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Venice under siege February 18, 2007

Posted by dorigo in news, personal, politics, social life.

Today it is the Sunday of Carnival, and Venice is under siege. More than half a million people are visiting the city today (as they did yesterday), to walk around in fancy costumes, have fun, and enjoy the sunny and warm weather of this warm February.

Here is the view from my kitchen’s window:

Usually the calle besides my house is quite calm, but today I am hearing people sing, drums, voices, simply noise. It is nice to look at all these people having fun. On the other hand, every time I see Venice flooded with tourists I cannot help feeling that this anciet, beautiful city is being raped.

The thing is, Venice is slowly dying. It is becoming an entertainment park no less than its copy built in Las Vegas. Less than 55,000 people inhabit it, whose average age is about 55 years. Young couples cannot afford the expensive housing, the lack of facilities, and the trouble of living in a place where you have to walk your kids to school rather than drive them there, or bringing groceries up and down bridges by feet rather than in the trunk of your SUV.

I have nothing against the people who come and visit Venice, even for just an afternoon of fun. But I think we could exploit the attractiveness of this city by applying a small entrance fee. If it is an amusement park, let’s preserve it with money from visitors. The income from a 1-euro/day ticket would go a long way to keep the city alive – 50 million euros a year could indeed create job opportunities, help social policies, and prevent further exile of its citizens.

Who opposes this ? Of course, the owners of hotels, restaurants and bars. They fear a loss of income from a entrance ticket. And the city bows to that lobby… Yes, Venice is not far from becoming a theme park and nothing else. Maybe I should stop worrying about surging water levels (I worry for my children more than for me), and plan to leave myself.



1. dileffante - February 18, 2007

I’ve raped Venice a few times and would happily pay an entrance ticket to do it again, as I go to pay tribute to Fortuna across the big channel. What a lovely place! Though, certainly, I enjoyed it more when my visit was not during the carnival session. Iin these days, walking short distances can take a full hour, and I understand how much annoying that must be for native inhabitants… I guess your window doesn’t open on the main street?

2. dorigo - February 18, 2007

Hi dileffante,

if you’ve come to venice you know there are no “main streets”… The calle I pictured above is one of the main routes from the train station to the university, so it is not a “main street” but neither is a dead-end.

You are right, though, living in venice during these periods can be hard because it becomes difficult to move around – and venetian citizens never get accustomed to traffic! Quite interesting you understood that, though. Most visitors fail to realize it.

I suggest visiting venice in november, a low season, but the best time to experience the charm of getting lost in small ways with a thick fog all around. Walking in the fog in dark evenings in Venice is a fantastic experience, smells are enhanced, colors are blurred, very few people in the streets, silence. Highly advisable.


3. Alejandro RIvero - February 18, 2007

I can not see how it is different to any of Spanish “fiestas”; an tenfold increase of population is not unusual. With all the comparsas and peñas strolling and trumpeting across streets, I can perfectly understand not only the inhabitants of Venice, but also the ones of ancient Jerico. I am happy about it, but perhaps because they are not strictly tourists.

4. Bee - February 18, 2007

oh, right! it’s carnival. I almost forgot. it’s so weird that the north Americans have an ‘Oktoberfest’ party almost everywhere, but no carnival.

(spell check doesn’t even object on ‘Oktoberfest’)

5. Markk - February 18, 2007

North Americans no Carnival? Eh??? We generally call it Mardi Gras, and even in Maple Leaf Land there should be a party near you. New Orleans for example, is a big one.

6. island - February 18, 2007

More pictures!… 🙂

7. dileffante - February 18, 2007

Oh, I was thinking about the route that every tourist walks between the railway station and the Piazza S. Marcos (and only leave at the risk of getting lost, or drowning), but now checking the map I see that it is not a single street. Anyway, I visited once for the Carnival, and twice in summer (will have to try november!). Summer was quite nice: in the evening there was a thunderstorm, while I was saying hi to Fortuna on the Punta de la Doggana, and the lightnings behind San Marcos are still in the short list of “most beautiful things I’ve seen”.

8. Kea - February 18, 2007

Wow! You live right in Venice? Hmm. I would worry about rising sea levels.

9. dorigo - February 18, 2007

Hi Alejandro,

not any different from spanish fiestas, but Venice has long stopped living on anything but the flow of incoming tourists. That is, dying of that. There is no substrate of human activities to keep it lively in the absence of tourism. And the absence of a “periphery” (you either are in the island, or in the water around it) makes impossible to move there if you want to lower your price of living, so you get simply kicked out. Venice had 150,000 inhabitants in the sixties, now they are 55,000 and counting…down.


10. dorigo - February 18, 2007

Hi Bee,

I do not object to oktoberfest either 🙂 I’ve never been to germany during that period though… And although I have a strong sympathy for your people and quite some attraction to german girls, I think I do not like beer-drunk germans too much, so I stay clear 😉


11. dorigo - February 18, 2007

Dileffante, you almost bingoed there. Check out the location of my house here: http://qd.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/mapofven2.GIF
As you see, my place is along one of the possible routes to S.Marco from the Train station, indeed.


12. dorigo - February 18, 2007

Hi Kea,

🙂 yes, I do worry. Especially since I own properties here. Prices have soared (and so have rents) in the last twenty years, but I believe in 40 years things might have a quite different flavor …


13. Guess Who - February 18, 2007

I have a sneaky suggestion: rather than charge the tourists directly, impose a tariff on railway (and bus?) companies, since that’s how most visitors enter the city. One extra EUR per ticket to Venice will hardly be noticed by a tourist, certainly much less than having to pay it separately at a crowded, obnoxious gate. Would probably be cheaper to administrate too. Actually, now that I think of it, I’m surprised there isn’t such a “tourist tax” already… are you sure?

14. dorigo - February 19, 2007

GW, that is a good idea, and in fact, it is similar to what it has been proposed – charging 1-eur as a city tax to every night in a hotel. As for buses, they do pay to enter Venice – and in fact, many companies are switching to alternative methods of transporting their clients downtown. As for the train, it would be quite hard I think to force it upon the railway company, since they technically own their infrastructures… Privatization through a liberal market of services has its down sides at times 😉

All of that encouters enormous friction from the lobby of owners of restaurants and hotels… very hard to make progress!


15. dorigo - February 19, 2007

Island, I should indeed post some more pics… There are quite a few good costumes around and Venice painted in carnival colors is nice. I will see what I can do, but tomorrow I am in Padova at work!

16. Bee - February 19, 2007

@MarkkNorth Americans no Carnival? Eh??? We generally call it Mardi Gras, … Yeah, yeah, it’s just not quite the same. ever been in Germany for Fasching? Like, I don’t see kids in the streets with costumes, there’s are no parades – it’s not even considered a seasonal event in the grocery stores!

You haven’t missed a thing. I was in Munich for Oktoberfest once, one day, that was sufficient for the rest of my life. (Luckily Bavaria is not equal to Germany.)

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