On September 4, 2016 the first e-mails that started Campaign For A Living Venice were sent out. As is almost always the case with such things, the distance of a year presents an opportunity to reflect, which, with your kind indulgence, I will so do on this page.
I began learning about current affairs in Venice at about the time that Giorgio Orsoni was being removed from office in connection with the MoSE scandal. At the time I was immersed in Venetian history, and so had also become interested in the state of things in today’s Venice. Reading online news gave me a sense of how serious and concerning the situation in Venice was. I still recall how, during my first visit to Venice in March 2015, our friend and host assured us that Felice Casson would win, and that he would help turn things around. I returned home with a sense of hope.
Back in the U.S., however, I was surprised to see Luigi Brugnaro win. As his first year in office progressed, I (along with so many others, I should add) grew increasingly alarmed about what I was reading in the news about Venice. The came July 2016, the #Veneziamiofuturo flashmob, and the UNESCO ultimatum threatening to take Venice off the World Heritage Sites list. These events galvanized my own feelings about how bad things appeared to be getting in Venice. I had become deeply attached to Venice, and I wanted to do something to help.
The idea of writing a letter and collecting signatures kept coming back to me. I am fortunate to know acclaimed author – and lover of Venice – Allan Gurganus, who generously offered to co-author the letter and help distribute it. This takes us up to a year ago, when we began sending out our Statement of Support for the Citizens of Venice and collecting signatures online.
On the morning of September 5 I sent our Statement to Gruppo 25 Aprile in Venice. Right away I received a reply back from Marco Gasparinetti, full of welcome, enthusiasm and advice. By the end of the day Marco had provided me with some beautiful pictures to use on our new Facebook page, and an Italian translation of our Statement. More importantly, Marco issued official and personal endorsements of CFLV, which gave us an early boost at the start. I remain very grateful for this early and ongoing support.
Over the next few weeks the project grew and evolved in to what it is today – an effort to provide an English language voice for and chronicle of the struggle to save Venice, a struggle being undertaken by remarkably dedicated, talented and tenacious groups of citizens. It is my privilege to help tell their story, and hopefully to make that story more accessible to folks around the world who love Venice but who do not read Italian.
What I have seen this past year, since the beginning of the Campaign, is a study in contrasts. On one side, the governing of Luigi Brugnaro’s Administration has been nothing short of disastrous for the city and its citizens. By every measure, all the pressing problems in the city have only grown worse, so much so that one can readily get the impression that the process of decline is intentional. On the other side is the heart and energy of the citizens’ groups in Venice. I have watched with admiration and sometimes in awe at the continuous efforts being made, month by month, by these citizens and groups. I have seen some of the best, most inspired organizing I have ever witnessed, and it is certain that there is more to come.
The citizens of Venice are the hope, they are the dream; the dream of keeping Venice alive, its customs and traditions and its special way of life – for those who live there today, and more importantly for their children. As someone said recently, Venetians are not the problem, Venetians are the solution. It is a true honor to work alongside such people, even from far away. If CFLV contributes even a bit to their cause then I am grateful, and will keep this going as long as their work needs to continue.
The CFLV project is a solo venture, with no funding, or fundraising. I have no business interests in Venice, neither do I have a Venice related book or product to sell. There is, however, one ulterior motive for this undertaking, and I am happy to disclose it: it is my wish to help save Venice, in part, so that I may join that dream, and ultimately realize my own dream and goal of living in Venice, amongst such fine people, in the most beautiful, amazing and powerfully attractive city in the world.
Thank you for reading this, and for visiting the site. Please share the news and spread the word, and let’s bring back Venice! Viva Venezia! WSM!