Dear Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Whoopi Goldberg, Amy Schumer and others, I heard you are leaving the United States. Don’t move to the city of Marco Polo! What you see is not what is real! The true Venice that you and millions of visitors should see is evidenced by the shuttered windows of homes all along the canals. Shutters that are closed most of the year, opened only for short-term renters or the rich owners who come for a short holiday visit. Closed shutters/nobody home! There’s one reason with a growing problem.
|Dark and Lonely|
I call Venice The Italian Disneyland. They are quite similar, both aiming to suck the pockets of tourists dry. Both provide a thrill or two. Both are visually beautiful. Disneyland is empty at night, frequented by guards and the cleaning staff. Venice is also devoid of people. If you wander the walkways of Venice in the belly of winter with your free cartoon map, you can’t help but find yourself frustrated and lost. Even though Venice is quite safe at night, you can’t help but feel a bit frightened. I wouldn’t want to be in Disneyland at 3:00 a.m., either.
Piles of money buy up those beautiful villas, but there is a price to be paid. We only see the fronts of Venetian structures, quite like a visit to Universal Studios where you see houses that only have one side, provided for a front. It is the same here in Venice. Behind that beautiful exterior lies the ugliness of the back of a bowling alley. Venice has been abandoned for years to the rich, and lies as a museum piece. Although you have the pile of cash allowing you the luxury of moving, Barbara Streisand, no one will be rolling out the red carpet for you and the those who gawk and take selfies from the expensive vaporetto boats. You and the vast number of tourists are as welcome as a case of herpes.
The problem stems from the hoard of besieging tourists, estimated at 20 million a year, It wasn’t so bad as far back as the 80’s, but the economies of the European nations have grown, and so the growing middle class comes to see this famous city, They want to see its beauty and view, in person, what their teachers and the history books have told them. Venice kicked butt in history and was a major player with lots of wealth. They ruled over lands all the way to Istanbul. In one crusade they plundered Constantinople (Istanbul) and hauled away their gold and jewels. They ruled the water routes to the East. During those times these villas were built and history was made. If you build it, they will come, and come the tourists do. They arrive at the train station which lies right on the canal, they arrive by plane from the nearby airport, and they arrive by ship. This is the biggest problem, the huge passenger boats that park at the convenient docks with the people who walk across the hated bridge (another blog soon) to the vaporetto stations. Think of it, 20 million Karl Pilkingtons feeding those hundreds of flapping and crapping pigeons. 20 million bodies blocking the entrance to homes, and making noise at night. Think of the trash and sewage problems this creates!
What is the entrance fee for Disneyland? There is no entrance fee for Venezia (the real name).
The residents who are hanging onto their beloved city are justified. They complained to the mayor and his council to make the vacant apartments owned by the city available with affordable rents. Yet, like most governments today, nothing happens. Compounding this problem is the fact that two top city officials have resigned due to a scrupulous siphoning of construction project funds. The result of which is the city is now temporarily run by committee.
The people also complain, with good reason, that during holidays and festivals the walkways are so crowded that they cannot get from the boat docks to their front door, battling the crowds that are jammed and not moving. They complain about the constant noise of rattling suitcases being dragged over the cobblestones at all hours of the night. They have complained about the vaporettos being so bloated with tourists that they are forced to wait for the next water bus. In an attempt to combat this problem the mayor raised the ticket price. The last time I rode a vaporetto I think I remember that the ticket price was an astounding 8 euros. The ticket price for locals like me is 1.50.
In September there was a congenial gathering of protesters as they used small boats and gondolas to block cruise ships from entering Venice. A few years before this many citizens donned wet suits and swam out to block the cruise ships. The 30,000 passengers a day that arrive by ship are welcomed by the locals as if they were part of the Manson family. If you stand back and look at the bridges crossing the canals it actually looks like an ant hill. It is a kind of organized chaos. Taking a few moments to give some thought to what you see, you begin to have empathy for the citizens. Every day they get a brass knuckle punch from the hoard of tourists.
There is no industry in Venice, the shops have been mostly bought and are now stocked with Chinese-made souvenirs, many of the bars are run by immigrant Chinese, while fancy shops that service the rich like, Chanel, Gucci and Armani have pushed local shops into oblivion. Is there really anyone stupid enough to buy a handbag for 3,000 euros? The locals who work in the service industry such as trash, transportation, and deliveries are mostly what is left for employment for the locals. What do you believe they are thinking about those luxury shops and the prices?
There have been public demonstrations of late. The latest emotional display was called Venexodus and had residents carrying suitcases and parading to exit with signs saying, “Addio” to signify the forced exit of long-time families from Venice. One man donned a red cloak and played the part of the Doge, and after walking the streets in protest and being followed by residents he symbolically boarded a gondola he and bid Venice, “Addio”.
|Smaller is Quieter|
Families have good reason to be upset. They have lived here for generations and cannot afford to stay. Yet, the rich with their piles of money now have their vacation villas. They rent them out for a huge profit which keeps rental prices for residents far too high for people working in the service industry. The well to do don’t plan to own the villas for more than a few years and so do not repair structural problems. Believe me, there are problems with these villas sitting on the water. Waves created from the boats constantly eat away the structures. High tides cause water to enter the first floor of the villas. All this plus the fact that these homes were built hundreds of years ago and there is a natural ageing of structures, such as sinking, etc. I would like to offer one last thought about all this. What will happen when the seas rise within a few years? The rich villa owners who do nothing to help the city will be left holding the bag like the last person in a pyramid scheme. They will deserve it.