enquiry

Since it was founded, the Cities on Water Centre has identified the four principal concerns shared by urban areas which are working on the improvement of their relationship with the water.

- Restoration of the waterfront.
- Relationship between the city and the harbour.
- Water transport.
- Urban maintenance.


The Centre has produced the following reports:

"Impact of sea level rise on Cities and Regions". Summaries of presentations, First International Meeting, Venice, 11-13 December 1989 (pp.54). R. FRASSETTO (ed.), Impact of sea level rise on Cities and Regions.

"Proceedings of the First International Meeting" 'Cities on Water', Marsilio Editori, Venice, 1991 (pp.238).

"Waterfront: a new urban frontier" Papers and abstracts. Second International Meeting, Venice, 23-25 January, 1991 (pp.158).

R. BRUTTOMESSO (ed.), Cities on Water and Transport, Edizioni Città d'Acqua, Venice.

R. BRUTTOMESSO (ed.), Manutenzione, Sicurezza e Qualità Urbana, Marsilio Editori, Venice, 1997.

R. BRUTTOMESSO (ed.), Land-Water Intermodal Terminals, Marsilio Editori, Venice, 1998.

International conferences in Venice

The Centre organises international conferences on a regional basis. At these conferences the problems facing cities on water are discussed and concrete proposals for tackling them are sought. Different disciplinary approaches are compared, work already undertaken is discussed with the collaboration of planners and academics, administrators, technical staff, entrepreneurs and representatives of international organisations.


CCRU carries out fundamental research on coastal, estuarine and near-shore processes, landforms and ecosystems; environmental monitoring in the coastal zone, and research consultancies for both governmental and non-governmental agencies. It works in both temperate and tropical environments.


Prevention and Environmental Protection

The Veneto Regional Agency for Environmental Protection is essentially the technical branch of the regional administration. Its tasks can be summarised as:
  • Environmental protection and monitoring;
  • Weather forecasting, monitoring and statistical elaborations;
  • Organisation and management of the regional information system for environmental monitoring and environment related epidemiology;
  • Environmental education and information services;
  • Technical and scientific services for environmental impact assessments and evaluation of environmental damage.
Web design by Surge Solutions