Sunday, November 01, 2009

Funeral for Venice to be Held on November 14

From the Voice of America News:
Declining Venice Population Leads to City's 'Funeral'

27 October 2009

A group in Italy's canal city, Venice, is planning to hold a "funeral" for their hometown, which is rapidly losing its permanent residents. The group says the city is being drained of its normal life.

Venetians have been concerned about the declining population of the canal city for decades. The population stood at more than 145,000 in 1960. Thirty years later, it had dropped to about 78,000.  Now it has hit an all time low, dipping below the 60,000 mark.

Many residents are concerned and feel something needs to be done about this steady demographic decline. They say the population is getting older, the buildings are in a state of degradation, and more and more shops are being opened for the millions of tourists that visit the city.

But they say the traditions and crafts of the canal city are fast disappearing.

Mario Secchi says he was born in Venice, his dad and grand dad were Venetians, but he was forced to emigrate to the mainland because the rents were too high in the historic center.

His son, Matteo Secchi, a local businessman who runs a hotel, is one of the organizers of the upcoming funeral for the city. On November 14, a group of Venetians will carry a coffin symbolizing the death of the city down the Grand Canal in a procession of three boats and anyone else who wants to join in.

Matteo Secchi says the high property prices and rental costs are forcing ordinary residents to leave the city.

"Venice is under attack from the business," he said. "The rich people think they are at the stock exchange with the houses of Venice. For example they buy at 100 an empty house and they sell after 5 years at 150, like the stock exchange. Venice stock exchange."

Secchi and his friends are also responsible for a population counter that has been placed in the shop-window of a pharmacy in the city center.

Doctor Andrea Morelli explains why he decided to host the counter in the shop.

The doctor says it was installed in March 2008. He decided to do this out of his love for the city of Venice and because he thought it was important to put on display the real decline of the population, to raise public awareness.

The more pessimistic Venetian residents say the countdown has begun and that if the exodus continues at this rhythm, in 2030 Venice will have become a ghost city with no more citizens, just hordes of tourists. Today 18 million tourists visit Venice every year, but in 20 years this number risks doubling.

Send photos if you attend!

It's time to order the new olive oil!

I just received my Casa de Case newsletter and, now that my order has been placed, I want to let you know that they are now accepting orders for olio nuovo. (Olio nuovo is bottled directly as it comes from the spigot when crushe.) As their newsletter says the olive oil's "intense fresh fruit taste that makes it so special." Casa de Case is one of the only sources in the United States of true Italian olio nuovo -- and I love it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Four More Days!

Four more days till I leave for Venice! How excited do you think I am.... If you say VERY, you'd be close. One thing I'm looking forward to: eating at Ristoranti Riviera. IMHO it's the BEST restaurant in Venice. A nice mix of traditional and new, Riviera has never, ever disappointed me. And, Luca and Pietro Fra Diavolo (my name for the red-headed waiter) are a unique mixture of crazy sense of humor and desire to give every diner a fantastic meal. For those of you in need of a place to stay, Riveria has a fantastic B&B above the restaurant. I think the aromas from the kitchen would drive me insane....

I rook this photo in April 2007. It's the view from Riviera's terrace. As you can see, we're waiting for the main course!


Monday, May 04, 2009

Safety in Venice

I don't think the swine flu has made its way to Venice, but there are a few things you should do to stay safe.

1. Venice is a very safe city. There isn't a lot of crime and you can wander around at all times of day and night without feeling threatened.

2. Pickpockets are a big problem, as you might guess. If you're in crowded San Marco or an unbelievably crowded vaporetto, keep you hands on your wallet/pocketbooks. If you're a backpacker, don't keep your pack on your back on the vaporetto. First, it's rude (you're taking up too much space). Second, a pickpocket will have a lot of fun dipping into your belongings.

3. If someone "spills" mustard or something on you, don't worry about that. Worry about your wallet.

4. Ignore the fake bag sellers on the main walkways. If you buy a fake, you're liable for a big fine. The sellers and buyers are both guilty in Venice. Don't even acknowledge the sellers--they will hound you if you do.

5. Buy the vaporetto pass. They don't often check tickets, but if they do--and you get caught--it's a fine, payable on the spot.

6. Make copies of your passport and keep them with you. When you check into the hotel and apartment, the info will be recorded for the police to check. If you go to an internet cafe, you'll have to show it, too. It's better to have a few copies than leave the real thing with a clerk.

If you don't follow my advice, you may pay for it--or get strung up where the old-timers met their fate!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

After 75 Years, the Temporary Accademia Bridge to Be Replaced?

The wooden Accademia Bridge was erected in 1933 as a temporary structure until a permanent bridge could be built. 75 years later, Venice may be finally getting around to building that permanent bridge.

News reports say that Venice's city council on Thursday opened the bidding to design a replacement for one of the city's key bridges, the Ponte dell'Accademia.

The council itself doesn't plan to spend a penny and is instead in search of a sponsor to fork out five million euros, an architect and a building company to present a joint offer by the end of August. The council plans say that the iron arches supporting the bridge will remain, but the wooden section will be replaced with a new design, either in stone or a metal alloy, and the entire structure given an overhaul. quotes public works councillor Maria Rumiz as saying that Venetians had become fond of the bridge, and that she expected there would be some polemics.

She said it was necessary to ''overcome'' the idea that Venice was ''made of postcards'' without any structures that ''need to be eliminated''.

I took the photo of the bridge in May 2003.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Coke is It -- In Venice brings us the news that Venice is not selling out -- even as it agrees to a "partnership" with Coca-Cola
» 2009-02-23 14:13
Coca- Cola not 'buying' Venice
Mayor says partnership with drinks giant 'indispensable'
"(ANSA) - Venice, February 23 - Coca-Cola is not ''buying'' Venice, its city council said Monday, reacting to polemics over a planned million-dollar partnership between the drinks giant and the lagoon city.

Italian daily La Stampa reported Monday that the city was ''selling itself'' to Coca-Cola in a 2.1 million-dollar deal that will involve ''vending machines in every corner of the city'', including St Mark's Square, where tourists are forbidden from picnicking under strict council rules on urban decorum.

But Maurizio Calligaro, the council's chief of staff, said the 60 vending machines would not be placed on public soil, let alone near landmarks such as St Mark's.

''Fifteen distributors will be placed on the principal vaporetti landing stages, the others will be inside council car parks and in the limited traffic zone of the mainland. Where's the invasion?'' Calligaro said.

He also stressed that the vending machines would not bear the Coca-Cola logo, quashing rumours that the brand name would be plastered all over the city.

Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari, who has long bemoaned a lack of state funds for the upkeep of city monuments and churches, said he was ''astounded'' by the polemics over the deal, adding that it was no different from others adopted in the past.

''This is a financial strategy that today is simply indispensable for safeguarding our monuments and artistic heritage and is in line with culture ministry guidelines,'' Cacciari said.

''It follows a strategy we've adopted with other equally prestigious collaborators - Lancia for the restoration of the Ducal Palace, Swatch for the Biblioteca Marciana, Replay for Ca' Rezzonico and Bulgari for the Scala d'Oro''.

The mayor added that the idea that Venice could be safeguarded ''by philanthropy alone'' was unrealistic.

''These idealists who protest against strategies such as (the Coca Cola deal), which by now have been adopted in all the cities of the world, should have the good taste to indicate an alternative, or, even better, provide for the needs of the city from their own pockets,'' he said.

Cacciari last month warned that Venice's monuments and churches risked falling into ruin because too much state aid is being directed into a controversial project to protect the lagoon city from sinking.

The experimental 4.3 billion-euro Moses scheme is scheduled to come into action in 2014 and involves moveable flood barriers that rise from the seabed to block the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea when high tides are forecast.

A longstanding opponent of the costly scheme, Cacciari has warned that there are no guarantees that it will work."

This photo shows one of my preferred drinks in Venice.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

AMEX Gone From Venice

According to the excellent newsletter/blog/travel service, Dream of Italy:

American Express has closed its offices in Venice's Piazza San Marco and near the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, but blame the closings on high rents rather than fewer travelers.

I took the photo in 2007. It's one of the thousands of photos I have of San Marco! Be sure to click on the photo to see it in its full digital glory. I'm always amazed--it makes me feel like I'm standing in San Marco. If you can't be there in person, be there in digital...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cheap Eats Near San Marco

From ANSA news:

Venice 'pilgrim restaurant' opens
New eatery driving prices down around St Mark's

(ANSA) - Venice, January 30 - A new 'restaurant for pilgrims' is driving Venice prices down by offering cheap, quality lunches to visitors to St Mark's Basilica.

The eatery, which advertises three-course lunches for a tidy 13 euros ($17), has yet to open but has already caused a flutter around the famously pricey square.

Three days before it threw its doors open to the public on Monday, reporters had already spotted ''new, competitive'' menus on sandwich boards in the area.

The La Basilica restaurant is run by a local catering company, SGS, on behalf of the St Mark's Procurators, the board that manages the famed Byzantine cathedral.

Since the Procurators are a non-profit outfit, SGS has been able to come up with a large menu for the lowest of costs, catering firm chief chief Augusto Piscella said.

''I was amazed,'' he said at the restaurant's unveiling Thursday night.

''Since all we have to do is break even, we can afford a choice of eight first courses, seven second courses and six side-dishes''.

''The Procurators' aim is to give a medium-high class meal to all those who visit the Basilica, expressing the Venetian Church's desire to welcome people''.

I took the photo in November 2008. It's not the best photo, but it was a nice November day and we had been sitting in San Marco, drinking expensive coffee and watching the crowds--worth the price of admission!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Book Venice Online -- Discounts, Too

Venice to start online bookings
Tourism will be more sustainable, officials say

(ANSA) - Venice, January 21 - Venice is set to open an online booking service that will give tourists discounts if they plan their holidays in advance.

The system will help keep flows into the often overrun lagoon city manageable, officials say.

From Sunday, February 1, visitors will be able to book tickets at the Correr Museum and the Ducal Palace as well as city-edge parking space and bus and vaporetto rides.

At the website,, they'll be able to choose from 'green' days (city virtually empty), 'blue' days (medium full) and 'red' days (crowded), Deputy Mayor Michele Vianello told a press conference.

''This is a major step in making tourism in Venice more sustainable,'' he said, calling the colour coded system ''a thermometer of sustainability''.

''Tourists will be able to create their own holiday package including hotels, public services and tickets for museums and other events. And they can pay for this at one time after which they will be given an entry password''.

The city council will also throw in a free ticket to the city's famed casino and a free wi-fi connection along with its three-day packages.

On green days, a typical three-day package for two people will cost 209.30 euros online compared to 247 if paid after arrival - a saving of 31.70 euros.

Blue packages offer savings of 31.10 euros while three red days will cost 20.10 less online, Vianello said. The new system has allowed the city to ditch plans to impose entry quotas or charge high-season entry fees, Vianello said.

For now only two city-owned museums are included but talks are going ahead to add the city's array of state-run sites as well as its churches, led by St Mark's Basilica. In the wake of recent hotel wellies-and-all discounts to lure back tourists put off by pictures of St Mark's under water, the city is also putting up a video entitled Venice, A Livable City Even With Acqua Alta.

I took the photo in May 2007. Unfortunately, the statues are gone,but the feelings remain.