The city was first invaded by tourists, then by the acqua granda, and is now spectrally deserted: how will it be afterwards?
[Ed. Note: the following is the first entry in a new series running in La Nuova Venezia, soliciting ideas on Venice’s future after the epidemic. After the introduction is one of the first essays, by Alberto Vitucci, a reporter a La Nuova Venezia whose name should be familiar to readers of this site, for the many stories of his, in particular regarding MoSE, that appear here.]
VENEZIA. Tuesday, March 24, 2020. After weeks of debate in the papers, online and in social media, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro appears at a press conference and says: “after this emergency we will have to change our model of development based on tourism. To move towards fiber and teleworking.”
This is what everyone thinks, that nothing will be like before. They think it, and they say it. That goes for our lives, and it goes for our city. Everything has been emptied, now everything is spectral and beautiful. But Venice is different. Because you can see Padova, or Verona, or Trieste semi-deserted on a summer Sunday – rarely, but it happens. But Venice, like this, we’ve never seen this before.
Ideas for postwar Venice
A newspaper is a reflection of its community. It finds itself in it, just as the community finds itself in its newspaper of reference. The project meant to open a collective discussion around the city that we will see when the emergency is over has an intentionally strong title: “Ideas for postwar Venice”. This is not catastrophizing, but the awareness – which is not yet shared heritage – that we will come out the coronavirus with ruins that will not be of palazzi crushed by bombs, but of families crushed by morning they could not even observe, of economies crushed by the general shut down, and lives that will have to be rebuilt with difficulty.
Venice of the tourists, the turnstiles, the Grandi Navi, the tides and its culture, nature and of Mose: where will this Venice go tomorrow? Over time we will post the links to the interventions which we collect along this path, which we hope are interesting and ripe with projects.
What follows is our second contribution to this new series:
Rethink the city, the tourism-based economy has collapsed.
By Alberto Vitucci
A city to be rethought. Suddenly empty after having been assaulted for years by tens of millions of tourists. The “new idea of development” has become mandatory, after the total war declared by the invisible enemy, the coronavirus. It is also reached Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, in general a tenacious defender of the tourist economy. “We will start again within a year”, he said, “it’s clear that the model has to be rethought”.
The idea already making its way is that of the network. Work in cultures that travel over the web, e-commerce and teleworking, unfortunately “obligatory” during these days of isolation and quarantine. “Thanks to the cabling of the city”, repeated Brugnaro, “fiber and high-speed connections will soon be available. From there we can begin work on a new idea development. New businesses can be formed, with new forms of sales”. This is been spoken of for years, but now the health “requirement” might help turn the page. What city in the world is more adapted to teleworking if there’s no longer the physical need to move from one part to the other?
The Venetian center for new businesses in e-commerce, E culture and others becomes competitive. The digital future can be an opportunity, and no longer only optional or just a place to repeat gossip from the bar. “It’s an experience”, said Brugnaro, “which thousands of Venetians who are working at home have been living for weeks. There are businesses that do everything electronically, meetings included”.
It’s music to the ears of those who have said for years that the future of the former Serenissima cannot be completely connected to tourism. Now, suddenly, the 30 million annual tourists have vanished in a moment. But thousands of tourist sector workers and small businesses, in large part foreign, have also disappeared. It’s an economy destined to return, sooner or later. But when, nobody knows.
Meanwhile, the city must be rethought. For the first time since the post-World War II period the Biennale, the Regattas, sports and cultural gatherings have been canceled. A wiped-out world. It’s happening everywhere, not only in our country. But in the lagoon it makes a certain impression not seeing boats circulate anymore. Building yards closed and deserted, workers laid off, when not left at home to wait to see what happens. Rowing athletes stopped. In an unprecedented decision, the Vogalonga has been canceled. The sign of the ancient city’s rebirth, created to protest against moto ondoso, has become one of the most famous manifestations of Venetianness in the world. Thousands participate, on board watercraft of all types. The virus has wiped this out too.
The Palio of the ancient maritime Republics is postponed until September. This hasn’t happened since 1956, the year of its foundation. Just as for now the 2020 growing season has been mothballed. Open-air sport is allowed, but contact is prohibited. The waters of the bacino San Marco, like those of the North lagoon in the canals that bring tourism to the islands, Burano, Murano and Torcello, are empty. Motorboats are docked, taxis have disappeared, and tourist ferries have also stopped. The city has gone from an invasion to the massacre of innocents. The canal Grande no longer seems the same, and not only because the waters are calm and clear and the traffic gone, but because you can see it without even a gondola, the symbol of Venice in the world.
The virus and the collapse of tourism have brought about an epochal change, which perhaps will persist even after the end of the epidemic. And it will require new recipes.
Source: La Nuova Venezia