“I live in the most beautiful city in the world, but it’s only for visitors”

For residents Venice has become a paradox: too many tourists, too much damage, little respect for the monuments and for the people who live there.

By Eugenio Pendolini

VENEZIA. “At this point we risk turning the most beautiful city in the world into a place where you cannot live well. This goes for visitors and even more for those who live here”. It is an open wound, or so it is described by the owner of a stand at Rialto. The discussion of the redneck summer in Venice has been going on for years. But, to hear those who live and work here, the limit has been reached. The August heat does not stop “turbotourism”, the main source of profit in Venice. What is left is a city asphyxiated by tourist rentals and take-away food.

While the episodes of tourist stupidity keep multiplying (it’s enough to glance at the many social media pages which publish photos of the bad behavior), the groups of visitors are not synonymous with business, and those who live here feel isolated. It’s this way everywhere, it’s said. True enough, but there is another problem: “In recent times” continues the shop owner “the love of Venice on the part of the inhabitants and administrators has been replaced by greed”.

The quality of tourism, he says, has fallen over the years. He has noticed it recently. How? By the questions that are directed to him every day: “It happens more and more often”, he relates, “they ask me: where is the Rialto Bridge? I work here, just fifty meters away”. For those who work on the street living with the crowds is like a “daily war”: “But you get used to it”, says Ivan, while pulling his transport cart without resting. For others it is more difficult, and exasperation waits around every corner just while going to the grocery: “We don’t walk anymore, I am old and I struggle with my grocery bags. And then I get angry seeing all these people eating on the steps of the churches”, says Alessandra Pieruzzo, retired, at the exit of the supermarket at Santa Marina.

There are those who would challenge the rudeness. Giovanna Zanella has sold handmade shoes for 23 years at San Lio: “I would support a fixed number of visitors. If I go to a famous doctor I have to wait in line for a visit. Venice is unique and delicate; it should be safeguarded and managed carefully”.

Another problem is motorboat waves, born from the same problem of overcrowding: “There are now highways on the water; I use my rowboat but now I am afraid. The historic city center should be free of the motorboats. It’s a question of security”.

Tourism, he continues, is a resource. Therefore it is welcome. However there should be an agreement that it be civil and informed. Likewise it should be agreed that there be controls and fines in cases of transgressions: “This is because it is effective when you reach into people’s pockets”, concludes Zanella. Eleonora, owner of a newsstand at Santa Marina, feels the absence of the authorities: “As Venetians, we feel alone and not cared for”.

The same discussion goes for store rentals. Often owned by Venetians, store rents are raised for greater profit. Feeling the results are local stores and artisans. Someone has proposed a maximum ceiling based on the property’s income: “Thus we could guarantee a free market, but at the same time we could govern it. Otherwise the big firms will have won for good”.

If the number of visitors grows, the earnings diminish. “More people, less money”, summarizes a restaurant owner at San Zulian. “For me, as a businessman” explains the owner of the stand at Rialto, “I say: I don’t need thousands of people, just twenty who spend money. More than just the turnstiles, which damage our image, we should incentivize those who come to visit the museums, churches, exhibits”, he concludes. People go for savings on beds, food and souvenirs, but not for a ride in a gondola. “Work” says a gondolier “has increased. Certainly we also see the stupid behavior every day”. But if this has many causes, difficult to decipher, the real challenge for Venice is something else. This is what the director of the Hotel Splendid thinks: “Raise the quality of what is offered here to attract a more select public”.

Source: La Nuova Venezia, 23 August 2018

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