Venetians unite to reclaim 'theme park' city
Saturday 26 January 2008
Venice has long struggled to live with its own success. As the tourists pour in, peaking early next week with the start of the annual carnival, residents of the city have been pouring out. The population has been on the slide since the mid-1950s and today stands at 60,000, half what it was at the time of the great flood of 1966.
Ideas for checking the tourist influx include putting a tax on visitors, but the tourist industry, which has a turnover of €12bn (£9bn) a year, resists it strongly.
So residents either put up with the inconvenience – the disappearance of neighbourhood groceries, the closure of schools, the replacement of useful shops and services by pizzerias and bad tourist trattorias, the high prices of everything, the overcrowding of the vaporettos which are the city's only public transport – or they move out.
Increasingly they are voting with their feet. And Venice pays the intangible but high price of growing ever more dead, ever more like Disneyland.
But now the residents are fighting back. Last week the city's mayor Massimo Cacciari inaugurated the first vaporetto line reserved for use by holders of a card called Carta Venezia. The card costs €40 – essentially assuring that day trippers won't buy it – and card holders pay €1 for each individual ride.
Inaugurating the service of vaporetto No 3, the director general of the city's transport authority Marcello Panettoni, said: "With this line we add six journeys up and down the canal per hour to those already scheduled to go up and down the Grand Canal, which means one vaporetto arriving on average every three minutes during rush hours. We want to try to make life in Venice better for those who use the city habitually."
And Venetians are beginning to organise themselves to improve the quality of life in the city, with more than 300 professional fortysomethings uniting through a new social networking website called 40 x Venezia to share ideas about what can be done to keep people living happily in the city.
For all its high costs and inconveniences Venice remains a city, as La Stampa newspaper pointed out, "which has the advantages of being without cars, with few dangers, and with plenty of working opportunities for those willing to use their brains and imagination".
"We're not young but we are not old yet," said Martina Mian, one of the founders of 40 x Venezia, "and now is the moment to do something for the city". Only four months old, the group so far has remained a talking shop. Its initiatives are somewhat abstract but what marks this out is that it is emphatically apolitical, even anti-political. "Among us there are people of the right, the left and the centre," said Ms Mian. "Ours is a generation that has had little involvement in politics. We are not interested in getting positions on the council, we are interested in giving this city a future."
But they will have their work cut out. A reality check was supplied by Graziano Arici, a Venice native and celebrated photographer. "I've never heard of this group," he said, "and the idea a new vaporetto will improve city life is ridiculous. We've got all the old problems, and they're getting worse. The cost of living is getting higher and higher. And the population is getting older. In a few years Venetians will simply die out."
Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again
Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 35,000 walrus gather on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
- 5 Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Jennifer Lawrence nude photos leak: More celebrities allegedly targeted as third wave of hacked images released
Cheryl Cole named 'the most dangerous celebrity' on the internet
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
Former Tory donor Arron Banks ups his Ukip donation to £1million following William Hague 'nobody' comment
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
- < Previous
- Next >
£33000 - £34000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Technology Teacher (Resis...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...
£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...