Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me the Venetians deserve everything they get.

They say that if you present Venetians with a solution they will produce a problem; however if you spend enough time in Venice it becomes clear that they are their own worst enemies. Not only have they deserted the city – because of rising house prices and the lack of non-tourist professions – but the ones who didn't complain continually about the nature of their mass-market tourism. But what did they expect? They started it.

The biggest problem here – as they never tire of telling you – is the day-trippers, who pour into the city for 10 months of the year (December and January are the seriously dead months, and the only time you should ever really think about going) but who simply walk around for free, dropping litter, possibly picking up a pizza and a Coke for lunch and occasionally taking a canal bus or a shared gondola. Hotel occupancies remain flat, and if you walk around St Mark's Square after 9pm it's empty, as all the fly-by-nights have gone back to their cheap hotels in Treviso or their holiday homes in Tuscany.

The Venetians are fighting back, but they're fighting amongst themselves, too. There has been talk of initiating a tax on visitors, but then the residents can't agree with the tourist industry over a pricing structure. Three hundred professional fortysomethings have united to form a social networking site called "40 x Venezia" to encourage people to stay and move here, while the bulk of the 59,700 residents who don't belong to it find it rather laughable.

And as they squabble, the city sinks (admittedly it's only 3mm a year, but imagine if your child was shrinking by the same amount). Suspended between earth and sky, Venice is still the most glorious city in all Europe. When the morning sun clips the spires and domes, and you see the hundreds of Japanese Grand Tourers queuing up to see the alabaster disciples (all 14 of them) inside St Mark's Cathedral, or the vaporetto buses cruising beside the Peggy Guggenheim museum, and then go inside to stare at Fortunato Depero's 1917 Portrait of Gilbert Clavel, you feel like forgiving the city anything.

Forgiving the Venetians, however, is another matter altogether.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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