Craftsmen’s Association warns: “We are destroying Venice”

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“We, our generation, are succeeding at something that the French and the Turks failed to do: destroying Venice”

By Eugenio Pendolini

16 February 2019

“We have every intention of getting political. We want to know if the artisans can start a cultural and socio-economic revolution that will save Venice from a relentless China”. If this isn’t a march in the streets, it comes very close. And Gianni De Checchi, director of Confartigianato Venezia, has no intention of hiding it. The occasion was the presentation of the statistical report “Arriffaraffa” yesterday afternoon at Ateneo Veneto: a year of research which lays bare the drama of the numbers that involve – in a common fatal destiny – the inhabitants as much as the artisan businesses.

The position taken by De Checchi, then, is that of a group that includes, only in the historic city, 1600 members. It’s a true political manifesto, which addresses the critical points for the city: housing/livability, rents, tourism. And it spares no one, if it’s true that “we have to go back 15 to 20 years to find strategic interventions that can be called by that name”. To tell the truth, De Checchi, feels that something good was done recently. He’s referring to the new entrance fee: “It has potential – he said, while members of the majority and the opposition sat at Ca’ Farsetti – but only if it serves to establish a maximum threshold for entries”. However, the Crafstmen see the situation as quite serious: Venice is losing the complex web of functions that make a city. “The structure of the city is being reduced – continues De Checchi – towards fewer, identical functions. We, our generation, are succeeding at something that the French and the Turks failed to do: destroying Venice”.

It is a tangible collapse, as Enrico Vettore (manager of the Categorie di Confartigianato) explains. From the 1963 to 2018, artisan businesses in Venice have dropped from 2,588 to 1,087. The decline is in line with that of the residents, who have gone from 129,468 to around 50,000. But in this fall there is a particularity: while artisan businesses connected to tourist demand dropped “only” 10%, those related to the needs of the city (hairdressers, plumbers, shoemakers) have plummeted 72%. According to the artisans there are three reasons: the residential collapse after the “acqua granda” of 1966 and on; the elimination of the restrictions of the change of use of real estate (from 2016 to 2017 the number of non-hotel tourist beds grew by 9,000 units); and the boom in takeout, pizza by the slice and kebab shops (+38% in 10 years). For the artisans there is also the sword of Damocles of possible eviction hanging over them: only one in three owns the property in which they work. Besides this there is a generational exchange that is not happening: compared to 2002, the median age of the artisans has gone up by 6 years (those under 40 represent just 9.7%).

It falls to the politician, and not to private citizens, to change the trend. Convinced of this is Francesco Giavazzi, professor of economics and opinion writer: “There are many interests at play, and many citizens who pay attention to the particulars. A project that is complementary to tourism is required”. There is also the risk, as Giorgio Brunetti (professor of business economics) concludes, that Venice will be reduced to being a brand only: “And instead, there is this unique model of life, only in the lagoon, with such human rhythms between the water and the land, which makes us unique in the world. We can’t allow all this to become just a memory”.

Source: La Nuova Venezia


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