Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cross-Dressing Cop Sacked

I couldn't ask for a better story to end the year, Weird Venice at its best....


Man wore mini- skirt, skimpy top off duty around Venice
(ANSA) - Venice, December 28 - An Italian police officer has been sacked for cross-dressing when not on duty.

The unidentified officer, a deputy superintendent, was fired after he was seen on several occasions in Venice city centre wearing a mini-skirt, long earrings and a skimpy T-shirt aimed at showing off his navel.

The man tried to get his job back by appealing to a local court, arguing that his off-duty apparel was his own business.

But the judges upheld the dismissal.

In announcing its decision to sack the officer, the local police chief said the man had shown "total disrespect for the force and no sense of honour or moral values".

The officer's neighbours had also complained about his habit of washing his car in his swimming trunks, which he sometimes removed, the police said.

The photo is from news and accompanies the story on their website.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Silent Nights in St. Mark's

"It's odd that so few tourists go to Venice for Christmas. But their absence - and with them the proprietors of a thousand souvenir stalls - is the winter visitor's gain."

That's how "Silent Night in St. Mark's," which was published last year in the UK's Guardian begins.

It's a nice article--check it out. (I'm repeating the photo because I took it--you can see me in the reflection--and I like it!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Happy Holidays!

What are you doing reading this blog? You should be decorating the tree, wrapping the presents, or (if you're a procrastinator) shopping!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Weird Venice will return in January.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Rare Collection--of Mushroom DNA--in Venice

Yes, mushrooms. Fungi, which according to my dictionary includes mushrooms, toadstools and moulds. "28,000 samples of fungi that represent 6,000 species - many of which are quite rare - are housed at the Venice Museum of Natural History [part of the Musei Civici Veneziani], a partner with UC Berkeley for this ambitious project. The collection also is one of the largest in Europe." The samples are going to be used to build a huge DNA database, which will be used for research into plant diseases, forests, etc. The project is expected to be finished by the end of next year.

Here's a link to an article about the collection.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Do You Dream of Spending the Holidays in Venice?

If you dream of spending the holidays in Venice, check out these tips. It's on Dream of Italy, a great blog/newsletter, which is an "insider's guide to undiscovered Italy." Lots of good reading and excellent tips. Check out their holiday gift subscriptions. Sometimes you have to realize there is a lot more to Italy than Venice....

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Too Crowded?

I love webcams and can't understand why there aren't more of them in Venice. This is from one of my favorites. It's in Piazza San Marco and, as you can see, the piazza is deserted! So if you want to have San Marco all to yourself, go there very late on a Sunday night/early Monday morning (I've done it and it's an experience you'll remember forever).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Love the Pigeons?

Many people, including me (here on this blog) have denigrated pigeons, especially the pigeons in Piazza San Marco. After reading this column at, I may have to change my mind.

"If you're like most people -- and especially if you're like most city dwellers -- you probably get a bit skeeved out just hearing the word. Pigeons? They might not be vermin -- not exactly -- but they aren't too far up the ladder, either. They eat trash. They crap everywhere. Stupid. Filthy. Rats with wings. Right? Sorry, but not quite. In fact, not even close. And thanks to Andrew Blechman's consistently engaging and surprising new book, 'Pigeons,' the seemingly dull, unlovely members of the Columbidae family -- or, rather, their idiosyncratic and intensely loyal human proponents -- now have a handy arsenal of lively anecdotes and plain old facts (heads up, wisenheimers: Pigeons are doves) with which to defend their long-maligned feathered friends."

Maybe pigeons are more than "rats with wings." Let us know if you read the book--and change your mind about pigeons!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Photo of the Day

I took this photo on the 22nd of November 2002.

I went to Venice to experience the Feast of Santa Maria della Salute. It's a unique Venetian holiday which celebrates/honors the Mary for saving Venice from the plague in 1630. If you remember your guidebooks, Salute was built to commemorate Mary's intervention.

A temporary bridge is placed over the Grand Canal (I'll have to post a photo of in) and a procession goes from San Marco, across the bridge and to the cathedral. In 2002, I was in the middle of the procession. After I got to the church, it took another 10 minutes for the rest of the procession to arrive--that's how many people were marching! A very moving evening.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Venice in the NY Times This Weekend

This has been quite a Venetian weekend in the New York Times. Three articles:

1. In the Travel Section, Venice in 36 Hours (with one mistake about flying from New York. Despite what the article says, you can fly direct. Delta has one flight a day that goes non-stop, direct to Venice.)

2. The Curator, about Nancy Spector who is
not only responsible for curating contemporary art at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, but it was also her controversial decision to select the artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres for the American Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale.

3. Holiday Books: Venice--
The story of Palladio’s conquest of Venice and his promotion by a coterie of aristocratic patrons is the story of Tracy E. Cooper’s massively documented and beautifully illustrated book, PALLADIO’S VENICE: Architecture and Society in a Renaissance Republic (Yale University, $65).

4. Naked in the Marketplace: The Lives of George Sand (in the Book Review section):
Sand did help Musset through a serious illness when they were together in Venice, and although she also managed to have an affair with his doctor, the episode demonstrates the degree to which, as Eisler puts it, 'the maternal and the erotic were one' for her.

Enjoy! You may have to register for access to the site.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Prehistoric Venice" Uncovered Near Pompeii

This comes from news:

2006-11-28 18:05
Mythical canal city emerges
'Prehistoric Venice' comes to light near Pompeii
NAPLES (ANSA) An ancient canal city is emerging outside Pompeii, Italian archaeologists say.

Recent digs have unearthed traces of the mythical Sarrasti people, previously known only from Etruscan descriptions.

A large dock has been found, anchored by huge poles and linked to a series of canals dating back to the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1600 BC).

Huts and other wooden structures have been uncovered, perfectly preserved in the age-old mud - making the site unique in Italy.

"We like to call this settlement Italy's 'prehistoric Venice'," said Pompeii archeological superintendent Pietro Giovanni Guzzo.

Archeologists have also found some of the artefacts that made the site at Longola near Pompeii famous in the ancient world, Guzzo said.

"We have oak canoes. We have countless objects carved out of animal horn and bone, as well as bronze and ceramic pieces," Guzzo said, predicting that Longola would "soon have a tourist site all of its own".

The latest object taken out of the soil was a long, strong, tapered pickaxe-like tool.

"This looks like it did a lot of the donkey work at this hard-working, prosperous city," Guzzo said.

"It symbolizes the strength of the Sarrasti," he said, showing the pick to reporters.

The Sarrasti are believed to have dominated the area around the Sarno river until the arrival of the Greeks and Etruscans.

Historians say the city at Longola survived until the foundation of Pompeii in the Sixth Century BC.

The photo comes from the article on

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Holiday Presents

Since here in the US, the holiday shopping season has officially started, I thought I'd offer a few suggestions.

The first is a great present for anyone headed to Italy, especially those going for the first time. Italy: Instructions for Use: The Personal, On-site Assistant for the Enthusiastic but Inexperienced Traveler by Nan McElroy. Nan, according to the book jacket, "has been traveling, eating and living in Italy as often as possible since 1995." (Nan now lives in Venice.)

I have Instructions for Use in front of me as I type this. It's 110 pages of useful information from how do you pronounce things in Italian to shopping and eating. It also has ten tips for the American traveler. My favorite? "Sometimes there's nothing to be done." You can buy the book at or Barnes&

Nan, an American living in Venice, also has a great blog (her latest post describes a pasta-making session).

Can't get enough Venice? Do you really miss it when you're gone? If so, take a look at the photography of Andrea Zanatta (thanks to Nan for turning me onto his work). I agree with the blurb in his book that says he is "one of the most interesting photographers of the young generation in Italy." Put Andrea's book on your Christmas list, or it to your favorite Venice fan. You can buy Andrea's book at

Who says you can't get good food in Venice? That's a common (misguided) complaint I hear about Venice. Chow Venice: Savoring the Food and Wine of La Serenissima, (Second Edition) makes a great gift for people hunting for good meals in Venice. Co-authors Shannon Essa and Ruth Edenbaum only print reviews of restaurants/bars they've eaten in--and enjoyed. The second edition is due on December 15th--plenty of time to wrap. Order from or Barnes& .

Finally, this isn't Venetian, but it's a great taste of Italy. Olio Nuovo, or just crushed olive oil. I can safely post this because my order is already in! If you have never tasted just-crushed olive oil, you're in for a treat. It's like nothing you get in a supermarket! If you'd like to treat yourself or give a really nice gift, check out Casa de Case's website and get your order in fast. [Dec. 13 NOTE: Too late--the olive oil is sold out. And too bad if you missed out because it's wonderful. I've been enjoying mine and I'm not sharing!]

Note: I'm not getting paid by any of these people. I know them (but they don't know I'm posting this) and have enjoyed these things (before I knew them!). I'd be happy to get any of them as a gift and think the Italy/Venice fans in your life would enjoy them too.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Government Says No to Tourist Tax


Government scraps proposed tourist tax.
The government has scrapped plans for a tourist tax, which would have allowed Italian towns and cities to add €5 per day to foreign visitors' hotel bills.

The withdrawal of the levy from the 2007 budget was met with relief by both the national and international tourism associations and operators, particularly smaller local companies, who feared that this would have dissuaded foreigners from visiting Italy. Culture and tourism Minister Francesco Rutelli has expressed his support for the U-turn, commenting on the government's “wise decision”.

Italy's most popular tourist destinations, Rome, Florence and Venice, had previously shown support for the proposed tourist tax as a means for improving and maintaining monuments, tourist facilities and services and keeping the cities clean and orderly.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Clock Tower Opens to Visitors!

(from AGI) - Venice, Oct. 31 - The Clock Tower reopens to the public and offers - on reservation and with a specialised guide - an extraordinary visit of one hour including a close observation of the complex mechanisms of the clock a splendid view from the balcony on St. Mark square and on the whole city. Upon reservation, the entrance is free of charge for Venetians from 4 to 12 November 2006 at all working hours; from 13 November 2006 to 31 March 2007, upon request, from 4.00 pm. There can be a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12 visitors. Visits are possible every day (besides 25 December and 1 January) with a fixed schedule. The visit is available only on reservation and with a specialised guide and it covers the five floors of the tower. After the first stairs made of stone the visitor approaches a small room that illustrates the history of the tower. From here it is interesting to observe the interplay of pulleys, weights and counterweights that rise and fall silently at regular intervals. After a winding metal staircase, the visitor approaches the complex Clock Machine. It can be closely observed and an explanation of its principal functions is provided. Another staircase leads to an upper floor where there are wooden statues of the Magi and the Angel, as well as two precious doors from which, on the occasion of Epiphany and Ascension Day, the statues join the procession. From here it is also possible to see the internal mechanism of 'Ta'mbure' of the nineteenth century with the digital indication of hours and minutes. One floor up and the visitor arrives in a room full of ancient objects belonging to the machine, which was made in the 15th century. From here the visitor accedes to two lateral balconies and through yet another winding staircase, to the terrace of the Mori where one can admire huge statues, as well as a splendid vista of Venice and the lagoon."

I'll be in Venice next week for a few days--I hope I'm successful in getting a tour!

The photo is from FlickR.

40th Anniversary of Great Flood Coming Up

November 4th will be the 40th anniversary of the flood that made people pay attention.

"The trouble began on November 4, 1966, when an extremely high tide swept into Venice and refused to leave. For 15 hours, Venice was inundated by the sea. In historic Saint Mark's Square the water was four feet deep. Luckily, no one was killed. But the place was a disaster zone.

"In a single day, the city and the world were forced to face a harsh reality: Venice was sinking into the sea.

"Today flooding has become a fact of life. Instead of floating above the water, the 15th and 16th century buildings are often filled with it, and the ancient bricks are gradually dissolving away." (From Nova, "The Sinking City of Venice)

I took this photo in November 2002. When I took it, the water in San Marco was knee deep. I couldn't imagine what it looked like under 4 feet of water!

The Nova website, Sinking City of Venice, has lots of information on the flooding problem. You can also read the transcript to their show, "The Sinking City of Venice."

The VENETO INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE, LETTERS AND ART in Campo Santo Stefano is going to hold a conference called, "Is There a Future for Venice? Reflections 40 years after the 1966 flood." It will be on Nov. 2 at 10 AM. Contributors include Ignazio Musu, Gherardo Ortalli, Andrea Rinaldo and Wolfgang Wolters.

Sorry for the late notice, but I just found out about it. If anyone attends, please give us a report.

Information, Veneto Institute of Science, Letters and Art, tel. Web site:

Florence will be remembering a different, deadly flood on November 3. "At 5am on November 3, 1966 the skies over Tuscany opened and poured non-stop for 18 hours, causing an unprecedented artistic, economic and human disaster. The River Arno burst its banks, flooded the city and claimed 29 lives.

Mud and water swamped the museums, churches and libraries of the birthplace of the Renaissance, ruining many great works.

The damage caused was incalculable. But it was a fraction of the devastation the city would have suffered without the efforts of thousands of young volunteers who came from all over Italy and from abroad to save the art treasures and help Florence off its knees." (From

More than 2,000 of those volunteers are scheduled to return to Florence for 100 different events focusing on the flood.

Let's hope these two great cities never face such disasters again!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Three Dimensional Map Being Made

From AGI Online--an interesting story about a tri-dimensional map of Venice is being made. Can't wait to see it!


(AGI) - Venice, Oct. 17 - Satellite and laser techniques will be used to provide a complete and through scanning of Venice calli, campielli and fondamente, an unusual tri-dimensional map soon available on the internet and available for everyone. The Ramses project organised by Insula, the Venitian company dealing with the recovery and the safety of the city, has now started: it is an original project that will carry out the complete tri-dimensional representation of the pavements of Venice historical centre. The planimetry and the altimetry of the various parts of Venice will be surveyed with thorough precision (single centimetre after centimetre, and not every 10 centimetres like they used to do in the past). A precise knowledge concerning the pavements will allow the municipality to predict the extension of areas that can be affected by high waters, to calculate the distance between houses and to optimise the utilisation of trestle bridges for permitting the transfer of people and goods. The administration will also be able to use a photographic and planimetric survey for its maintenance works of water, sewer, electric and telephone networks present in the delicate underground of the historical centre.
COPYRIGHTS 2002-2006 AGI S.p.A.

Photo: 42-16491185 Corbis Royalty Free Photograph
And...a few weeks ago, I wrote about the 10,000th visit being made to Weird Venice. Well, we've blown through that and are closing in on 12,000! Thanks to all who've been visiting!

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Lately I've been reading about crowds in Venice, in all of Italy actually. If this photo from the webcam is any indication, there are some crowds.

Anybody in Venice today? Did you run into crowds?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Get Ready to Pay to Play in Venice

As the following article says, a tourist tax may be coming to visitors to Venice. It's fine with me; I don't mind paying for the privilege of spending time in Venice. I think people who come in for the day should be charged 10 euro!

Venice prepares to tax tourists--Mayor says it's the only way city can stay afloat (ANSA) - Venice, October 2, 2006

Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari said on Monday that a tax on tourists visiting the lagoon city was definitely on the cards.

Cacciari said that 2007 budget plans approved in Rome this weekend by the centre-left government appeared to contain practically no funds for Venice, either for routine work or special projects such as the Moses flood barriers.

But it does contain a provision for 'city taxes', allowing municipal authorities to impose a levy of up to five euros a night on tourists.

This could prove a useful way of lessening Venice's cash problems, Cacciari said.

"We'll see what form to give it but it was inevitable that we would move in this direction. We'd already decided on something like this anyway," Cacciari said.

The mayor said his administration has already discussed such a toll with representatives of the tourism sector, who agreed that it was necessary if the city was to deal with the volume of tourism it now attracts.

Some 15 million people visit Italy's most romantic city every year, bringing in cash but also stretching its infrastructure and resources to the limit.

"The money from this tax must be used to improve services, for example transport or street cleaning," Cacciari said, adding that on Saturday the council would discuss possible approaches.

Venice receives special funding from the Italian government partly because of its status as an important city of culture and tourism, but also because of the specific problems connected to the fact that it is gradually sinking into the lagoon. Certain important restoration initiatives are also paid for by Save Venice, a New York-based organisation which collects funds from people who love the city and want to preserve it.

Cacciari complained that the government's new budget seemed to have ignored projects which had already been approved in the area of restoration work and home building for Venice's inhabitants.

"To keep the current projects going we need at least 100 million euros," he said.

He also said the government had "gone silent" on the matter of the Moses flood barrier system devised to protect the city from increasingly frequent high tides.

Part of the costly system is already in place and, in the wake of recent opposition to it, urgent decisions need to be taken on whether it should continue, the mayor said.

These decisions could only be made if the government organised meetings immediately with experts and local administrators, he said.

© Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Happy 10,000!

I must confess--I'm late to my own party!!! Sometime in the early hours of September 12, Weird Venice had its 10,00th visitor! Since then, the sitemeter's been clicking and we're closing in to 11,000. Thanks everyone--I love having you visit.

Special thanks to the photographer, Peter Fox Harrison, for use of this great fireworks photo. Here's Peter's story about the photo: "The photo is a composite of two shots. The first was taken in Venice in April 2005 on a Wednesday at dusk. The camera was a Nikon D70, exposure was about 15 seconds at f16. The fireworks are in the UK on November 5, 2005 in a dark cold muddy field at my local pub. I was standing on my own on top of a hill while my friends huddled around a warm bonfire, exposure probably a couple of seconds f8. The Venetian sky was ok but nothing special, so I had the idea of putting a firework behind the campanile in Photoshop, to make it more striking. I dropped a few firework shots in until I found one that worked."

It works--and I think it's the perfect photo to celebate 10,000! Now I'm gong to sit back and enjoy the fireworkds. To see more of Peter's work, go to

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pigeon Problems (Again)

I can't ignore it any longer. The story posted below is showing up in papers all over the world. So I figured I'd join in and post it here. I've never been able to understand why people what to have pigeons climb all over them. What about pigeon poop on your clothes or in your hair? Yuck.

September 14, 2006
Tourists love them, but Venice wants to clean up lagoon city's pigeons

VENICE, Italy (AP) - Just a handful of corn and the pigeons of St. Mark's Square swoop.

Nothing says "I've been to Venice" better than a photo snapped with pigeons perched on arms, shoulders, head, breast. Multiply that by, perhaps, a million times a year.

The constant feeding has created a pigeon problem in the lagoon city and feathers are flying. The pigeons are dirty. They carry disease. They are ruining the city's glorious facades and spreading filth in the piazzas. And the mayor wants action.

"In Venice we have a difficult problem, because the birds find food everywhere, and there are millions of tourists who want to take pictures with them," said Mario Scattolin, the top environmental official for the city of 800,000. "We're a small city with a huge influx of tourists."

No one knows for sure how many pigeons live in Venice's 6.4 square kilometres but the city estimates 40,000. About one-third of them pass through St. Mark's Square on any given day, Scattolin said.

Five of them perched one sunny afternoon on Constanta Aurel's outstretched arms, three on the right and two on the left. Then another settled snugly on her breast. The tourist from Romania squealed as her husband, Nicolae, shot pictures.

"It's a marvellous picture," he said. "Tourists come here to see the birds and the church. I think it's a big part of the attraction."

Venice already rounds up pigeons regularly and kills the sick ones but that doesn't seem to stem their numbers. Other attempts have included introducing contraceptives to their food supply and birds that eat their eggs.

The animal rights group LAV says the most effective method is to feed them less. But that would mean shutting down the corn vendors at St. Mark's. "They're a powerful lobby," said Massimo Vitturi, an LAV spokesman.

Still, nothing's impossible. London managed to curtail pigeon-feeding at Trafalgar Square, over strenuous public objections, and Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari is also determined to project a cleaner image of his city. A new pigeon census is planned, with recommendations on population control due by year's end, Scattolin said.

But two separate ordinances appear to be at odds with each other. One forbids the feeding of pigeons. The other grants concessions to sell bags of corn to tourists - 100 grams for US$1.30).

"There have been pigeons in St. Mark's Square for a thousand years," said vendor Gianni Favin. "To see the piazza without pigeons is like seeing a tree without its leaves."

"It's not true that the pigeons are ruining the buildings," he said, motioning to a grimy arcade front. "That black is caused by smog."

Nineteen families live off the corn sales, Favin says, working two shifts a day at nine stands, with one vendor off each day. On a nice day he makes more than US$10, he says, on a rainy day, a tenth of that.

"I understand there are too many birds and that they are dirty," he said. "The city makes us pick up the bags. We do it for inconsiderate people but we can't keep on top of all the trash," he said, walking into the piazza to pick up a discarded paper sack. "Where are the city sweepers?"

Favin says if the city revokes their licences, the vendors will do what the sellers of counterfeit purses do - throw out a blanket with their wares and grab them up whenever a police officer appears.

Geoffrey Humphries, a British-born artist, sat in the piazza painting a watercolour of St. Mark's Basilica for an exhibit next month in Washington, D.C. "I first came here 40 years ago, and at 2 p.m., the bells would ring and a city employee would come with a bucket and feed the birds," Humphries said. "So my canvas would all be covered in feathers."

He's all for diminishing the pigeon population. "They are flying vermin."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dreary Day

It looks like a rainy day in Venice today. This is from the Citta de Venezia webcam. Anyone in San Marco this morning?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Biennale Features Ideas to Rebuild New Orleans

From the Turkish Daily News:

"After the flood: Building on higher ground" shows 10 projects designed by nine Americans and a Turkish architect to reconstruct New Orleans which was flooded when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city on Aug. 29, 2005, overpowering protective barriers that buckled under the huge weight of water.

"A year ago, just after the hurricane, the city was devastated and there were (rebuilding) initiatives in every which direction. We launched this competition to make people work together on a post-Katrina architecture," the exhibition's curator Christian Bruun told AFP.

"This is not just about a basic reconstruction. The whole relationship between architecture and the environment must be reconsidered," he said.

"New Orleans is condemned to flooding and hurricanes so we should explore new ideas and use new technologies so that for once and for all we find a solution to allow people to live there," Bruun said.

Among the projects displayed on the pavilion's walls is an adaptable house on stilts sitting three meters (yards) above ground.

Another architect imagined a house that would rise above the ground only when a weather alert had been issued.

Follow the link at the top of this post to read the entire story.

To find out more about the Biennale, go to its website.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Chinese Film, Affleck and Mirren Win at the Film Festival

Chinese Movie, Affleck Win Venice Prizes
Sep 9, 6:27 PM (ET) By LUCA BRUNO

VENICE, Italy (AP) - The Chinese movie "Still Life," a surprise entry set against the backdrop of China's gigantic Three Gorges Dam project, on Saturday won this year's Golden Lion - the top award at the Venice Film Festival. Helen Mirren and Ben Affleck took the top acting awards.

Mirren was named best actress for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears' "The Queen." Affleck won best actor for his role in Allen Coulter's "Hollywoodland," which dramatizes an investigation into the death of George Reeves, star of the 1950s TV show "Adventures of Superman."

To read the full story, go to My Way News.

Photo of the Golden Lion comes from the La Biennale website.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Closing in on 10,000!

On July 25, 2005, I added Site Meter to Weird Venice to keep track visits. After all, I wanted to see if anyone was reading this blog. (Site Meter tracks page views and visits. It doesn't give any personal information or e-mail addresses of visitors. I don't know who's visiting. I just know how many and where their servers are located.)

I was gratified to see that other people shared my interest in Venice. It's been fun watching the number of visitors and which country they're located in. I like to see how far Weird Venice is traveling. Today, Highett, Victoria in Australia wins--it's 10,392 miles away!

Lately I've been very excited when I look at Site Meter because in the next week or two Weird Venice will receive its 10,000th visitor! Keep coming back--you could be number 10,000 (or 10,001).

Thanks to each and every one of you!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Translation Tool

I just found a really useful google feature--you can use it to translate text from English to Italian (other languages are available, too). I've only tried a few translations of short phrases, so I'm not sure how it works on newspaper articles or longer length text. Check it out!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another Crazy Boat Story

Every so often a story about a boat run amuck crosses my desk. This one come from Buongiorno Venezia (a great source for Venice stories and info).

CURIO. An event that might have ended in tragedy had, everyone admitted, its funny aspects. Because of improper rigging during an unloading operation, the pilot of a boat was tossed overboard. That is quite normal in Venice. But, since the engine was running and the boat wasn't moored properly either, it began to spin in a circle with the propeller coming dangerously close to the pilot and another person who tried to board the boat but... missed. Acting as if it were "frightened", the boat knocked against the banks and the other boats, creating confusion among the gondolas moored nearby in Bacino Orseolo, the most crowded "stazio" (gondola mooring) in Venice. The scene continued for half an hour under the curious gaze of hundreds of tourists until the fire department arrived and secured the craft.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Venice Regatta

Today was Regatta day in Venice. I've always wanted to witness one. Instead, I watched it via webcam today (there's a link to this Grand Canal webcam on the right). Not quite the same as being there. The photo is one that I took from the webcam. Any eyewitnesses?

For more of a discussion about the location of the webcam, go to the Slow Travel forum.

New Look--Like It?

I've been making a few changes in the way Weird Venice looks. Do you like it? Let me know what you think!

Caffe Florian Goes Worldwide

Want a good cup of coffee? No need to go to Venice anymore. As our friends from Buongiorno Venezia report in the following article, Caffe Florian has expanded far beyond Piazza San Marco. They're now serving coffee in Florence--and soon to open in Abu Dubai, Moscow, Beijing, and Toyko. No word if the prices will be the same...

"Starting a few days ago, the Caffé Florian, while not the only historic coffee house that has made an impression in St. Mark's Square for 280 years, became a brand name. About a month ago, a Caffé Florian opened in Florence and yet another in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and the next will be located in Dubai. Others are expected in Moscow, Beijing, and Tokyo, where the trademark was just registered. The cities are the most varied in the world, but the ambience inside each cafe will be the same, and the products for sale -- coffee, tea, and chocolate, as well as crystals and perfume -- will rigorously adhere to the Florian brand's standards. The fittings of each cafe will re-create the famous calm and elegant Venetian way of life."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Venice to Become the First City in the World to Charge Admission?

When talking about the impact tourism has on Venice, many people compare it to Disneyland. Well, you pay to get into Disneyland, why not pay to get into Venice? The following from the NZHerald online, says there's been some serious discussion about an "entrance charge." How much would you pay for admission to Venice? Gee, maybe they should read Venezia Due (see my August 13th posting).

Venice may be first city to charge entrance fee

1.00pm Friday August 18, 2006
By Peter Popham

Venice may soon become the first city in Italy to charge tourists for the pleasure of visiting it as authorities look to the introduction of an 'entrance charge' to offset the damage done to the unique architecture by hordes of holidaymakers.

The idea of a compulsory fee for the city that receives some 16 million visitors per year has been in the air for months now.

But this week the city's mayor, Massimo Cacciari, indicated for the first time that it is under serious consideration.

"The great tourist centres have the problem of sustaining the costs of maintenance and conservation caused by the massive presence of guests," Mr. Cacciari told Panorama, a news weekly.

With nearly 50,000 tourists pouring through the city every day, he went on, "people who use the city's services and make it dirty...Venice is in difficulties. If a subsidy from the state is out of the question, we will be obliged to think of a new entrance tax or something of the sort."

Mr. Cacciari presented the idea of a visitor tax as a last resort.

But when the idea was first mooted earlier this year by the British economist John Kay, it was envisaged as a prudent way of managing tourism in a city which far more people may want to visit in the near future.

"If we regard Venice as one of the crown jewels of Western European civilisation," he told a conference in June, "and we should, we want as many tourists as possible to go there. The issue is how to accommodate, indeed to promote, such cultural tourism without letting tourists destroy what it is that people go to visit."

With "2.5 billion people in China and India alone whose incomes might within 50 years be comparable with ours," he pointed out, "...the number of people who will want to see Venice, and who will be able to afford to see it, might very plausibly expand by a factor of three or more over the next few decades."

Pointing out that "12 million people a year pay 50 euros a year to visit Eurodisney," he said, "If the Disney Corporation owned Venice, Venice would no longer be in peril."

While Professor Kay floats the figure of 50 euros (NZ$100) per visitor, and Anna Somers Cocks of the Venice in Peril Fund suggests 10 euros ($20), the Venetian authorities will not be drawn.

The admission that a scheme to charge visitors is on the table comes in the context of a wave of enthusiasm for admission charges to major cities, the idea pioneered on a large scale by London's Ken Livingstone.

Milan's new centre-right mayor Letizia Moratti this week announced that Italy's biggest city will impose a "pollution charge" on all vehicles entering the city from next year, which will be more than the 3 euros proposed by her predecessor but less than London's £8 ($23).

Since 19 June Bologna, home town of prime minister Romano Prodi, has been charging 5 euros ($10) per day for vehicles entering the historic centre.

Another Italian tourist trap, the Aeolian islands off the coast of Tuscany which include the isle of Elba, has decided to try to reduce the number of summer visitors from the unsustainable number of 150,000 by imposing a 5 euro ($10) charge from next year.

While a consensus on charging tourists to visit Venice seems close, the arguments are likely to rage over what to do with the money.

Mr Cacciari implies that he would expect the money to offset the cost of providing municipal services like rubbish collection.

But Professor Kay and Anna Somers Cocks would like the money to be funneled into the troubled "Moses" flood barrier system.

The barriers, now under construction, will rise to block the high tides that frequently inundate the city.

But earlier this month the Prodi government indicated that there was a 3 billion euro ($6b) shortfall in the budget to build them.

As Professor Kay put it, "The gates let the tourists in could pay for the gates that keep the waters out."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Book Report: Venezia Due

I thought that in the coming months, I might do a weird-book report or two. I'm going to start with The Second Venice (Venezia Due) by Askin Ozcan.

I am taking down the original post because Prof. Ozcan protested. I am also deleting his comments about my review. The gist of my post was: I didn't think the book was very good, although I really liked the premise (two huge American corporations build a "second Venice" near the real one). In return, Prof Ozcan said I was, among other things, a "poor reviewer."

I'm sorry if I offended Prof. Ozcan and, to avoid further bad feelings, I took it down. I am not chaning my opinion of the book, however. But, I did break one of my rules: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. In the future, to avoid unintentionally hurting the author, I won't write about a book that I don't like. (hey, I know how it feels--I've had some bad reviews...)

I'm sorry, Prof. Ozcan.

A housekeeping note: I'm not going to be able to visit Weird Venice for the next week. So, in order to prevent spammers from flooding the site, I'm disabling the comments function. So save your comments for September! Enjoy the rest of the summer.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

63rd Venice Film Festival

The 63rd International Venice Film Festival, organized by the Venice Biennale, starts soon. It runs from August 30 to September 9th, on the Lido.

According to the Biennale's website, "The aim of the Festival is to encourage the awareness and the promotion of all the various aspects of international cinema as art, entertainment and industry, in a spirit of freedom and tolerance. The Festival will include retrospectives and homages to major figures as a contribution towards a better awareness of the history of cinema."

The Festival includes three major section: In Competition, Out of Competition, and Horizons.

In Competition
A maximum of 20 feature films in 35mm and digital format

Out of Competition
Works by directors already established in past editions of the Festival, and films deemed appropriate for a midnight screening

New trends in cinema

To see the films that are going to be shown in the competition, check out the lineup.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Gilmour's Concert Rescheduled for This Weekend

David Gilmour reschedules Venice gigs
David Gilmour had to make some last-minute changes to his itinerary over the weekend, because of unsafe staging. Gilmour was supposed to play in the legendary Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy on Friday and Saturday (August 4th and 5th), but a support column on the stage buckled on Friday afternoon, and both shows were postponed for the safety of the performers and the audience. The Pink Floyd legend, his promoter, and the local Venice government were able to reschedule the shows for this coming weekend (Friday, August 11th, and Saturday, August 12th), and fans will be able to choose which concert they want to attend, with no added fees or surcharges.

Gilmour is quite familiar with the area. In July 1989, Pink Floyd played a concert nearby on a floating stage, and drew a crowd of about 200,000. Local leaders were said to be less than thrilled by the behavior of that audience, especially with their drug use, littering, and vandalism.

The Rock Radio online

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pink Floyd Member's Concert Cancelled

David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd fame, cancelled two shows he was due to perform at San Marco. As the press release below (from, cracks were discovered, making the stage unsafe.


2006-08-06 16:38:09 -

PINK FLOYD star DAVID GILMOUR has been forced to axe two concerts in Italy over fears the historic venue's stage would collapse.

Gilmour was due to perform in Venice's St Mark's Square this weekend (04-05AUG06) but cancelled the shows hours before after a sound check revealed a structural defect.

The rocker has rescheduled the gigs for next weekend (11-12AUG06) and adds, "Our most sincere apologies to all those who were supposed to attend these shows this weekend.

"A structural defect was discovered in the scaffolding just before the sound check this evening, which has rendered the whole stage structure unsafe." It is the second time Gilmour has courted controversy in the city. In 1989 a televised Pink Floyd concert drew twice as many fans as planned and saw damage caused to columns of the Basilica and the Ducal Palace. Two Venice councillors were later ordered to stand trial for the costs incurred by the show.

Press release:

Monday, July 31, 2006

Torcello's Population Increases by 1!

From our friends at Buongiorno Venezia: news of a new baby on Torcello!

"There's good news for Torcello, the little island near Burano in the northern lagoon. On 18 July, after 26 barren years, there was a new birth. The newborn is named Federica, and she is the daughter of a young married couple who, just a few months ago, moved from the nearby island of Mazzorbo after being assigned as caretakers of the church of Torcello. It may require a certain dedication to live and to raise their children on an island like Torcello, where the (now) fifteen inhabitants lack any modern conveniences. There isn't a single shop, not to mention pharmacy or doctor, and for every necessity they have to travel to Burano. Buona fortuna, Federica!" Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Great Gondola Site

I got curious about "Ente Gondola" mentioned in the article in the previous posting. So I did a bit of googling and found the Ente Gondola website. It has great photos of gondoliers and info on renting gondolas, why they're black, gondola weddings and funerals, and advice on selecting your gondolier (and lots more).

Gondolas Going Back to the Basic Look

Wow! Where did the month go? Sorry I haven't been keeping Weird Venice up-to-date. I got a new job and, while I really like it, is keeping me busy. I hope this article about gondolas going back to the basics (from our friends at ANSA) makes up for the lag. Anyone been to Venice lately? Got any stories to share?

New rules will cut tacky tourist trappings (ANSA) - Venice, July 25 - Venice's gondolas are set to go back to basics, shedding the glitzy trappings recently tacked on to lure tourists.

The city's gondola association has drawn up guidelines aimed at eliminating "a tasteless and tacky free-for-all."

The body is poised to bar "the garish cushions, multi-coloured seating and flashy decorations which have appeared in recent years."

The question of gondola styling has been on the agenda since last summer, when traditionalists rebelled against a growing trend to glam up the historic boats. "I'm glad tradition has prevailed," association chief Roberto Puppi said Tuesday.

"It shows gondoliers are serious about keeping up the high standards of their calling.

"Clients often prefer a flamboyant craft but the boat has a history and characteristics that must be upheld."

Under the new rules, statuettes on prows and sterns will be cut in number and size and stripped of the gold leaf that has crept in over the last decade.

Seat backs and cushions will have to be made of plain leather, outlawing fancier materials.

Colour-wise, gondoliers will have a choice of black, dark blue or purple for their interiors.

All other parts of the boat must be black.

The drive to apply traditional standards will not cover ceremonial boats used for romantic occasions, which may still carry the ornate and colourful wooden cabins - called 'felze' - that have always kept riverborne Venetians away from prying eyes.

"But the common-or-garden gondola has to recover characteristics in keeping with its history and iconography," Puppi stressed. The proposed return to sobriety will be put to the city council shortly.

Once the new norms are approved, the city's 400 or so gondoliers will have to stick to them under threat of losing their licenses.

In another move, Venice's gondola agency, Ente Gondola, is bringing in new apprenticeships for aspiring gondoliers.

The courses are "aimed at making sure new generations aren't just skilled boatsmen but also know their culture," said Ente Gondola President Antonio Iannotta. The six-month apprencticeships will ensure youngsters are well versed in gondola history and secrets as well as Venetian history and art, he said.

Until now, the main focus of gondolier schools has been making sure apprentices could handle the fine art of gondola-steering.

Black, banana-shaped gondolas have been used to ferry people and goods about the lagoon city for at least a millennium.

They developed over the centuries in response to the Venetians' need for a light, manoeuvrable transport vessel which could be steered around islands and canals by a single person

� Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 26, 2006

THE CANALS ARE CLOGGED! CHINESE SEAWEED INVADES VENICE! (even though it's a serious problem, I had to chuckle when I saw the seaweed described as a "tagliatelle-like weed.")

Venice battles seaweed invasion
Venice is bracing itself for its summer tourist invasion, but an unwelcome newcomer has joined the thousands of visitors filling the Italian city.

This unwanted guest is a huge seaweed, originally from China, that grows up to three metres long.

The advent of summer means it is thriving in the warm shallow waters of the lagoon, near the city.

Scientists are warning that if left to its own devices it could clog up the city's famous canals.

Locals ousted

Researchers say the voracious weed, undaria pinnatifidaea, it was probably brought to the Adriatic accidentally by a ship that dumped bilge water into the sea.

From the Adriatic it spread into the nearby lagoon and has now reached as far as the city itself.

The tagliatelle-like weed is so big and invasive that it leaves little space for local species.

Biologists at Venice's Natural History Museum say that while the seaweed is unlikely to damage the city's historic buildings because it does not have roots, it is almost impossible to destroy and the only answer may be to find another foreign predator to eat it.

The seaweed is the second invader to make Venice its home in recent years. Filipino clams have already virtually wiped out local species in the lagoon.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/06/24 13:23:20 GMT

� BBC MMVI Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Who Took My Sidebar???

You may notice that the left side of the page is blank. My sidebar has disappeared. i'm trying to find out why and to get it back. If you took it, please return!

Wow! That's fast service. I posted the message and went to look at the blog. What'da you know? My sidebar came back. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Non-Stop Flights from Atlanta to Venice

I hate going to JFK airport. But I'll do it to take the non-stop Delta flight to Venice. I can leave on a Friday night and be in my apartment in Venice in time for lunch the next day. Now, if you live in Atlanta, you can enjoy a non-top. From our friends at Buongiorno Venezia:

Americans are arriving in Venice in ever greater numbers. As confirmation of this two weeks ago, a third non-stop flight was inaugurated between the U.S. and Venice. As of Wednesday 7 June, there has been a daily link between Venice and Atlanta, adding to the daily flights from New York and Philadelphia. Delta is the carrier on the Atlanta and New York routes, while U.S. Air flies from Philadelphia. For the occasion, the new American ambassador to Italy, Ronald P. Spogli, arrived in Venice for the first time and, during his inaugural address, underlined the fondness of Americans for Venice and Veneto. He supported his assertion by pointing out that the new flight, originally scheduled only for the summer months, was extended year 'round.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Venice Looks for an Alternative to MOSES

From our friends at

Venice considers its options
Push for alternatives to costly flood barrier system (ANSA) - Venice, June 6 -
The city of Venice has asked the government to consider alternatives to the expensive mobile flood barriers that are currently being constructed at the entrances to the lagoon.

After 30 years of debate and testing, work began on the 'Moses' flood barriers in 2003. The massive construction project, due to be completed in 2012, is expected to cost 3.5 billion euros.

But in the wake of widespread concern among Venetians and environmentalists over the impact of Moses on the lagoon, Mayor Massimo Cacciari called on Monday for a "review" of the project.

A measure approved later by the city council called for a pause for thought and "the possibility to test simpler and less costly solutions" to Venice's perennial flooding problems.

Cacciari pointed out that ultimately the government - which is footing most of the bill - will have the final say on whether Moses continues to be built and, if so, in what form.

He argued that first of all studies should be carried out to gauge whether the environmental impact of Moses is sustainable and whether it can be reduced in any way.

An assessment on the impact of Moses in 1998 came to negative conclusions, he noted.

At the same time alternatives to the metal barriers could be looked at to see whether they offered a better - and possibly cheaper - solution.

Work done until now was "not to be thrown away", he said, adding: "It's a question of continuing in a way which is compatible with whatever comes out of the review."

Supporters of Moses saw the mayor's move as a strategy to stop construction work and eventually block the project altogether.

"This is senseless. Its environmental bigotry against the defence of Venice and its monuments," said art critic and former culture undersecretary Vittorio Sgarbi.

Moses consists of 79 barriers, which would lie on the seabed at the three entrances to the Venice lagoon for most of the time. Thanks to compressed air pumped into them, they would rise up when high tides were forecast and so stop seawater entering the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea.

Flooding is a constant problem for Venice and the picturesque St Mark's Square is covered with water dozens of times every year.

The previous centre-right government in Rome adopted Moses as one of the jewels in its nationwide crown of major infrastructural projects but the attitude of the new centre-left government - of which the Greens are a member - has still to emerge.

According to experts, Venice is increasingly subject to flooding for three reasons: the lagoon floor is rising because of incoming silt; the extraction of methane gas in the sea off Venice causes its islands to sink; and sea levels are rising in general because of global warming.

Moses is opposed by environmentalists worried about the impact of the system on the lagoon's ecosystem and by many Venetians who argue that the money could be spent on cheaper, less damaging solutions.

The European Commission opened infringement procedures against Italy earlier this year in connection with the environmental impact of the flood barriers.

The European Court of Justice has already found Italy guilty of breaking a 2000 EU nature directive by failing to set aside protected areas for the birds who live around the lagoon.

The mayor is in an awkward position because he was voted into office last year partly on the back of promises to 'review' the flood barrier project. But not all his allies in city hall agree with the idea of slowing down or halting construction.

With Cacciari's supporters divided and opposition councillors keen to continue building, it was unclear what the outcome of Monday's concil meeting would be.

Cacciari said he wasn't proposing dropping the Moses project altogether, but doing a series of tests and studies to see whether its environmental impact could be lessened and its effectiveness improved.

© Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved 2006-06-06 12:34

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Insanity Museum & the Clock Tower Drops Its Veil

Our Friends at Buongiorno Venezia had a lot of good (i.e., weird) news. Here's two for you:

From "BUONGIORNO VENEZIA - The News from Venice" published fortnightly by VENICEWORD
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SERVICES in Venice, Italy - 22 May 2006

A museum devoted to insanity -- or the treatment of it -- was inaugurated on 20 May in the island of S. Servolo, which is in the stretch of the lagoon between Venice and the Lido and, for 300 years, housed a mental hospital. The name of the museum is "Museum of the Psychiatric Hospital of S. Servolo. The secluded madness". It's divided into different sectors, with a historic introductory section that shows the main curative methods of past centuries, such as chains, straitjackets, handcuffs, and the equipment used for the electroshock treatment, an Italian invention that was first used on this island in 1938. There are also, from the early years of the 20th-Century, some very rare plethysmographs: the first, primitive lie detectors.

The restoration work on the Clock Tower in St. Mark's Square has ended, and on Saturday 27 May there will be a great fete to celebrate the event. At midnight, the veil that now covers it will fall, and the Moors -- silent for ten years -- will welcome the new day by tolling 132 times. At the last toll, a brilliant display of fireworks will light the tower. The producer of the event, Venetian Marco Balich, was also the artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies at the Turin Winter Olympics. A few hours before, beginning at 8:30 p.m., actors, acrobats, and jugglers will liven up the scene, and the feast's Patroness will be actress Claudia Cardinale.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mad Cows May Silence Venice's Music?

From our friends at news:

Music string makers hit by mad cow

Italian world-beaters struggle with gut ban (ANSA) - Venice, May 19 -

Italy's musical-string makers are fighting a mad-cow ban on the use of their raw material, animal guts.

"This ban makes no sense. You can't eat a violin string," said Mimo Peruffo of the Aquila company, the leading Italian producer of strings.

Aquila uses the intestines of sheep and cows, both outlawed under a European Union ban on offal and other animal parts introduced to halt the spread of mad cow disease.

The company, which is based at Caldogno near Venice, has been forced to turn to a gut supplier in Argentina, the only country the EU rates as risk-free.

"It's simply not enough to ensure future production," Peruffo said.

"We're faced with the risk of shutting down because of a lack of raw material".

Peruffo pointed out that, at the end of the production process, his strings are painted or clad with silver-coated copper wire.

"This eliminates all risk for humans. But the ban stands. The extension of the measure to cover strings is absurd. Our product is simply unfit for human consumption - for the right reasons".

Aquila asked the Italian ministry of health if the EU really meant to include musical strings, to be met with the official answer: "The measure applies to all forms of animal intestines, no matter where they end up".

Peruffo now plans to appeal to a court for an exemption as part of an "historically significant" craft.

Italy has long stood at the head of the world's string makers, the small-business association Confartigianato pointed out.

"The skills were handed down for centuries by craftsmen in Rome, Naples and the Abruzzo region, spreading later to workshops in the Venice and Modena areas," the association noted.

"Traditional Italian mastery cannot be jeopardised by a silly ban on eating violin strings," the association said. Animal intestines have been used to make strings for thousands of years. The first proof that the Ancient Greeks used the material came in 1827 when an English archaeologist found harp strings in Thebes that still had a tone after about 2,000 years.

Legend has it that Greek god Apollo stretched tortoise entrails across the animal's scooped-out shell to invent the first lyre.

© Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's Not Venice, But....It's Still WEIRD!

From Our Friends at

Restaurant fined for lobster abuse
Crustaceans kept on ice rather than in water tank (ANSA) - Vicenza, April 26 -
A restaurant operator has been fined 688 euros for allegedly mistreating lobsters which were on display for potential customers, the local press reported.

The fine was the result of a complaint filed in March 2002 by a former activist from Italy's animal protection agency ENPA.

The 34-year restaurant operator was accused of keeping the lobsters on ice rather than in a water tank.

The fine was levied despite the restaurant operator's request for the opinion of an expert and he has appealed.

According to the restaurateur, four years ago there were no specific guidelines on maintaining live lobsters, regulations which entered the law books only in 2004.

The general opinion of lobstermen is that a hard shell lobster can survive out of the water for 24 hours or more, while soft shell lobsters, those which are re-growing their shells after shedding, are best kept in water.

They also maintain that lobsters, sometimes referred to as the 'cockroaches of the sea', do not suffer, for example when they are thrown into boiling water for cooking. Most lobsters in Italy are hard shells and arrive from northern Europe and North America packed in ice.

The local press here noted that the case has given the restaurant operator some excellent, free publicity.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Kiss the Pigeons, If You Really Have to...

Here's an article from the Associated Press as a follow-up to my previous post about the pigeons in San marco and the bird flu. So, if you really, really, really have to kiss the pigeons...

Apr 23, 10:26 AM EDT

Tests: Pigeons Don't Pose Bird Flu Trouble

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- City folks, don't worry. Nobody expects pigeons, more common than manhole covers, will bring the deadly bird flu virus. Pigeons are not immune from the virus. But tests indicate the birds pick it up only when they are exposed to very high doses, do not always become infected under those conditions and are carriers only briefly.

"Pigeons aren't a big worry," said Rex Sohn, a wildlife disease specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. "But to make absolute predictions that pigeons won't be susceptible to this virus, in whatever form it arises in North America, is not something you want to say."

Government scientists looking for the first signs of the H5N1 bird flu strain in the United States are focusing on wild migratory birds, not resident birds such as pigeons, starlings and sparrows that stay close to home.

In February, a 14-year-old pigeon seller in Iraq died after coming down with bird flu-like symptoms. Authorities said three of his cousins also were hospitalized with similar symptoms.

There have been no pigeon die-offs in parts of the world experiencing H5N1 outbreaks, according to USGS wildlife disease specialist Grace McLaughlin.

Three studies since the late 1990s by the Agriculture Department's Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga., have produced "more questions than we have answers," said the center's director, David Swayne. The lab has been working on bird flu since the 1970s.

In one experiment, researchers squirted into pigeons' mouths liquid drops that contained the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus from a Hong Kong sample. The birds got about 100 to 1,000 times the concentration that wild birds would encounter in nature. "We couldn't infect the pigeons," Swayne said. "So that's good news."

In 2004, the lab did two more experiments. Using a pigeon and a crow that had both died in Thailand, researchers gave 12 pigeons similarly high doses of the bird flu virus. Seven became infected and one died. Five others did not become infected.

"What that tells us is that pigeons can be susceptible. But they're not uniformly susceptible," Swayne said. "Not like chickens or ducks - they all become infected."

Infected pigeons carried the virus about 10 days. But they were infectious for only about two days and then at levels below what it would normally take to infect a chicken.

"The experimental data is not very strong that pigeons are going to be spreading this virus around," Swayne said. "At this point they have not been implicated in spreading it to humans and to farms."

Maybe You Can Kiss the Pigeons....

Foll9owing on a previous post about the San marco pigeons and bird flu, here's a follow-up story from the Associated Press:

Apr 23, 10:26 AM EDT

Tests: Pigeons Don't Pose Bird Flu Trouble

Associated Press Writer

Other News Video

WASHINGTON (AP) -- City folks, don't worry. Nobody expects pigeons, more common than manhole covers, will bring the deadly bird flu virus. Pigeons are not immune from the virus. But tests indicate the birds pick it up only when they are exposed to very high doses, do not always become infected under those conditions and are carriers only briefly.

"Pigeons aren't a big worry," said Rex Sohn, a wildlife disease specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. "But to make absolute predictions that pigeons won't be susceptible to this virus, in whatever form it arises in North America, is not something you want to say."

Government scientists looking for the first signs of the H5N1 bird flu strain in the United States are focusing on wild migratory birds, not resident birds such as pigeons, starlings and sparrows that stay close to home.

In February, a 14-year-old pigeon seller in Iraq died after coming down with bird flu-like symptoms. Authorities said three of his cousins also were hospitalized with similar symptoms.

There have been no pigeon die-offs in parts of the world experiencing H5N1 outbreaks, according to USGS wildlife disease specialist Grace McLaughlin.

Three studies since the late 1990s by the Agriculture Department's Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga., have produced "more questions than we have answers," said the center's director, David Swayne. The lab has been working on bird flu since the 1970s.

In one experiment, researchers squirted into pigeons' mouths liquid drops that contained the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus from a Hong Kong sample. The birds got about 100 to 1,000 times the concentration that wild birds would encounter in nature. "We couldn't infect the pigeons," Swayne said. "So that's good news."

In 2004, the lab did two more experiments. Using a pigeon and a crow that had both died in Thailand, researchers gave 12 pigeons similarly high doses of the bird flu virus. Seven became infected and one died. Five others did not become infected.
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"What that tells us is that pigeons can be susceptible. But they're not uniformly susceptible," Swayne said. "Not like chickens or ducks - they all become infected."

Infected pigeons carried the virus about 10 days. But they were infectious for only about two days and then at levels below what it would normally take to infect a chicken.

"The experimental data is not very strong that pigeons are going to be spreading this virus around," Swayne said. "At this point they have not been implicated in spreading it to humans and to farms."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What About Bird Flu?

A recent Associated Press article tells how Key West officials are worried that the famous (infamous?) chickens that roam around the city could be carriers of the bird flu. They're talking about rounding the 2,000 to 3,000 chickens that are wandering around town. I wonder if Venetian authorities are thinking about the pigeons in San Marco and what they'll do if the bird flu strikes? I don't want to be an alarmist, but--please don't kiss the pigeons, feed them, or let them climb all over you.

  Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 10, 2006

It Could Only Happen in Venice...

I'm still sorting through my photos and notes from my March trip--it was so great! In the meantime, you'll have to amuse yourselves with this newsflash from our friendss at Buongiorno Venezia. As they say, this type of accident can only happen in Venice:

"It's the kind of accident that can happen only in Venice. Last Friday in Strada Nova, the crowded street which leads to the railway station, two handcarts that were transporting bottles of wine and spirits collided, one lost a wheel, skidded, and knocked down an English tourist. The woman fell, along with the shattering glass bottles, and suffered a severe laceration that, doctors at a nearby hospital said, would take ten days to heal. While it is a uniquely Venetian accident, it's not likely to provide very pleasant memories for the tourist and her family who may never again think about Venetian glass in quite the same way."

Watch out for those flying wine bottles! How do you say "duck" in Italian?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Miss Manners Writes About Venice

I came across this today:

"In addition to her most recent book, 'Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (Freshly Updated),' published in April 2005, Martin has written 10 other Miss Manners books and two novels. She is currently working on a non-fiction book, 'No Vulgar Hotel,' depicting Venice, Italy, through the eyes of travelers, past and present."

Miss Manners (Judith Martin) is a syndicated columnist who tries to bring some sense and civility to our world--I can't wait to read her advice for Venice! If you want to read the rest of the article (warning: there's nothing else about Venice in it.)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I Missed My Anniversary

Weird Venice turned 1 on March 28--and I missed it! Thanks to everyone who's been reading it--and extra thanks to those who have the courage to comment! I just downloaded the photos from my recent trip and promise to post some details soon.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I'm Going Back!!


Don't worry if you don't see any new entries for a while--I'm on my way to Venice. I promise to post lots of photos, etc. when I get back. On this trip, I plan to.... Posted by Picasa

Get Past the Lions Guarding the Arsenale...

  Posted by Picasa

Visit My Old Friends on Torcello...

  Posted by Picasa

Drink the World's Most Expensive Coffee....

  Posted by Picasa

But I'll Miss My Dog (and Her Duck)

  Posted by Picasa

Venice Channel Coming to US Television

Thanks to Kathy McCabe from the Dream of Italy Travel Blog for sending me this article.

from news:

Venice Channel to target United States and China (ANSA) - Venice, March 13 - The many facets of Venice are to be spotlighted in a new satellite TV channel, Venice Channel.

The new channel, sponsored by Venice's town council, aims to promote the famed lagoon city as an emblem of Italian beauty and style around the world - with the United States and China being prime targets.

"We'll be transmitting on the Hotbird satellite from May with all programmes in high definition," said Venice Channel CEO Fabrizio Zago.

Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari said: "This is a great idea which aims to boost mass tourism. It can promote a new image of Venice, outside the usual cliches' of San Marco, the Rialto and gondoliers". "Venice is a lot more than that".

The channel has many sections: great Italian opera from the Verona arena, a look inside sumptuous Venetian palazzi from the classical period to the avant-garde, 'Hidden Venice' and As You Eat it: cooking lessons by a Venetian noble who offers tips on enjoying the highest-class cusine with the proper dining etiquette.

There will also be a chance to discover the best of Renaissance Venice and a section entitled Italianize Me, tongue-in-cheek lessons for Italy-lovers who have trouble understanding Italians.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Check Out the Carnavale

I don't know if they call it "Fat Tuesday" in Venice, but it's the last day of Carnavale. Lent arrives on Wednesday, so it's time to party. Check out this webcam to see what's going on in San Marco. The image is small, but it's fun to watch.

If you can't get to Venice in time, this site has some great photos of past carnivals.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Pickpockets Beware!

Venice is a great place to work--if you're a pickpocketer. It's the perfect environment: Crowded vaporetti. Crowded calles. Tourists overcome by the splendor of Venice--and not paying attention to the hand slipping into a purse, pocket, or backpack.

But now, according to an article in Slate, Venetians are fighting back. "A civilian antipickpocket patrol called Cittadini Non Distratti, or Undistracted Citizens. Members, who call themselves 'Citizens,' walk around Venice looking for pickpockets."

The "Citizens" or "Guardian Angels of Tourists" pay a small fee for membership in Cittadini Non Distratti and won't let the papers photograph them, so the pickpocketers don't recognize them. (The pickpocketers say they do recognize them.) Is it working? The region's chief justice thinks it is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

City of Falling Angels NOT a Hit in Venice

The New York Times has an interesting article about John Berendt's book, THE CITY OF FALLING ANGELS. A follow-up to Berendt's wildly success MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, it's set in Venice and is supposed to be the story of tracking down the arsonists responsible for the destructive fire at La Fenice in 1996.

According to the article, Venice is not amused by the book. "He took the fire, an event that was critical for the city, and told it from a narrow point of view," Mr. Chiarot [the director of marketing and communications for La Fenice] said. "It was a serious story and he reduced it to gossip."

I have mixed feelings about the book. In the end, its seems that Berendt was more interested in collecting a bunch of weird characters," then he was in investigating the La Fenice fire. That said, I want to end with a quote from the book. It's my favorite part:

"I don’t know why Americans can’t come to Venice and just have a good time, instead of coming here and beating their breasts. You know what I mean? It’s this thing of having to come here on a mission. Why must they come to Venice to save it? It’s nice, of course, the money they give. But it doesn’t have anything to do with generosity. It means they want to look important. And, really, it’s just a drop in the ocean. They should come and have a good time. Period. Right? Walk around. See some paintings. Go to some restaurants, like they do in other cities. Americans don’t go to Paris to save Paris, do they? Right? When you see a five-hundred-year-old Venetian building, it may be a bit shabby and possibly even in danger. But you can’t describe it as ‘decaying.’ It has endured five hundred years! The ‘decaying Venice’ is all a big myth. That’s what I mean about Save Venice. Forget it. Venice will save itself. Go save Paris!" (From THE CITY OF FALLING ANGELS, by John Berendt, The Penguin Press, 2005, pg. 328-329)

Countdown to the Carnival

Three days until Venice's Carnival (Feb. 18-28). I went to Venice a few years ago to witness the great party for myself and I have to admit that I was not impressed. Too many drunken people screaming and shouting until dawn--and doing it too close to my bedroom window! Too many crowds in the restaurants (and a lof of mediocore food in usually reliable restaurants). As a Venetian friend said, "I told you not to come for Carnival."

However, don't let me stop you! Here's a link to a day-by-day program of events. This is what the introduction to the website says:

"A rich programme of events for this year's Carnival--here divided day-by-day--starting with traditional happenings such as 'The Flight of the Angel' and the 'Feast of the Marie,' and with new ones, such as Maurizio Scaparro's Carnival of Theatre, with performances dedicated to the Chinese cuture and art ('The Dragon and the Lion'), and a line up of shows for children within 'The Unforbidden City'. Young people will gather in the area of Rialto, in Santa Margherita Square and in the Maritime Station, with music and entertainments. Beyond the historical centre, Piazza Ferretto in Mestre will host music and entertainments for young people and children, and city theatres will stage several shows, not to mention the traditional events within the Carnival of the Brenta Riviera and the Terra dei Tiepolo."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Six More Weeks!

Six more weeks until I go back to Venice. I'm homesick. I can't wait to unpack my bags in my apartment (through Views on Venice, as always). Then we're heading to Ristorante Riviera (Tel: +39 041 522 7621, Zattere, opposite Molino Stucky, Dorsoduro) for lunch--this is my current favorite Venetian restaurant. I hope they haven't changed.

Here's my question to all you Venice experts who are reading this: I'm bringing a friend who's never been to Venice and I want to make the first day a memorable one. What should we do after lunch? Should we immediately go to Piazza San Marco? Should we take a vaporetto up and down the Grand Canal? Should we wander around until we're lost and stop for a spritz to rejuvenate ourselves?

Tell me your perfect itinerary for the first day for a first timers. (Our flight lands in the morning. We should be in Venice by noon.) The winning entry will receive a copy of THE FOOD OF VENICE cookbook. I'm the judge and it's purely subjective!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Venice: Most Expensive Public Transportation in Italy

I missed this article, but our sharp friends at Slow Talk noticed it. (By the way, you should ckeck out Slow Talk and Slow Travel. You'll learn a lot about the "slow" way to travel.

Here's the article about Venice's transportation costs. I love Venice's vaporetti, so I don't mind the increase.

(AGI) - Venice, Feb. 1 - Venice is the most expensive city of Italy for public transport. The water-bus ticket was raised from 3.5 to 5 euro from today. The rise (up 40 pct) does not involve Venice residents who have the so-called Venice card. They pay the ticket only one euro. Tourists and visitors will pay 5 euro and will have reduced timetables because the ticket length passes from 90 minutes to one hour. The 24 hours and 72 hours tickets rose too (from 10.50 to 12 euro and from 22 to 25 euro). The Venice transport company, Actv, said that the fare rises were due to the rise of the fuel price and the cuts made to the company budget by the Veneto region. Over 15 million people visited Venice last years while residents in central Venice are only 60,000.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Need a Reason to Watch the Super Bowl?

I'm a football fan, and I'm rooting for the Steelers. I also realize that there are a lot of people who do not enjoy American football. Well, here's another reason to tune in: the commercials are often the best part of the game and this Sunday's Super Bowl will include a commercial starring Fabio, the cover boy of many a romance paperback, floating down the Grand Canal. The following story comes from


Heart-throb FABIO will try to woo the women watching the American football Super Bowl final on Sunday (05FEB06) with a new advertisement for an insurance company.

The 30-second commercial spoofs Fabio's romantic image with his golden locks flowing while he rows a gondola in Venice, Italy.

When Fabio hands his love interest a rose, she looks up in horror to discover Fabio has become an 85-year-old man.

The ad's cautionary slogan is, "Life comes at you fast."

Fabio says, "The (insurance) company was tired of silly commercials from the competition."

The lothario tells the New York Daily News that he had to endure four and half hours of special effects make-up to authentically age.

When asked if he thinks he'll ever actually look that way he says, "I hope not, but in life you never know."

The Super Bowl is expected to attract 90 million viewers and 30-second ads have sold for a record $2.5 million (GBP1.38 million) each.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Speaking of Carnival--Guess Which One is the Oldest?

Which carnival is the oldest? Gee, if you guessed "Venice," you'd be right. I found this on the website of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

"...Venice claims to have the oldest carnival tradition, with laws establishing the holiday dating back to the 13th century. This year, the Venice carnival -- known for elaborate masks and costumes -- takes place Feb. 17-28. Events include masked balls, music and dance performances, gondola parades, formal dinners and children's celebrations."

Too bad they don't have a theme!

Too Many Choices Today...

I couldn't decide which of these stories to post today, so I'm posting all of them.

The first is from the AP wire. It's not strictly Venice, but too weird to ignore:
From the AP newswire: "Premier Silvio Berlusconi has promised Italians he would lower taxes and raise pensions. His latest campaign pledge is rather personal: no sex until April 9 elections, an Italian newspaper reported Sunday.

"Il Giornale, a conservative Milan daily owned by Paolo Berlusconi, the premier's brother, reported that the no-sex vow was made during a campaign rally in Cagliari, Sardinia, on Saturday with a popular TV preacher on the island and his followers."

Second: What if they gave a Carnival, but didn't have a theme. Venice's famous (in-famous?) Carnival starts on Feb. 18 and runs until the 20th. Even though Carnival brings in lots of tourists (and their money), they don't have anything planned! Acording to Buongiorno Venezia, "'The fact that there is, as yet, no programme just a few days from its opening is an embarrassing fact,' Renato Morandina, the president of APT (Tourism Promotion Agency), said. 'In a normal situation, we'd be ready to programme the 2007 edition.' The last agreements with one of the sponsors are expected to conclude in a few days, just before the start of the festival."

Here's a link to the Carnival of Venice website if you want to follow the lack of progress.

A few years ago, I went to Venice to "experience" a Carnival. I was sorry I went. Too many people. Too many drunks--noisy drunks. Too many over-crowded restaurants serving mediocre food. My Venetian friends warned me not to visit during Carnival--I wish I had listened to their advice.

Finally, more on Brad Pitt and Tom Hanks starring as glassblowers. The movie is going to be called, "The Man Who Invented the Mirror" and it will be directed by an Italian director, Carlo Carlei. Filming is supposed to start in "late spring." I'll be back in Venice in March--maybe I'll be able to spot Brad Pitt!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sinking City?

What's the most frequent comment I hear about Venice: Isn't it sinking? Find out for yourself. Visit PBS, Sinking City of Venice to find out for yourself. (Did you notice that I finally figured out how to put links into my posts? Congratulations to me!!!!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ice on the Canals

Venice, like the rest of Europe, is FREEZING. Check out Nan's blog, Living Venice, for some photos and description of what it's like.

Brad Pitt to Blow Glass in Film?

This may be too weird for Weird Venice, but... Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Peter O'Toole may be starring in a film about Venetian glassmakers. Here's the story from

Hollywood star is among names considered for new film (ANSA) - Rome, January 25 - Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Peter O'Toole could take roles as Venetian glass craftsmen in an American movie to be filmed in the famous lagoon city at the end of the spring.

"Cruise, Pitt and O'Toole are among the actors being considered for the leading roles," said Italian actor Angelo Infanti, who already has a part in the film.

The US-produced film, called 'The Man Who Invented the Mirror', will be directed by Italy's Carlo Carlei, who is famous in his native country for a 2003 film about Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the sportscar company.

Virtually nothing is known about the film's plot, although 66-year-old Infanti, who had small roles in the Godfather films, said it told a "fascinating story".

Venice has been famous for centuries for its glass craftsmen and, in particular, its glassblowers, who have traditionally had workshops on the island of Murano. This meant it was harder for artisans from elsewhere to steal their secrets and techniques.

During the 15th century Venetian craftsman invented the first clear glass, called 'cristallo'.