Thursday, April 26, 2007

200 Things to Do in Venice

Whenever I tell people that I'm on my way to Venice--again--I'm frequently asked why I keep going back. "What's there to do?"

Slow Travel has the answer: 200 Things to Do in Venice.

Here are the top 10 in San Marco:

San Marco

1. The Doge's Palace. Take the regular tour, or walk through it with an Audio Guide or Guide Book.

2. The Doge's Palace. Take the Secret Itinerary Tour, see rooms that are off limits to other tours.

3. Basilica San Marco. Inside, outside, the Treasury, the Loggia, the Pala D'oro, and the Baptistery.

4. The Campanile. Look down on the onion domes, and all of Venice. There is an elevator to the top although when you descend again you exit through a different door than the one through which you entered; important if you are planning on meeting someone after your visit to the top. If you are there when the bells ring you may find it a glorious or a rather painful experience, depending on how sensitive your ears are. Warning: Unless you like looking like Marilyn Monroe in the famous scene from The Seven Year itch, never wear a full skirt to the top of any campanile.

5. La Zecca - the mint - now the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. When not open for exhibitions, it may be seen by special arrangement with the Director. In addition to ancient books and maps there is a Titian fresco, ceiling medallions and paintings by the leading Venetian artists.

6. The Piazzetta dei Leoncini. Next to the Basilica San Marco.

7. The Piazzetta. Do not walk between the columns of The Lion of San Marco and San Teodoro, complete with crocodile, very bad karma. It was once the place for public executions.

8. Libreria Sansoviniana. Opposite the Doge's Palace. Built by Sansovino and topped with statues.

9. Museo Correr. Allow lots of time for the regular collection and any special exhibits.

10. Museo Archeologico. Enter through the Correr.

The list was compiled by uth Edenbaum is the co-author of Chow! Venice, Savoring the Food and Wine of La Serenissima. She lives in central New Jersey and spends more than two months a year in Venice. Ruth exhibits her photos on (I've mentioned Ruth's book, Chow! Venice before. You can buy autographed copies through the site.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ads to Appear on Vaporetti

This comes from ANSA news. I took the photo last May.

Venice lifts ban on adverts
After shunning them for years, city to test the water
VENICE (ANSA) - After refusing for years to even consider allowing advertising on the water buses that plough up and down the Grand Canal, Venice city council has finally decided to allow a timid experiment.

For eight months, and only on the Grand Canal, city hall will let selected advertisers put carefully monitored publicity on the sides of five of the 'vaporetti' that do the busy run between the station and St Mark's Square.

The money raised with the unprecedented venture will be used to improve the transport system in a city which runs 150 boats to move locals and tourists around between the Venetian islands.

The council has not said how much it will charge the companies that win the chance to advertise on a route travelled by millions of tourists every year.

In order to avoid unsightly or vulgar advertisements that could jar with the spectacular backdrop, a special council panel will examine all publicity before it is put on the side of a vaporetto.

Earlier this month, the council also decided to allow publicity on scaffolding covering the front of certain historic buildings on the Grand Canal during restoration work.

Approved in the interests of raising money for preserving the city, this was a temporary exception to a longstanding rule aimed at ensuring the city's main waterway retains its traditional appearance.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sad News for Venetians

This story from THE PLAIN DEALER (Cleveland, Ohio) makes me sad.

"The last active preschool in the heart of Venice will be converted to a hotel, another sign that Venice is gradually losing locals and moving toward becoming exclusively a tourist attraction. In 50 years, the population has dropped from 175,000 to 61,000, with some 50,000 tourists visiting every day."

Is our love of Venice killing the things we love about it?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Venice under water in 'few decades'

People, it's time to do something. Here's a sobering article from, News in English.(I took this photo in November 2002. It was my first experience with Acqua Alta.):

UN climatologist sees grim future for lagoon city
BRUSSELS (ANSA) - Venice could find itself under water within a few decades if current climate trends continue, a top United Nations climatologist said on Friday.

Over the next 30 or so years rainfall in the northern Mediterranean will increase by 10-20% as a result of global warming, said Osvaldo Canziani, deputy head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Speaking at the presentation of the IPCC's bleak new report on climate change, the Argentinian expert said that despite efforts to slow down a global rise in sea levels, the situation everywhere was "increasingly critical".

Referring to Venice, a city built on mud islands in a lagoon at the top of the Adriatic Sea, he said: "The water of the lagoon will continue inexorably to rise. If things carry on like this, Venice is destined to disappear".

The IPCC groups 2,500 scientists and is the top world authority on climate change.

It has been known for years that Venice is gradually sinking into the sea but the process was believed to be slower than implied by the authoritative warning from the IPCC deputy head.

Flooding is already a constant problem for Venice and the picturesque St Mark's Square, a must on Italy's tourist trail, is covered with water dozens of times every year.

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.

In a bid to combat flooding, a 4.3-billion-euro flood barrier system is being built.

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

After 30 years of debate and testing, the project was inaugurated in May 2003. Despite countless polemics and delays, about a third of the work has now been done and completion is scheduled for 2011.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Venice Finally Approves Female Gondolier

For centuries, Venice's gondoliers have been men. Now, in a history making move, a woman has been approved to be a gondolier (after ten years of trying). Here's the article from the Sunday Times. (

(Note: the photo does not show the woman gondolier. I took this shot in May 2004--when Alexandra Hai was still trying.)

Lady with a gondola turns tide in Venice

John Follain

SHE may have failed the basic canal-navigating exam three times and sing only while taking a shower, but Alexandra Hai has made waves in Venice by winning a 10-year battle to become the first woman gondolier.

The struggle pitted Hai, 35, against one of the world’s most exclusive all-male cliques – the 405 members of the Venice Gondola Association, all of them Italian men.

She celebrated with a dinner of champagne and Florentine beef on Friday after the administrative tribunal for the Veneto region recognised her right to navigate her gondola throughout Venice for customers of the three one-star hotels where she works.

“I’m thrilled because I was beginning to doubt there was any justice left in Italy,” Hai said yesterday. “The gondoliers in Venice make up a caste, that’s for sure. They’re not all male chauvinists, but the ones at the top fought against me as a woman.”

Hai, the daughter of an Algerian civil servant and a German midwife, grew up in Germany and spent four years in America before moving to Venice in 1996.

“A man at a market in San Francisco gave me cuff-links with gondoliers on them and that’s what gave me the idea of moving to Venice,” she said.

Her first plan was to become a film-maker, but three days after her arrival in the canal city, she boarded a gondola for the first time. “I’ve got a bit used to it now, but being on a gondola is a magical, emotional moment for me. The way a gondola is made is extraordinary, and it transmits to visitors what Venice is more than anything else,” she said.

Asked if she was married, she replied: “I’m married to the gondola.”

Three years after her arrival in Venice, after coaching by a few friendly gondoliers, she took her first examination to obtain a license. She was motivated partly by a desire to help improve the reputation of the gondoliers, who are notorious for fleecing tourists.

She failed her first 20-minute test, officially because of a botched manoeuvre, but won an appeal on the grounds that there were no women in the examining commission.

In two subsequent attempts, which saw two women join the commission, she bumped into another gondola in choppy waters, then failed to keep hers – and the judges sitting in it – steady when she met a motor-boat coming the other way under a bridge.

After the third failure, Hai initially said she would give up and leave Venice. But she returned to the fray and for 18 months defiantly took her customers around the city aboard her gondola. “Some gondoliers would shout insults and make rude gestures at me as I passed them. I didn’t like that because even though the words were in Italian, my customers understood,” she said.

In mid-October, a municipal police launch stopped her on the Grand Canal and fined her £92. She was told it was the first day of a city hall ban on the use of gondolas “for private and commercial ends” – effectively defending a monopoly held by the Gondola Association.

She and her employers appealed against the decision, which led to last week’s ruling in her favour. “There is frankly no reason why, in a city like Venice, customers cannot be offered a transport service like a gondola,” the verdict said.

Hai aims to restart work on Wednesday, offering gondola rides as part of a package which includes the hotel room, a bottle of wine and a bunch of flowers. “We want to ensure tourists don’t get ripped off,” she said.

The city hall plans to appeal to a higher court. Franco Vianello Moro, head of the Gondola Association, has said the strict tests and a limit of 405 on the number of gondoliers helped to preserve a unique tradition. “Sexism had nothing to do with it,“ he said.

But Hai’s triumph was hailed as a victory against the rigid corporations which rule over a host of services from markets to motor launches. “I defend Alex against the Gondola Association. This city is in the hands of corporations,” said Count Girolamo Marcello, a prominent Venetian resident.

Elio Dazzo, president of the Venetian hoteliers’ association, said he hoped the ruling would mark the beginning of liberalisation. “Today hotels aren’t allowed to send their own boat to fetch tourists. The result is thata water taxi from the airport to the historic centre costs £80. The city hall should be more open about this,” he said.

When Hai boards her gondola again, her customers will not, however, hear her sing O Sole Mio, the serenade favoured by her more established colleagues. “I sing only under the shower,” she said. “And in any case lots of the gondoliers who think they can sing, can’t. You often have to pay extra for a real singer.”