2 October 2019, Venezia
I’ve just walked around some of Venice for the first time in over a year and a half. If you’ve been here before (and if you’re reading this there is a good chance you have), but not in some years, I can tell you the transformation of the city is very evident. What I saw today is what I’ve been reading about – and posting here on this page – for years, but it is one thing to read about one issue or another, one at a time: the cumulative effect, on the other hand, is very striking.
If the complaint is that Venice is being turned into an amusement or theme park, then I would have to say that in some areas, such as Lista di Spagna, the transformation is now complete. In that area, and around Canareggio I saw infinite tourist trinket stores, bars, tourist restaurants, the infamous ‘blue box’ ATMs, and even the most recent development I haven’t had time to post about yet – unmanned baggage deposits (also with ATMs) where once were stores. Local stores have closed all over. Even in the Ghetto there is only one remaining Jewish art shop, and the art gallery that had my name (Rosenberg) is gone too.
If you read the stories I post here then I need not go on. But I must stress that what is happening is real, and insidious – the monoculture of tourism is spreading through the city, rapidly, like a cancer that displaces healthy tissue of all kinds to make room for its own singular malignancy.
Then I turned the corner on to Fondamenta della Miseracordia and I saw a man teaching his young children to row the boat they were in together. I saw that at least some local shops that I recognized were still there, and was happy to be able to stop in for a coffee at the lovely, and still relatively new (locally owned) bookshop/café, Sullaluna. A bit later I saw all the children playing in campo del Ghetto Nuovo, and with all this I remembered that there is still hope, there is always hope.
Which brings me to the upcoming referendum (see today’s earlier post). For those of us that do not live here the upcoming referendum may be something of an abstraction. There is a fairly pitched battle between proponents of Si and No developing, and many reasons and arguments on both sides. However, in my view there is one overarching and fundamental reason to support the separation of Venice and Mestre, and it touches at the very heart of democracy and the right to fair representation. Under the current system, the voters in Venice are outnumbered by those in Mestre by almost 3 to 1. There are few Venetians in local government, and the Mayor and his administration are all from the mainland. Thus the remaining citizens of Venice are denied fair representation by such a system. Only by reversing the joining of the two cities, brought together in the 1920s under the Fascists, can Venetians hope to elect their own people, from their own city, to their own government.
I don’t propose that separation and autonomy would mean the instant reversal in the current crises in Venice. Far from it. Too many interests, including those of the Regional government and the State are involved to make this more than a first step. Nevertheless, giving Venice a chance to govern itself is not only the fair and right thing to be done, but it would also give the citizens a chance to overcome their current status, brutally relegated to being bystanders to the exploitation and destruction of their own beloved city and livelihoods, and watching the cancer spread with no way to stop it.
[Ed. Note: this piece is not news, of course, but only my thoughts as I arrive in Venice three years since this blog was launched. The picture above was used in the first and only video I made, in September 2016 -]
4 thoughts on “A walk in Venice, finding change, loss and hope. A personal reflection.”
Venice needs to be independent. I have bee to this great city many times and its needs—the needs of its citizens—are unique.
I have been visiting Venice since 1972, having lived in Padova for four years at that time. I have had the joy of wandering through quiet, local areas, sitting on benches watching bambini playing calciò under the watchful
eyes of i nonni and having long conversations with shop owners, some who even invited me into their workshops.
It has been painful to see the bottlenecks of tourists pushing each other while racing to and from San Marco. It is no longer safe for i vecchi to stroll arm in arm chatting while they make their daily rounds. I could go on. It has turned into a check off destination rather than a place to slow down, absorb and discover the culture, history, delights, mysteries and magic of La Serenissima.
I fully support any effort to save the uniqueness of Venice,.
In bocca al lupo!
What an excellent, moving and reflective post. I shall be walking the city next month and hope I can find ways to write what I find as eloquently as the writer of this piece. Is this referendum the final chance to turn the tragic tide?
Many thanks for your kind words. I rarely offer my own thoughts on this site, but was certainly moved to do so after being away for a year and half and seeing the changes. I hope you enjoy your walks in the city, and the pleasant sensation of entering a campo where there are no restaurants or bars – and they do still exist. As to the referendum, many people feel that this is the last chance for Venice, but just as many people feel the opposite. My discussions with people on this topic left me with many questions, the main one being – who will lead should the city become autonomous again? This, and what will/could happen next are far from clear. But, after all, we are talking about Venezia, perhaps the world capital of ambiguity. We all love it just the same.