Sunday, September 25, 2005

Missing Venice

I'm sitting in front of my computer, wondering what I should post about Venice. And I couldn't think of a thing. I'm going back to Italy in a few weeks, but--gasp--I'm not going to Venice! I'm going to Tuscany....

I'm going to walk from San Gimignano to Siena, then I'm to Rome. I'm excited, but I'm also missing Venice. So, I went through my photos and posted a favorite view. Hope you enjoy it. I promise to look for something more interesting and will post it shortly.

While I'm working on that, I'll post a few of my favorite photos. Here's one that caught my eye. Got any idea of where it is? Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Keeping Track of the Cruise Ships

Many of us have stood in Venice and watched, with dismay, as a huge cruise ship lumbered past San Marco, dwarfing everything around it. Now you can keep track of them and, if you live in Venice, prepare for the hordes of tourists that will soon be released from the bowels of the boat. Thanks to Weird Venice reader Tom Winkle for sending me this info:

"Go to and register for the public site. This is a worldwide website that provides real-time information on ship movements in many of the world's ports. It tracks ships by their Automatic Identification System transponder; an international requirement since late last year. The real-time site is subscription only due to terrorist concerns. The public site has at least an hour's delay built in and will not display any information beyond ship name, type and radio call sign. (The AIS system will display much more: origin, destination, IMO number, course, speed, etc.)

"By now you are probably asking, 'What the HECK does this have to do with Venice?!?' Simple! You can see exactly how many cruise ships have descended on 'our fair city.' It's interesting to observe the comings and goings. By clicking on the ship names in the list on the lower left, it circles the ship on the display and shows name, type of ship and its call sign. Cruise ship names are rather distinctive, so they're easy to pick out. When you click on one in the list, it will display 'passenger' under type." Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 12, 2005

No Speeding (Watch Out for the Helicopter)

The Venetian government is escalating its crackdown on speeders on the Grand Canal. According to Buongiorno Venezia, the town, has rented a helicopter for two months to enable local police to locate those who exceed the speed limit. Deputy Mayor Michele Vianello said, "It's an exceptional way to locate offenders. They are filmed and their position is relayed to the lagoon patrols who stop them to issue the fine. What I saw from above was a shameful thing. Nobody, with very rare exceptions, observes the speed limit. With this system, nobody will be able to get away with it."
 Posted by Picasa

Golden Lion Goes to Brokeback Mountain

Film about gay cowboys beats Clooney's entry
(ANSA) - Venice, September 10 -

Ang Lee's film about gay cowboys, Brokeback Mountain, won the top Golden Lion prize at the 62nd Venice Film Festival.

The Silver Lion for best director was awarded to Philippe Garrel for his film Les Amants Reguliers.

David Strathairn won the Volpe Cup for best actor for his role in George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck, while Italy's Giovanni Mezzogiorno won the prize for best actress for her performance in Cristina Comencini's La Bestia nel Cuore (The Beast in the Heart).

Abel Ferrara's Italian-produced film Mary received the special jury prize.

Good Night and Good Luck, which had been a favorite to win the Golden Lion, also received the prize for best screenplay, which went to Clooney and Grant Haslov.

The Marcello Mastroianni Prize for best performance by a new actor or actress was given to Menothy Cesar for Vers le Sud by Laurent Cantet.

French actress Isabelle Huppert was given a special Lion for her "extraordinary contribution to cinema."

The Horizons Prize was won by Lech Kowallski's East of Paradise, Gela Babluani's 13 (Tzameti) won the Luigi De Laurentis prize for best first film, while Xiaozhan (Small Station) was voted best short.

Special Mention was given to Leon Prudovsky for Layla Afel.

© Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Clooney Gets a Cocktail

I think we all need a drink. And why not try a "Buona Notte," Venice's newest drink, which was created at the Hotel Cipriani. Here's an article from (Germany) that includes the recipe:

Hotel Cipriani Concocts New Cocktail in Honour of Clooney's New Film
On returning to the Hotel Cipriani after a special screening of his new film “Good Night, Good Luck” at the 62nd Venice Film Festival, George Clooney asked his old friend and head barman of the hotel's Gabbiano Bar, Walter Bolzonella, to mix him a cocktail.

Walter concocted a refreshing blend of diced lemon, sugar, vodka, cranberry juice, ginger and angostura bitters, which he christened "Buona Notte" in honour of the film which Clooney directed and stars in.

The cocktail was an instant hit. Clooney and friends enjoyed more than one that evening and "Buona Notte" is now a permanent fixture on the Hotel Cipriani bar menu costing EUR 20.

The recipe for the "Buona Notte" cocktail is as follows:
- ½ unpeeled lemon, diced into small pieces
- a tablespoon of cane sugar
- a strip of cucumber peel
- a ginger round
- 3-4 drops of angostura
- Pestle well, then add:
- 50g of Vodka
- 50g of cranberry juice
- Complete with ice flakes.
Serve in an old-fashioned glass with a straw.

Hotel Cipriani is set in the tranquil location of Giudecca Island across the lagoon and is just 5 minutes by complimentary shuttle boat from Piazza San Marco. This week, the Hotel Cipriani was voted the best hotel in Europe, Asia Minor and the Russian Federation in the "Overseas Leisure Hotels" category by readers of Condé Nast Traveller.

Let me know how it tastes!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Venice Dam Works Hit by New Protest

Demonstrators Invade Work Site Shouting, 'Let's Save Venice'
(ANSA) - Venice, September 5

An ambitious project to save Venice from the sea was hit by an anticapitalist protest on Tuesday. About 200 young anti-globalists staged a sit-in at the site where preliminary works are under way on the MOSE barrier scheme.

They sounded car-horns, shouted slogans and waved banners saying Let's Stop The Eco-Monster and Mose Is Eating Up Venice.

The protest - which lasted about an hour - came a day afer Veneto Governor Giancarlo Galan warned Venice "could suffer the fate of New Orleans" if a centre-left government comes to power next year.

He claimed any new centre-left government would pull the plug on a project that "offers the only hope of making Venice and its lagoon safe for good." The governor of the region around Venice said that the catastrophic floods that have displaced thousands in New Orleans were caused by a lack of political foresight and the forces of Nature.

Similarly, he claimed that if former premier Romano Prodi's centre-left coalition gets in next year, anti-barrier policies and ever higher tides could combine to push Venice into the Adriatic.

Galan's statement stirred a wave of protests from opponents of the plan who believe only alternative projects can save Venice.

Ever since its conception, the scheme has had supporters and opponents. MOSE is a biblical reference to Moses' parting of the seas and an acronym for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico (experimental electro mechanical module. Last month an environmentalists' report said the project violated European Union environmental directives regarding sites of European importance.

Another report identified 19 violations of municipal, regional and European environmental laws.

The two reports, however, failed to halt work on the project, which has been going ahead for a few months.

The Moses project comprises 79 barriers, designed to rise from the seabed to block the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea when high tides are forecast.

The threat to Venice appears to be increasing as heavier rains have hit northern Italy in recent years, weather experts say.

Scientists have conceived various ways of warding off the waters since a dramatic 1966 flood. In the end, MOSE was approved.

Experts say there are three main reasons for high water in the city: the rising floor in the lagoon caused by incoming silt; the undermining of the islands by the extraction of methane gas in the sea off Venice; and the overall increase in sea levels caused by global warming.

After 30 years of debate and testing, MOSE was inaugurated by Premier Silvio Berlusconi in May 2003 but work is still in the preliminary stages.

The centre-right government in Rome has adopted MOSE as one of the jewels in its nationwide crown of major infrastructural projects but it has long been a source of contention within Venice.

It is opposed by environmentalists, conservation groups and a large number of citizens, angry over the costs involved and concerned at the environmental impact. They say the cash - some 3.4 billion euros - could be put towards more effective, cheaper and less damaging schemes.

Despite a series of legal challenges and widely covered demonstrations, a ruling last year by the regional administrative court gave definitive clearance for the project's go-ahead.

Combined with positive assessments from the Venice Water Authority, the Commission to Safeguard Venice, several teams of international experts and the municipal council's own implacable support for the scheme, environmentalists appeared to be fighting a losing battle.

Only a turnaround in the attitude of city authorities would offer fresh hope to MOSE's critics.

The project's completion date has been put at 2011.

© Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved

Monday, September 05, 2005

Donate Your Miles

In the last day or two I've been seeing news articles that say Venice could possibly suffer the same fate as New Orleans. Or how New Orleans should be rebuilt as a U.S. Venice with canals instead of streets.

Interesting speculation, but let's not forget that hundreds of thousands of people are without family, homes, and jobs. Let's not forget that these people (in the entire region, not just New Orleans) need our help. Here's a painless way to help: donate your frequent flyer miles to the Red Cross or another charity.

This is what the Red Cross website ( has to say:

America West
FlightFund members may donate their miles in 5000-mile increments into the Miles of Hope program. FlightFund members who wish to participate in this program should call the FlightFund Service Center at 1-800-247-5691 or visit the America West web site.

Continental Airlines
Continental's frequent flyers may donate their OnePass miles online by visiting the airline's web site ( Or, customers may make a donation by phone by calling 713-952-1630 (choose option 4 to speak with a customer service representative).

Delta Air Lines
Delta Airlines has generously supported the Red Cross over the years by allowing its customers to donate their frequent flyer miles. The Red Cross was privileged to be Delta's "charity of the quarter" for a three month period in 2000, during which we were highlighted on their web site. Since then, while not specifically mentioned by name on their web site, it remains possible for Delta customers to donate miles to the Red Cross by phone, fax, e-mail or regular mail.

To make a donation through SkyMiles OneSource Automated Telephone System, call 1-800-325-3999. Have your SkyMiles account number and PIN available when calling. To donate miles by mail, e-mail or FAX, please prepare your request in writing making sure to include the following information:

* Your SkyMiles account number,
* The amount of mileage you wish to donate, and
* The name of the organization you want to receive your donation.
* Delta will make sure your miles get to the charity you've indicated.

By e-mail:

By fax: 404-773-1945

By mail: Delta Air Lines, Inc.,
SkyMiles Service Center, Dept. 745
P.O. Box 20532
Atlanta, GA 30320-2532

Whether you donate by phone or in writing, the donated mileage will be automatically deducted from your account and reflected on your next mileage summary.

For More Information:

Northwest Airlines
WorldPerks members wishing to contribute miles to the American Red Cross may contact Northwest directly at 1-800-327-2881. Please note that the initial donation must be a minimum of 5,000 miles and larger donations may be made in 1,000-mile increments. Get more information here:

As part of its AirCares program, Northwest Airlines runs a promotion through which its customers can donate $50 to the Red Cross and receive 500 WorldPerks bonus frequent flyer miles in return. Interested donors should make their contribution directly to the Red Cross. Upon receiving their donation receipt from the Red Cross, donors can forward it, with their WorldPerks account number, to Northwest to have their frequent flyer account credited by the airline. For more information on this promotion, contact Northwest directly at 1-800-327-2881 or write to:

Northwest Airlines
601 Oak Street
Chisholm, MN 55719

United Airlines
Mileage Plus members can make donations to the American Red Cross through United Airline's Mileage Plus Charity program. The minimum mileage requirement for a donation is 1,000 miles and all donated miles will be used strictly for disaster-related travel. All donations should be made through the Mileage Plus Service Center by calling 1-800-421-4655. Get more information here:,,1363,00.html.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the American Red Cross provide free flights through airline agreements for people requiring travel due to medical needs, family deaths or other reasons? The miles donated through these agreements are accepted and utilized solely for disaster-related travel purposes in support of Red Cross disaster response. Travel assistance to families that have been affected by disasters is handled through individual case work and needs assessments, which are performed by national disaster personnel or local Red Cross chapters.

The Red Cross often receives requests to use these donated air miles from individuals in need of free travel assistance due to a medical or other personal emergency, such as a death in the family. Due to the restrictions noted above, miles donated to the Red Cross cannot be opened up to individuals or groups with travel needs that are beyond the scope of the Red Cross mission.

There are organizations whose missions support certain types of emergency travel. We are pleased to provide a referral link to an assortment of travel assistance organizations ( that can provide help to those seeking donated travel. The information provided for each organization includes the scope of their work (whether they provide services nationally or just in a particular region), a description of their services and mission, and phone numbers and web site address, when available.

Some agencies specialize in the type of travel assistance they provide, such as medical transport only, while others will arrange emergency transportation for a variety of crisis situations. Refer to the descriptions provided or visit the agency web sites to determine the specific travel needs each supports.

**Please note that these are referrals only and do not guarantee assistance from these organizations in any way.

If you'd like to donate to another organization working on the Hurricane Katrina clean-up/rebuilding, visit your airline's website. Most of them have instructions on how you can donate your miles.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Prompts Planning in Europe

By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press Writer

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - The disaster came in 1953.

A powerful storm breached sea dikes in the south of the Netherlands, killing more than 1,800 people and cementing a deep resolve among the Dutch that their ancient enemy--water--would never kill again.

So the government launched a massive project to upgrade its ancient system of dikes and dunes. The crown jewel, a chain of 40-foot-tall steel walls suspended by piers in the open sea, was completed in the 1980s and cost today's equivalent of $3.1 billion. It is considered among the world's best defenses against flooding.

Also-vulnerable Venice, Italy, is putting a similar system in place. But the deluge in New Orleans has prompted Europeans to wonder if their sophisticated protections-- or any--will ever be enough.

For the waterlogged Netherlands, whose very name means "the low-lying country," the worst-case scenario would be far more devastating than Hurricane Katrina, entailing a tidal wave strong enough to penetrate the nation's coastal barriers.

The chance of such a disaster is seen as remote. But floods have happened many times in Dutch history, and no one doubts one could happen again--under the right conditions.

"Rationally, you know it can happen, but you pray it never does," said Peter Dolen, the head of the Interior Ministry's Risk and Crisis Communication Center. "You can draw up any plan you like from behind your desk, but you know it's going to be different in reality."

Nearly half the Netherlands is under sea level, and two-thirds of its 16 million population lives in those areas. Even Amsterdam's famous canals lie more than six feet below the sea. Yet evacuation is a last resort. Written into Dutch law is the requirement that the coastal dikes be able to withstand the fiercest storm imaginable.

"It would come in the winter, at high tide on a new moon," said Henk van der Brink of the Royal Dutch Weather Institute, whose models are used by the country's dike engineers. "Two big storms would join together to form a single storm of a much greater magnitude--the 'perfect storm.'"

A similar confluence last happened on Feb. 1, 1953, with gale-force northwesterly winds, a sudden squall and an unusually high tide. The sea rushed into the Dutch countryside, resulting in the flood known here simply as "`the disaster."

"It was so sudden it caught everyone completely by surprise. There was no time to prepare," says researcher Toon Franken of the Zeeland Archives in the city of Middelburg, where the disaster hit hardest.

In Venice, the last big flood was on Nov. 4, 1966, when sea waters rose nearly six feet above normal. Some 3,000 people were evacuated.

Aiming for better defenses, Italy launched its $4 billion "Moses" project, named for the biblical figure who parted the Red Sea. It envisions hinged barriers built on the Adriatic seabed that would rise when high tides threaten the city, said Monica Ambrosini at the New Venice Consortium, the agency overseeing the project. Completion is expected by 2010-2011.

"We're not protected from an extraordinary event," Ambrosini said. "Let's hope that it does not arrive before we finish."

Venetians themselves are more relaxed. They already live with constant minor flooding, thanks to the notorious "acqua alta," or high tide. Tourists and residents alike don rubber boots when canals spill over onto the cobblestones.

As in Amsterdam, sirens in Venice should warn people of impending disaster well in advance. Plus, the area is not prone to the hurricanes that regularly pummel the United States or cataclysmic tsunami like the one that hit Asia in December.

"I am astounded by the images of New Orleans. This is something you cannot and will not see here," said Paolo Canestrelli, director of Venice's tidal forecast center.

Today, the Netherlands is spending $3.7 billion on new projects, in addition to $620 million spent annually on maintaining the current system, farmed out to engineering firms like Boskalis NV and BAM Group NV.

One construction company, Dura Vermeer, has made a profitable business out of building houses that float.

The latest defense plan, "Living with Water," involves working with the forces of nature. Engineers dump sand onto beaches or just offshore in areas deemed most vulnerable, harnessing the natural power of waves to mold the sand over time into new, protective dunes. The technique is gradually replacing the coastal dikes the Dutch have been building since 500 B.C.

River flooding is seen as a less catastrophic but more likely danger. The Rhine and Maas, which flooded twice in the 1990s, are being broadened in spots. Rather than raising the banks against overflow, buildings are being cleared to make "room for the river."

Plans also are in place to bulldoze holes in some dikes during emergencies to flood sparsely populated farmland and lessen dangers elsewhere.

"Water can be a nice friend sometimes, but will always remain an enemy," said Willem Nuis, mayor of Tholen, a town of 24,000 where the 1953 flood killed 166 people. "For us, it was the worst thing that happened here since the Middle Ages."


Associated Press writers Frances D'Emilio in Venice and Aidan Lewis and Ariel David in Rome contributed to this story.


More Hurricane Help: Blog for Relief Day

Weird Venice is participating in "Hurricane Katrina: Blog for Relief Day," today Thursday, September 1. It's a day of blogging focused on raising awareness of and funds for relief efforts to aid those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

I'm having trouble making the links work, so to contribute, you'll have to do it manually. Go to the Katrina Relief Day website at Follow the links to make your contribution. It's easy and you get to select the organization/charity that should receive you donation. I'm suggesting foodbanks, but please give to any. Then, be sure to go to the "log in your contributions" section on the main page and enter the info.

Grazie tante.

Save Venice NY Lecture Series

The NY Chapter of Save Venice, Inc. recently announced the details of its Fall/Winter 2005 lecture series. Here's the program:

#1. The Venetian Dilemma on Wednesday, September 21, 2005
A film directed and produced by Carole and Richard Rifkind examining the modern problems faced by an ancient city and its residents. A discussion will follow. [I saw this film on PBS and it's excellent. I'll be there that night.]

#2. Between Palazzo Barbaro and Palazzo Venier dei Leoni: Patrons, Artists, and Divas on Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Discover how women patrons, writers, artists, and divas shaped Venice’s cultural and social scene from the mid-19th century to the second half of the 20th century. The presentation includes rare film clips of Venice dating back to 1905.

#3. Return of the Fenice on Wednesday, November 30, 2005
A breathtaking film documenting the restoration of the Fenice Theater including footage of the fire, reconstruction of the building, and the recreation of the detailed interior elements.

All lectures will be held in NYC and start at 6:30 p.m. A full-series subscription cost $90 per person. Tickets to inividual lectures are $35 per person. For more information, or to make reservations, contact the Save Venice office in New York. Tel: 212-737-3141

To learn more about Save Venice, Inc., use the link on the left.