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The tsunami of tourists pouring into that city may cause its death

02 January 18 - RE+D Magazine
The tsunami of tourists pouring into that city may cause its death

COMPANIES

Savills

Consultant - GREECE

Solum Property Solutions

Consultant - GREECE

IBI Group

Consultant - GREECE

ETAD.A.E.

Public entity - GREECE

PEOPLE

Antulio Richetta

Director IBI Group
Floods were once the greatest threat to Venice. That danger has not receded, but the tsunami of tourists pouring into the city could cause greater harm, argues Salvatore Settis in his new book, If Venice Dies.

 

Venetians are being driven out of the city by skyrocketing rent while giant cruise ships dwarf the skyline, risking a disaster like the Costa Concordia, the boat that sank off the Tuscan coast.

There’s even talk of building a Venice theme park just outside the city.

Speaking from his home in Pisa, Settis, an internationally renowned art historian, explains why saving Venice is not just important for Venetians but for all humanity, how the city inspired a new vision for Manhattan in the 1920s, and how corruption has blighted a major flood-control scheme. 

Most of us who have seen Venice have gone there as tourists. According to you, we are part of a “plague” that is destroying the city. Should we stay away?

The fact that many tourists are willing to go to Venice is in itself a good thing. I am against any system whereby the number of entry tickets to the city is limited.

The minute you would have to pay to enter the city if you are not a citizen, Venice would already have been turned into a theme park. That is precisely what I don’t want to happen.

But Venice cannot be a city that lives only from tourism. The reason Venice had its glory is because the city and Venetians were able to develop over centuries a number of productive activities.

Meanwhile, the cost of living in Venice is increasing every day.

Young people cannot afford to buy or rent an apartment in Venice, so they are moving to neighboring places. In Switzerland, where I taught for some years, federal law mandates that in every city, even the smallest village, you cannot have more than 20 percent of [houses owned as] second homes.

The reason why the Swiss government decided to do this is precisely not to encourage this loss of local identity. If the citizens abandon Venice and it becomes only a tourist location, it will lose its soul.

You describe several ways in which cities can die. Give us a brief summary and explain how Venice is threatened by what you call “self-oblivion.”

First, when an enemy destroys them, like Carthage, or when foreign invaders colonize violently, as happened with the conquistadores in Mexico or Peru. But the most dreadful danger for a city now is loss of memory. By loss of memory, I mean not forgetting that we exist, but who we are.

Long before Venice, an example is Athens, the most glorious city in classical Greece.

It completely lost its memory and even its name. In the Middle Ages nobody knew where Athens was because the name of the city got totally lost. It was called Setines, or Satine, which was a barbarized form of the name.

In Athens, there was no culture or memory of the city’s past glories. Sometimes visitors from Byzantium would travel to Athens and ask, “Where is the place where Socrates used to teach?

Where is the place where Aristotle used to teach?” Nobody could answer them.

An extreme example of this kind of oblivion regarding modern Venice is a project that was made public several years ago, of telling the history of Venice with a theme park, like Plymouth in the U.S., on an island in the lagoon.

But Venice is able to tell its own history.

We have no need to create a fake Doge’s Palace in order to tell the history of Venice.

We have the real Doge’s Palace!

(Source: National Geographic)
 

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