The Ancient Palazzi are becoming resorts; Venice is selling off its historic jewels.

Residents are in revolt: “Even the Church is conceding its property to build hotels”

By Lorenzo Padovan


No one, really, has missed the call. The City, the Region, Government Offices, the Italian Post, the Military. And now even the Patriarchy. All of them share the same strategy: give up their real estate in Venice with the inevitable prospect of seeing it transformed in to new tourist lodgings. The City, therefore, is becoming a kind of Capital of Airbnb, where every apartment becomes part of the tourist offering and where a kind of interminable chain of hotels is being created, more or less like what happened on the Las Vegas Strip.

The most recent excellent concession concerns the Ospedale al Mare on the Lido: it was acquired by Club Med and will become a luxury resort par excellence, transforming the island in to one of the most valuable areas among the pearls of the Lagoon. A similar fate awaits the Caserma dei Lagunari: the troops of the only base for amphibious assault will move to the mainland in order to make room for a five star hotel.

Within the centrifuge of the change of use of real estate, which acts as a multiplier for the profits of the vacation market, we also find the secular rest home “Cà di Dio”. The elderly, from now on, will have to spend the final years of their lives elsewhere, because the 84 rooms of the rest home are becoming a hotel. In the front lines of this revolution is also the Italian Post: Palazzo Querini Dubois, once a majestic headquarter of this organization, will soon host wealthy tourists, while the offices of the Fontego dei Tedeschi are already a crowed shopping center. One of the historic public parks has shared the same fate: the caretaker house of the “Giardiani Papadopoli” is predicted to become a prestigious tourist lodging owned by a French company.

The genesis of this process – which seems unstoppable – dates back to the Jubliee of 2000, with the Patronato and the Istituto Cavanis (which houses a middle and high school) being the first to offer rooms to guests. More recently this has happened at the home of the Centro Nazionale delle Ricerche and soon the same destiny will befall the offices of the City Social Services, which can be found at “Campo Santa Maria Formosa”, where their activity has already been transferred. At the Palazzo del Catasto restructuring work has already begun, and on the infinite list of historic jewels up for sale are also Palazzo Bibi – which now houses the offices of the Regional government – and Palazzo Gussoni, headquarters of the TAR del Veneto, which appears amongst the buildings that the Region has decided to sell with the updating of the “valuations plan” of 2017. Two houses of prayer – one from the 1700s, the other from the 1500s, both facing the Canal Grande – are being offered to become the object of desire for the magnates of finance or of some Sheik who will choose to spend his holiday in Italy. In order not to miss out on anything, even the Patriarchy has decided to take advantage of the opportunity to do something new with the ancient church of Santa Fosca, closed to the public due to lack of congregants. In exchange for the costs of the work on the building, the ex canonica (residence attached to the church) was given for use by a hotel owner who immediately has begun using it as a bed and breakfast.

Some are already protesting, and the concession of the canonica seems to have been the last straw. The civic group “Gruppo25 Aprile” has staged a protest, asking for an investigation by City Inspectors and affixing to the door the sarcastic slogan “here you sleep with God”. “Canal Grande’s destiny has been sealed and the other areas of Venice will follow shortly, for the chasing of profit – accused Marco Gasparinetti, spokesperson for the citizens. If we also lose the Church as an ally against the invasion of tourists then we are dead, as it has hundreds of properties which it could rent or sell”.

Low cost flights to Treviso and the international airport at Tessera continuously unload thousands of vacationers, while the Cruise Ships, five years since the appeal of the residents and the assurances of all the institutions, continue to make their daily sail-by in the Bacino di San Marco. The vaporetti are overflowing and the smog they produce is comparable to that which one would breathe in a highway tunnel. Residents frequently must battle their way through the tourists just to get their children to school. “Time is running out – concluded Gasparinetti – very soon we’ll be able to use the slogan ‘Welcome to Venezialand’”.

Source: La Stampa, 13 Oct. 2017

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