Killing Venice Slowly

The Italian government has decided to dig a new deep canal through the Venetian lagoon to give the next generation of cruise ships, even bigger then the current ones, a passage to Venice.

Please consider signing the online petition against this next assault on Venice.

This decision

  • was taken in Rome without any kind of democratic representation of the residents of Venice as the city doesn’t currently have an elected mayor,
  • was taken during the summer holidays, in an attempt to sneak it through unnoticed,
  • will lead to the final destruction of the southern Venetian lagoon, already severely damaged by the Canale dei Petroli, dug in the 1960s,
  • will have a massive impact on the hydrology of Venice itself, with unpredictable consequences,
  • will perpetuate the industrial tourism offered by the cruise industry, which bring little if any money to the city of Venice .

The petition text translated by myself:

Stop the dredging of the Contorta canal, before it is too late.

The realisation of the new Contorta canal will bring the Canal dei petroli into the heart of the city of Venice, reducing its natural defences and subjecting it to the combined pressure of masses of water from both the Lido and the Malamocco openings, with consequences which could be irreversible. We’re against the dredging of new Cortorto canal because we consider it damaging to the city of Venice and to its lagoon. We therefore ask that the project be retracted immediately and that we return to work on all the suggested projects available.

Last but not least, we express the conviction that it should be the city of Venice that decide on a question which regards it so directly, and that its not treated as an almost undesired  spectator


The Redentore Feast

The Redentore Feast is probably the most important popular celebration in Venice. Dinner down in the calle, fondamenta or in barca, ended by huge fireworks in the bacino afterwards.

We celebrated in Riva de l’Arsenal, and enjoyed the fireworks from the nearby Ponte della Marina Veneta.

S-ciopon - Fissures sealed

Repairing the s-ciopon

Our s-ciopon (a traditional Venetian wooden boat) is currently under repair.

It started to take in a bit of water back in February, and as I was leaving for a short holiday, I had to take it out of the water. It’s been on land now for three months which is not good for a forty years old boat.

With the warmer weather the wood has dried out and cracks and fissures have appeared.

The damages were beyond my meager woodworking skills, so I called in one of the local pros: Matteo Tamassia, an experienced and much sought after shipwright.

Matteo helped sort out the issues under the waterline.  The boat has been cleaned, all the fissures caulked and sealed, after which the bottom has been primed and treated with antifouling.

Needless to say, it’s been interesting, and very instructive, to see a professional at work.

Poor Poveglia

The challenge of the association Poveglia per tutti of collecting enough money to beat the other bid for the island, failed.

The association arrived at €420,000 but that was not enough, as the unknown other bidder had offered €513,000 for the island.

Second battle lost, then. The war is not necessarily lost, though.

The next steps

After the online bidding round on last Tuesday, which saw no raised bids, a technical commission of the Demanio di Stato (the body managing state owned properties) has 30 days to examine the winning bid, to decide whether it is in conformance with the conditions set out in the offer to sell the island, and whether it is in the state’s interest to sell at that price.

If the Demanio refuses to sell at €513,000 we’re back to square one and all options are open as before.

The winning bidder

The winning bid was made anonymously, but at the end of the bidding process it was revealed that the person behind the offer was Luigi Brugnaro.

Brugnaro is a well know figure in Venice. He is the president and main sponsor of the very popular Reyer basketball team, the owner and founder of the company Umana Spa and ex-president of the Association of Industrialists in the Veneto region.

The popularity of the Reyer team hasn’t rubbed much off on him, though. He is generally disliked.

He is not Venetian, but comes from the small town Spinea on the mainland, so he is seen as an outsider, a non-Venetian.

Umana Spa which made him rich, is a jobs agency, helping people find work in return for a share of the wages earned in a period afterwards. Neither this as made him popular. The company is seen as a parasite, exploiting the desperation of the many jobless. He is perceived as having gotten wealthy on the back of common people’s misery.

He also has a concession for 40 years on the Scuola Grande della Misericordia. It is a huge building in Cannareggio, formerly used as a municipal sports facility, but very much in disrepair. To save the building, the city has given it in concession to Brugnaro, in return for restoration. Brugnaro, however, lets the building rot while renting it out to private parties and company events. The net effect of this is that a public good has been turned over to a private citizen, with no return benefits to the public.

Most people expect this to repeat if Brugnaro gets hold of poor Poveglia.

The city of Venice

On the sideline is the city of Venice. The city council has an option in these cases, of buying the island in front of the winning bidder, at the price established by the auction.

Therefore, if the Demanio decides that the island can be sold 99 years for €513,000, then the city can get the island for that price.

The city can also get the island if the Demanio decides not to sell at the price offered. In that case the island can be devolved to the city.

There is therefore a real chance that the city of Venice will be able to acquire control of the island, one way or the other.

There will be local elections next year in May, exactly one year from now.

If the city council lets Brugnaro have the island, when they had options to prevent it, they will pay at the next elections.

Considering the ability of the Poveglia per tutti association in mobilising thousands of Venetians and others for a common cause, it would be a rather stupid decision of a not very popular city council to not try to get hold of the island, and it that case, not to let the Poveglia per tutti association run it.

On the other hand, if they manage to secure the island for the Venetian public, there might be an electoral reward around the corner.

So, in spite of everything, there’s still hope.


Gondola on gondola

Most gondolas in Venice sport a little figure on the front. Normally its a human figure, or an angel, or even a Buddha or a Ganesh. You see a bit of everything.

It is, however, a first to see a gondola on a gondola.

For whatever reason, the gondola also had a plush giraffe hanging off the ferro da poppa:


Poveglia in kayak

Save Poveglia

Help the Venetians
keep the island Poveglia

Venice is slowly being taken over by tourism.

Ever more property is being bought and converted to offers for tourists, leaving less and less space for the residents of the city, who often feel that they’re being expelled from they own city.

Now the lagoon island of Poveglia is put up for sale by the state, and most expected it to be turned into yet another 5 star tourist offer.

This time, however, the Venetians have rebelled.

An association Poveglia per tutti – Poveglia for all – has been formed to bid for and buy the island, to keep it accessible to the public. This association has in a short time collected 2000 subscriptions and made a bid of €160.000 for the island, and has passed the first barrier.

There is one other offer, by an anonymous bidder, who have offered €513.000.

The association must at least match this bid to get the island.

Therefore, to all of you who love Venice, please help us keep Poveglia free for all.

Please head to the site Message in a Bottle. and make a contribution for the purchase of the island, for Venice, for us, for yourself should you come back.

You can send money by bank transfer or by Paypal. Just follow the instructions on the site.

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Gondoliere practise

Waiting for the Carnival procession on the Canal Grande at the traghetto San Samuele we enjoyed the view of two gondolieri practising the manoeuvres they need to do the operate the traghetto.

They needed to turn the boat repeatedly and fast, to navigate the current and waves the other traffic caused and to enter the cavana safely.

They used a normal gondola da nolo, not the standard barcheta da traghetto used by the traghetto.