Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Venice Kiss-In greats the New Year Let us know if you participate!

VENICE, Italy, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Venice, Italy, is reinforcing its image as a city of romance by holding a mass "kiss-in" Wednesday night to welcome the new year.

City officials are hoping this year's kiss-in will surpass last year's version, in which an estimated 60,000 people locked lips at midnight to earn Venice an international prize for best New Year's event, ANSA, the Italian news agency, reported Monday.

Couples are expected to gather about 10 p.m. under the square's bell tower and practice their kissing before the main event at midnight when fireworks will light up the sky, ANSA reported.

The event in St. Mark's Square will be preceded with detailed lessons about how to perfect a kiss, the news agency said.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Last chance for olio nuovo - "new" olive oil

This is not a Venice post, but a warning that you have a chance to order olio nuovo or "new" olive oil. If you've never tasted just-crushed olive oil, you missed one of the world's best taste treats. Now that my order has been placed, I don't mind telling the rest of you to get your order into Casa de Case. Order your olive oil now! I've been ordering this olive oil for years--and I can't wait to try this year's crush.

Here's the best way to enjoy olio nuovo: bake or buy a good loaf of bread. Toast one or a dozen slices. Sprinkle a great sea salt on each slice. Drizzle olio nuovo on each slice. Enjoy with a strong cafe, blood orange juice, prosecco, or whatever you prefer for a morning beverage!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Acqua Alta Brings Hotel Bargins

High water. Hotel discounts. Free boots. Maybe you should get to Venice before the floods go down. This is from I took the photo during a November 2002 acqua alta.

Venice offers 'high- water package'

Free thigh boots, discounts after flood of cancellations
(ANSA) - Venice, December 2 - Venice hotels responded to a raft of flood-induced cancellations Tuesday by unveiling a 'high-water package' including discounts and a free pair of fishermen-style thigh boots.

''After all, tourists seem to like having their picture taken while wading around,'' said the head of the local hoteliers' association, Franco Maschiello.

Maschiello said his association had had ''1,000 cancellations today alone'' and took issue with the ''alarmist'' coverage of the high tide in the media, ''which appeared to give the impression the city was sinking''.

He pointed out that the acqua alta (high tide) - the fourth-highest in the city's history - had ''only reached its maximum point in certain zones''.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Perspective on Today's Floods

Today's acqua alta is second only to the November 1966 flood. Check out this YouTube video from 1966 to gain some perspective on the amount of destruction the high waters cause.

I have been distressed by some videos of tourists splashing in San Marco like it's a water park amusement. This is not a game. WE NEED TO SAVE VENICE NOW.

Deepest acqua alta in 22 years -- Mayor tells people to stay out

The story is from I took the photos in October 2002. The first is behind the Rialto stalls; the second is shows San Marco under water.
(ANSA) - Venice, December 1 - Venice was swamped Monday by one of the highest tides in its history.

St Mark's square was submerged under almost a metre of water and the rest of the historic centre was swimming too, with many pontoon bridges floating off to leave residents stranded in their homes.

The only Venetians getting about were those equipped with thigh-high boots of the kind fishermen wear.

Many elderly people had to be carried to safety, and the bottom floors of homes and shops started operating their bailout pumps.

City Mayor Massimo Cacciari advised local people to stay at home and anyone thinking of coming to Venice to ''think again''.

To cap things off, the city was hit by a transport strike which prompted Veneto Governor Giancarlo Galan to say sarcastically: ''I'd like to give them (the strikers) a medal for their sense of responsibility''.

Pushed by relentless winds, the sea level rose to 156 centimetres above normal - the highest 'acqua alta' (high water) since 1.58m in 1986 and 1.66m in December 1979.

The record 'acqua alta' was in the great flood of 1966, at 1.94m. Levels of 100-130 cm above sea level are fairly common in the lagoon city and Venice is well-equipped to cope with its rafts of pontoon walkways.

But anything much above 140cm risks swamping the city and washing the walkways away.

The high-water threat has been increasing in recent years as heavier rains have hit northern Italy, weather experts say.

Scientists have conceived various ways of warding off the waters since the catastrophic 1966 flood, and a system of moveable flood barriers called MOSE is being installed after years of polemics.

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.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weird Venise/St. Martin's Day

I was checking my site visits and came across the Google French translation, Weird Venise. Those clever Google guys--who knew I had a French blog!

In honor of the upcoming St. Martin's Day (November 11), I'm posting a photo I took two years ago (on St. Martin's Day). These are very popular cakes, made only for this special Venetian holiday. I'm not sure who St. Martin was (I know someone will enlighten me), but it's a great holiday in Venice. (Tip: click on the photo to see the enlarged version)

On the day I took this photo of the special cakes, we followed a group of young school children and three delightful nuns through the calles of Dorsoduro. The children--and the nuns--stopped outside the shops and enthusiastically banged wooden spoons against pots and pot covers. The shopkeeper would give a few coins to the kids and the procession moved onto the next shop.

Venetian children run through the city, banging pots and pans with wooden spoons. It is traditional to reward the children by giving them a few coins. Special cakes depicting St Martin are baked in celebration.

Two years later, I'm still sorry I didn't take a photo of children...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Pizza

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about Italy watching the U.S. elections, here's a bit more information on the Obama Pizza. (Thanks to René Seindal from Venice Kayak for sending me a link to Turismo in Italia's website where this photo came from.) says:

Neapolitans meanwhile had an extra reason to celebrate Obama's win as the Italy For Obama committee handed out special free pizza.

"It's a half-Neapolitan and half-American pizza, with the classic Margherita sharing the plate with hot dogs and fries," explained Naples provincial councillor and committee promoter Francesco Borrelli.

"It's a nice way of declaring our solidarity with Barack Obama, the protagonist of a historic event," he said.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Italy Watches U.S. Voting

This has nothing to do with Venice, but I thought it was interesting--thanks to for the story. I took the photo in May 2003.

» 2008-11-03 19:01
Italy gears up for US vote
Italians treat election almost as their own

(ANSA) - Rome, November 3 - Italy is gearing up for Tuesday's presidential elections in the United States almost as if it was a national election here complete with all-night TV coverage and rallies for the candidates.

Results will be broadcast live on the state RAI networks, the private Mediaset channels owned by Premier Silvio Berlusconi, the independent La7 and channels on the Sky satellite platform, which hosts several American networks as Britain's BBC and the Arabic al Jazeera network, which also has a channel in English.

Because of the six-hour time difference, no results of the race between Democrat Barack Omaba and Republican John McCain are not expected in Italy until after midnight (23:00GMT).

However, Italian viewers can watch a full array of related programming including talks shows with Italian pundits and American guests, news specials and films with a US election theme.

These include Michael Moore documentary on George W. Bush's presidency Fahrenheit 9/11 and the made-for-TV film Recount on Bush's victory in 2000 with the contested vote count in Florida, which stars two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacy and which won an Emmy award.

Another film scheduled for Tuesday night is Death of a President which was produced by Britain's Channel Four and is a fantasy-documentary about the assassination of President Bush which sparked a lot of controversy but which won an American Emmy award as well as the critics' prize at the Toronto Film Festival in 2007.

Italians waiting for the election results can also watch Hollywood superstar Robert Redford as a candidate for the US Senate with presidential ambitions in Michael Ritchie's 1972 film The Candidate.

Americans in Rome of both parties will be gathering at the luxurious Parco dei Principi Hotel near Via Veneto to watch the elections results.

The Democrats Abroad organization, convinced of an Omaba victory, have also organized a rally at a restaurant at the Termini railroad station and are reported to have asked city authorities for permission to stage a victory parade on Saturday from the American embassy on via Veneto to the Colosseum.

The Democrats have been the most active in campaigning for Obama who won the primary elections in Italy by a landslide.

Among Italian politicians the African-American senator from Illinois has the full support of the center left. And he has even won over several members of the center right government, leading other conservatives to accuse them of "jumping on the bandwagon" of the front-runner in the US vote.

The Italian government and the American embassy have both stated at length that relations between the two countries will remain "excellent" no matter who wins Tuesday's vote.

In a talk show in Sunday, Italian Foreign minister Franco Frattini said that "there will be no surprises" for Italy from the American elections.

The US, he observed, ''is and will remain our primary international ally''.

US Ambassador Ronald Spogli will host an election night event at the Excelsior Hotel for some 2,000 invited guests including American and Italian businessmen and politicians from the center right and left.

Italy's center-left Partito Democratico (PD) is organising its own election night rally with the participation of party secretary Walter Veltoni, the former Rome mayor who wrote the introduction to the Italian edition to one of Obama's books.

The event will be broadcast live by the PD's satellite channel YouDem as well as on its website.

Election night events are also being organised at the leading American military bases in Italy and at the campuses of many US universities which have branches here.

In Naples, the American consulate is organising an open air event while pizza makers, certain of his victory, have already come up with an Obama pizza to be served up Tuesday night.
So, if you live in the US, be sure to vote. If you live in Naples, try an Obama pizza and let us know what you think about it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Feeling Lucky???

If you're in Italy, you might want to buy a few lotto tickets. This is from

Italian jackpot nears world record
Betters line up for crack at 100- million- euro win
(ANSA) - Rome, October 23 - At a whopping 100 million euros, the jackpot for Italy's popular SuperEnalotto game is close to becoming the fifth biggest lotto win in the world ever.

The advantage of the Italian game over others, especially those in the US, is that SuperEnalotto pays out the full prize immediately while the US game gives winners the pot in instalments or pays a single, reduced prize.

SuperEnalotto winners also receive interest on their winnings from the time they redeem their slips to when they receive full payment, which usually takes two months. The chance of becoming a millionaire has driven millions of Italians and foreigners to place bets and the number of slips played for Saturday's draw broke the 100-million threshold for the first time ever.

SuperEnalotto's jackpot has been building since its last top prize was won on April 26, when 40.6 million euros were won.

In order to win SuperEnalotto betters must choose the correct six numbers drawn from one to 90. Draws are held three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Good luck!

UPDATE (also from
ANSA) - Catania, October 24 - The whole of Catania was still celebrating Friday morning after a night of cavalcades of cars and cascades of sparkling wine greeted someone's Superenalotto jackpot killing of more than 100 million euros, the biggest Italian lotto win ever.

Despite calls to emerge from anonymity and a plea from a leukemia sufferer, the winner will almost certainly stay undercover.

All that is known is that he or she placed their bet at a tobacco shop not far from the city centre which has been besieged with calls.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ca' Cerchieri Garden

In the comments section for yesterday's post about renting an apartment in Ca' Cerchieri, Tom from Toronto wrote that he's stayed in the same building and had a great view of the private garden. Here's a photo of the garden that I took in May 2003. More about Venice's secret gardens later this week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Venice Highlights: My Apartment

I'm back from my trip to Venice; a trip that was of my best. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to re-live that trip and write about some of the highlights.

The first has to be my apartment. I am a big believer in renting apartments when I go to a city--it's a great way to live in a neighborhood, have more space than a hotel room and give you an opportunity to learn a different part of a favorite city.

The first two times, I stayed in hotels (the pre-renovation Monaco & Grand Canal and the Hotel Rialto). Both were wonderful and I had a great time--but then I discovered renting and Views On Venice. I've been a fan ever since. I haven't counted the number of their apartments I've stayed in, but each one has been great.

This time, we stayed in Ca' Cerchieri 3 in Dorsoduro. It's on the Grand Canal, it's very comfortable and it has amazing views. This is a photo I took from the living room on a foggy morning. (I'm sure I'll put up some other photos later.) Having such a wonderful base added to our enjoyment of the week. I know I'll be staying there again. (Grazie, Filippo and everyone else at Views on Venice!) If you're looking for a reason to go to Venice, look at the special offer for November to mid-December. If I had the time, I'd be booking it myself....

I wish I could say the same for the water taxi driver who, despite directions, deposited us at the wrong palazzo! Thank goodness some residents of the wrong palazzo unlocked the gates or we'd still be standing on the dock! If you're going to pay the price for the water taxi, be sure he's going to the right place! (yes, I know there are cheaper ways to get from the airport to Venice, but I had my reasons.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Strike Today

Did you have trouble with the vaporetti today? According to there was a massive strike in Italy today. It even effected Venice: "'Vaporetti' water buses in Venice were also down to a reduced service, with around 48% of operators adhering to the strike." Not fun. But it must have been nice on the Grand Canal.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Keep the Tips Coming!

I'm off to Venice tomorrow, but don't stop the tips! I'll try to check in while and I'm gone and see what you're suggesting.

Thanks to everyone who's suggested something. I may not be able to try them all, but I'll do as many as I can. My main mission this trip is to get to all of the Chorus pass churches.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Got Any Tips

So, I'm finally getting to Venice this year. I've never felt so out of touch with my favorite city--I can't wait to get back.

A question: is there any place I should visit, any restaurant I should visit, any shops I should spent my euros in? Who's been to Venice lately? What is on your "not to be missed" list? Who knows, you might even win something!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Aqua Alta in San Marco

Anyone been to Venice lately? I've been watching the webcams because in a few weeks, I'll finally make my 2008 trip to La Serenissima -- and I've been seeing a lot of acqua alta in San Marco, as shown in this photo.

Anyone know what's going on?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

No Respect for the New Bridge

The new bridge continues to cause controversy. I'll be heading back to Venice in October -- and I'm looking forward to seeing the new bridge.(The following story comes from Here's a photo I took of the construction in March 2006

Fuss over new Venice bridge
Costs out of control, opposition councillor says
(ANSA) - Venice, August 7 - A right-wing councillor this week accused Venice city council of ''thoughtlessness'' over a new high-tech bridge on the Grand Canal due to open next month.

Raffaele Speranzon, National Alliance whip in the lagoon city's council, said the cost of the project had spiralled out of control due to planning errors, while there would be no disabled access to the bridge when it opens.

''When the bridge was first planned in 1996, it was to have cost four million euros. So far, the city has spent 12.5 million euros, but legal disputes with the construction company over planning errors could cost a further 11 million,'' he said.

''All these errors were born from the thoughtlessness with which the council has managed the project - thoughtlessness that is quite evident from the fact that the bridge, when it is inaugurated, will not be accessible to the disabled and is therefore outside the law,'' he added.

But the city's public works chief, Mara Rumiz, dismissed Speranzon's claims.

''The bridge has cost around 10 million euros,'' she said. ''Speranzon's figures have no basis in reality because one can't include (cost overruns that haven't been determined). We'll see after the litigation is settled,'' she said.

''The bridge is all but finished and will be ready in a month, but it will take a couple of months to install the automatic lift for those who have mobility problems,'' she added.

Once opened, the bridge will link Venice's railway station with Piazzale Roma, a car, bus and ferry terminal on the opposite side of the Grand Canal.

Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the sleek arc of steel accessed by a flight of glass steps spans 94 metres from one bank to the other.

The bridge will be the fourth over the lagoon city's Grand Canal and the city's first new bridge in 70 years.

But the project has been dogged by controversy and delays from the start, which have put back the planned inauguration date of June 2005.

The bridge was installed two years late last summer amid fears that the canal banks wouldn't be able to hold it up properly.

Speranzon said a ''mistake'' had also been made over the choice of steel used for the bridge, which meant ''20 tonnes had to be chucked away''.

In February Mayor Massimo Cacciari had to dismiss fears that the bridge might be shaky after a local newspaper quoted project chief Roberto Casarin as saying it had moved ''about a centimetre'' in a load-bearing trial.

Other alterations to the original plan included the decision to add stairs, in order to make the structure more visible to tourists, and to use two kinds of stone instead of one.

Calatrava's other trademark buildings include the 2004 Athens Olympic stadium, an auditorium and sealife centre in his native Valencia, and the Milwaukee Museum of Fine Arts.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Travel the Canals -- In a Kayak?

I wish I had a photo of the voyage David Kocieniewski, a reporter for the NY Times and his girlfriend, took in the inflatable kayak they brought with them on a recent trip to Venice. There's a great story and a great video on the Times website.

Obviously, this photo isn't of David in his kayak! I pulled it from my files and, being lazy tonight, it was the first gondola photo I came to.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Take a Gondola Ride / Poll Results

Weird Venice is going to take a long Memorial Day break. We'll be back on or around May 27. Unfortunately, we're not heading to Venice, but...

according to the results of our recent poll (Even though the dollar keeps falling, are you still planning to go to Venice this year?), 56% of those who responded said, "To hell with the dollar, I wouldn't miss a trip to Venice for any reason!"

15% had the opposite reaction and voted for: "No, I'm staying close to home this year."

8% said they'd go if, "My lotto numbers are picked."

Another 8% said, they couldn't afford the gas they'd need to get to the airport.

And another 8% said they were waiting to see if things got better.

The rest of you were undecided.

THANKS to everyone who answered. Vote on the current poll today!

For those of us still at home, take a gondola ride via YouTube. I looked at a lot of the videos and really liked this one.

Enjoy and Ciao! for a few days.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Accademia Bridge to Become Permanent (Finally)

The "temporary" Accademia Bridge was opened to the public in 1933.
Now, nearly eight decades later, the original plan for a permanent stone bridge may finally be realized, according to Rumiz [Venice's public works councillor]. Municipal authorities have confirmed that bidding will open shortly on a contract for a new design and complete overhaul of the structure. ''Between the end of May and the start of June, we will open bidding on creating a new Ponte dell'Accademia,'' Ruiz told local daily La Nuova Venezia. ''The underlying iron structure will remain in place, as this is still perfectly sound. However, the entire outer covering of wood will be replaced, either by stone or perhaps with a metal alloy. We haven't decided which yet, as this is still being assessed''.

What do you think? Vote in the "Your Turn" box in the sidebar.

I took the photo in February 2005. As you can tell, it was a rainy day on a crowded bridge.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Venice Needs More Webcams!

Who Can Help Us Get More Webcams!!

It's pathetic. Venice is one of the most picturesque cities in the world and those of us who are not fortunate enough to live there are stuck with a few lousy webcams -- and they don't always work. So, come Venetian residents, give us more webcams. We'll help; just tell us how. Or won't some Venice-crazed tourist plant a webcam somewhere and tell us about it? I'll be happy to contribute to the cost.


This photo is from the San Toma Grand Canal webcam -- none of the others seem to be working tonight and I'm not happy about it. Give us more webcams!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ladies, Watch Your Bottoms!

For Women Only: If you've been in Venice lately, your bottom may have been snapped. Yep, your bottom. Here's an article from (the story is being reported on many news sites). I couldn't think of an appropriate photo, so I just posted a random shot that I took from the window of Ca' Vidal, which I rented from Views on Venice. (It's a fantastic apartment in a great location!)

Also, don't forget to take the poll on the sidebar -- is the dollar going to keep you at home? One last important thing: I finally got my Weird Venice to accept comments! So feel free to say hi or something.

Now, here's the article:

Man Arrested for Photographing 3,000 Bottoms Around Venice

A 38-year-old Italian man has been arrested after police became suspicious of him in Venice, Italy. The man was seen following women while carrying a large bag through St Mark's Square in the city.

After he was arrested, police found that he had been following the women so as to be able to take photos of their bottoms. He had taken some 3,000 pictures through a hole in the bag. He was charged with infringement of privacy.

During his arrest, the man confessed he had been photographing the bottoms of women in short skirts for around two years, generally when they bent to pick something up. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pigeon Population Falls --That was Fast!

According to the Venice city council, the ban on feeding pigeons is already working. The following article from explains it all. I took the photo in 2006 from the roof of the basilica and shows the piazza San Marco -- complete with pigeons, tourists and feed sellers. If the city council's plan works, this will be just a memory.

Venice pigeon population falls
City- wide ban on feeding birds working, council says

(ANSA) - Venice, May 12 -

Venice city council on Monday was celebrating the first sign that it may be winning its long battle against the city's population of pigeons, once described by mayor Massimo Cacciari as "flying rats".

According to city environment chief Pierantonio Belcaro, the number of pigeons flocking to St Mark's Square is already dropping after the council extended a bird feeding ban city-wide and forced the piazza's 19 licensed birdseed sellers to shut up shop.

"Revoking the licenses of the birdseed stalls and capturing ill birds are proving to be valid tools for the reduction of pigeon numbers, although solving the problem is likely to take two or three years." Belcaro said.

He added that on Monday a new council task force in charge of dealing with pigeons, mice and mosquitoes in the lagoon city had decided to draft in a bird of prey to help scare the pigeons away.

Falcons are already used in other Italian cities and airports to ward birds from monuments - which can be damaged by acidic guano - and prevent air strikes.

Venice has for years been trying to cut its estimated 40,000-strong pigeon population, which produces thousands of tonnes of droppings a day.

While many visitors to the lagoon city find its flocks of pigeons charming, the council says they are a public health menace and a nuisance, eroding the city's historic facades and statues.

Controversial efforts at controlling the pigeons have included trapping the birds in nets and removing them from the square.

Animal rights campaigners crossed swords with the council earlier this month following the eviction the birdseed sellers from St Mark's Square, accusing the city of a "shameful massacre" by hunger and distributing 30 kilos of birdseed to flocks of ravenous birds. Local people became less sympathetic to the pigeons' plight last year after a report by the Nomisma research group found that the presence of the birds in Venice costs each resident some 275 euros a year to clean up the mess and damage.

Some experts even claim the excrement, by eroding flagstones, has increased the risk of the "acqua alta" that puts the square under water for much of the winter.

Reducing the numbers of pigeons is just part of Venice's strategy to ensure the city stays clean and maintains its charm despite the presence of 20 million visitors a year.

Volunteer patrols of 'guardian angels' wander the city to prevent "indecorous behavior" among tourists, which the city has decided includes sitting on the pavement, eating sandwiches there or going bare-chested.

The city is working on laws to stop the sale of fast food in St Mark's Square so as to limit the amount of rubbish that accumulates there and which street cleaners can only remove once a day.

On Monday the council said it is also planning to fine beggars up to 500 euros, and confiscate their day's takings, if they are caught asking for money in tourist areas of the city.

Are You Still Going to Venice?

The dollar / job situation has forced me to rethink my plans to go back to Venice later this year. I'm wondering if anyone else is having second thoughts. Take to poll on the sidebar and let us know!

I took this photo on one of my first trips to Venice. The colors are a bit washed out because it's a negative (yes, my first trip was pre-digital!) and I've been converting them to digital.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Weather & Currency Reports

There are two things that most people going to Venice want to know: what's the weather like and how far will my money take me? In an attempt to answer both questions, I've added a weather report and currency monitor to the sidebar. Keep an eye on them -- and hope for good reports!

Pigeon Update

Posted by Picasa

Pigeons in Piazza San Marco

A ban on feeding Venice’s pigeons took effect Wednesday, May 1. Nineteen pigeon-feed sellers on St. Mark's Square immediately went out of business. They had long been granted licenses to sell dried corn to tourists wanting to feed the pigeons and take photos of themselves covered with the birds.

A spokeswoman in Venice says people who feed the pigeons face fines the equivalent of about $80 to $775.

According to a story on the Canadian Press website, the people who profited from the pigeons were not happy. “The pigeon-feed sellers, who say they have been selling their wares on St. Mark’s Square for a century, are up in arms and protested the ban with placards on their booths aimed at the mayor, including: ‘Curse the day I voted for you’ and ‘Cacciari, what kind of Venetian are you?’”

No one knows for sure how many pigeons live in Venice’s 6.5 square kilometers, but the city estimates there are 40,000. About one-third of them pass through St. Mark's Square on any given day, according to environmental officials.

According to the following story from, the ban is not going over very well. The animal rights people distributed illegal feed to hungry pigeons:

Venice pigeon feeding ban flouted
(ANSA) - Venice, May 2 - Animal rights campaigners in Venice crossed swords with the city council on Friday after distributing 30 kilos of birdseed to flocks of ravenous pigeons in St Mark's Square.

The birds had gone hungry for two days after the age-old tourist tradition of feeding the pigeons in the picturesque square came to an abrupt end.

Although feeding the pigeons has long been outlawed in other parts of the lagoon city, on Wednesday Mayor Massimo Cacciari won his battle to extend the ban city-wide and force the square's 19 licensed birdseed sellers to shut up shop.

Animal rights campaigners said they were feeding the birds on Friday in an effort to stop ''the shameful massacre of the animals through hunger and capture''.

''Pigeons have lived in Venice for centuries and they have a close link with its history, its traditions and its residents: they are one of (the city's) best-known symbols around the world,'' said Cristina Romieri of the Italian Vegetarian Association.

''Now with unjustifiable alarmism the council wants to exterminate them by starving them, ignoring civilised and valid alternative methods like the administration of contraceptive medicine,'' she added.

Tourists, including children, helped the animal rights campaigners distribute the seed in the square but the morning's feeding frenzy failed to capture the attention of the municipal police.

Venice has for years been trying to cut its estimated 40,000-strong pigeon population which produces thousands of tonnes of droppings a day.

While many visitors to the lagoon city find its soaring flocks of pigeons charming, the council says they are a public health menace and a nuisance, eroding the city's historic facades and statues with their highly acidic guano.

Controversial efforts at controlling the pigeons - which Cacciari describes as ''flying rats'' - have included trapping the birds in nets and removing them from the square.

''The city council has been trying to reduce the number of birds for ten years through continuous, violent capture and indiscriminate killing, which adults and children are forced to watch,'' Romieri said.

''Every year around 20,000 pigeons are killed, at a collective cost of 850,000 euros. ''It's an unacceptable, costly and ineffective method rejected by the scientific world: the surviving pigeons continue to reproduce, finding more space and food at their disposal,'' she added.

The evicted birdseed vendors are also unhappy with the council's methods and are seeking 150 euros per day as compensation for their lost jobs.

Failing that, they want the council to issue them with permits to sell souvenirs on the square.

Local people became less sympathetic to the plight of both vendors and birds after a report by the Nomisma research group found that the presence of pigeons in Venice costs each resident some 275 euros a year to clean up the mess and damage.

Some experts even claim the excrement, by eroding flagstones, has increased the risk of the 'acqua alta' that puts the square under water for much of the winter.

The city recently banned the tradition of showering newly-wed couples with rice as part of its bid to tackle the pigeon menace.

Scenes like the one shown in the photo I took a few years ago, will disappear if the pigeons are gone. Or, will the voracious seagulls replace the pigeons? Tip: if you click on the photo, you get a super-sized version and can see all the details.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Pigeons Can Stay -- the Vendors Have to Leave

Yes, the pigeons are a nuisance. They cause lots of damage. I am among those who can't understand the thrill of having pigeons all over me -- even I'm standing in the middle of San Marco. But now it's not the pigeons under attack;it's the birdseed vendors. Stands like these are an endangered species. (I took this photo in May 2004).

The following article from explains it:

Venice birdseed vendors in a jam
Council bans them as part of pigeon purge
(ANSA) - Venice, January 10 - The traders who sell pigeon food in St Mark's Square expressed anguish on Thursday after city hall passed a measure banning them from ever doing so again.

''It's absurd to take away our jobs like this. We have to live,'' said Sergio, one of the 20 or so Venetians who run the small stands selling bird seed and corn on the lagoon city's most famous piazza.

Like several other European cities, Venice has already banned people from feeding pigeons in all other parts of town, saying they are a public health menace and a nuisance, eroding monuments with their excrement.

Despite being well aware that many tourists find the flocks of pigeons charming, the council on Wednesday night decided to finish the job by driving the birds from their last refuge in the city.

''If the council wants us to go away it should at least give us a valid alternative,'' protested Sergio. ''Some of us have families to support and mortgages to pay. If we don't work, who's going to pay? The mayor?'' The driving force behind the campaign to rid St Mark's of pigeons is city commerce councillor Giuseppe Bertolussi, who is convinced that the time has come to end what he calls a ''health emergency''.

Bertolussi's initiative has the backing of heritage experts who say pigeon droppings are eating away at St Mark's flagstones and increasing the risk of the 'acqua alta' that puts the square under water for much of the winter.

Local people also became more sympathetic to the cause after a report by the Nomisma research group found that the presence of pigeons in Venice costs each resident some 275 euros a year to clean up the mess and damage.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Dream of Italy -- Great Offer/Act Fast!

Dream of Italy -- sounds like something a lot of us do, but it's also a great travel newsletter. It's a great resource if you're going to Italy (not just Venice), or if you're not going to Italy this year, but dream about it.

The newsletter can be delivered electronically or through the mail. If SUBSCRIBE BEFORE JANUARY 8th (that's tomorrow), you'll receive a free 2-DVD set of the Italian hit film Cinema Paradiso. ($24.95 value)

You can find some free articles here if you'd like to check it out.