MoSE and the sick joke of Coronavirus: Venice is dry but the stores are empty

After almost thirty years, with the dams raised, Venetians imagined a definitive return to normality, without acqua alta. Instead, the pandemic has again upended daily life.

By Francesco Gottardi

4 December 2020

VENEZIA. Venice stayed dry, or almost. Only the frozen rain and a strong wind hit the city of water on Wednesday morning: for the fourth time – a month and a half since the last one – MoSE was activated, and the expected peak tide of 130 centimeters stayed out of the lagoon. The joke? Citizens and merchants could only partially take advantage of the technology.

The usual structural damage has been avoided, and that is no small achievement. But the streets are half deserted, shops are closed, and it feels like a “ghost town” – the combined effects of the DCPMs [the orders for Covid-19 related restrictions on movement and gatherings, etc. – Ed.] and bad weather. So the entire area of Rialto and San Giacometo, traditionally among the lowest areas of the historic city, had to contend with a Canal Grande swelling with the wind, but never overflowing.

The banks are safe, resistant. Commercial activities, not so much. Other than bars and supermarkets, it is take-out pizzerias and sandwich shops that are weathering the blow: “It’s not because we’re making a profit”, they explain in Dorsoduro. “Staying open in this period still means taking a loss, especially over holidays. But to stop everything today would have even worse repercussions when trying to reopen one day”.

Those who do not have an urgent need to dispose of the goods they have stored in the warehouse give way to silence. Passing through each sestiere, the stores speak of an economy on its knees. “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs appear everywhere, lights are off if not shutters lowered. Nobody is safe; you need only go for a walk at the Mercerie: dodging the passersby to clear a path is a distant memory.

Here the showcases of the big brands still glitter. Only in appearance, however: all decked out, it is as though they are crystallized, awaiting the return of employees and clients. In a moment you come out into Piazza San Marco. The marble and mosaics of the Basilica are breathing, saved from the salt water after a terrible year. But outside all that is missing is the tumbleweed rolling across the desert: the wind howls through the tents and the stacked passarelle – today finally not needed – the historic cafes on the arcade seem like fossils – with their doors closed since last November 9 they cannot enjoy the water that didn’t arrive. In the Piazzetta there is the stylized Christmas tree that will be lit in the coming days: until then, so black and bare, it appears to be in mourning with the surrounding environment. These are two images that bring home a vivid reality. Then there is the inevitable presence of the curious few: it’s a perfect day to photograph Venezia clothed in the grey of winter.

The restoration work on the Procuratie Vecchie never had to stop, with the dams raised at the mouths of the port. “Everything has gone as planned”, commented the police who are stationed at San Marco. “The water level settled around 70 centimeters and even the lowest area of the city remained perfectly protected. During the morning just a little water accumulated around the storm drains in the Piazza. But this was more because of the falling rain than from the tide”. All that remained were puddles, the scars of the previous flood. But instead for Venetians, the wounds are still open.


Source: La Nuova Venezia

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