The problem of Venice is its beauty.
This is a beauty ruined by political and economic motives that have made the city a pale reflection of its centuries as a once proud empire. Now Venice appears like a crass Mickey Mouse theme park, and Venetians are unaware actors in The Truman Show.
The historic markets of Venice, the “campielli”, the “calli” (small streets and fields) and the iconic bridges all contend for scarce territory with street vendors and a flood of Chinese tourists flush with money. This insatiable consumerism literally rules the historic centre of Venice, and the few remaining locals no longer have the strength to counter this crass assault on its fine history.
Venice is a victim of mass tourism, and the ugly side of consumerism.
The tourists that clog historic Piazza San Marco are poor in curiosity, uninterested in exploring the side streets and minor piazzas, and experiencing the authentic beauty of Venice.
This phenomenon of unconstrained tourism is alarming, and continues to rise like the high water beating against the Biennale of Modern Art.
Lost in the rush for selfies on Piazza San Marco, shoddy souvenir T-shirts (I love Venice) and banal refrigerator magnets - are countless treasures on the side streets. This includes an astounding 148 churches, not to mention an immense treasure of sculptures and paintings around nearly every other corner.
In the historic centre, people are getting old, there are fewer children, and a certain small criminal element has returned, comprised of drug dealers and apartment thieves.
Many historic shops have closed, and the same applies to famous restaurants and pubs. Owners have succumbed to the fixed 12-euro menu to survive the foreign competition, offering poor quality food to reduce costs. Some shop owners have resorted to operating souvenir shops of Murano Glass replicas.
Only when I returned from my various trips abroad did I realize that my city was not immune to the effects of globalization. Over the years, the quality of tourism has diminished, and the intolerance of local residents has increased as a result.
I cannot yet speak of dreadful social conditions that now affect Venice. Like so many others, I can only attempt to preserve the traditions of the most beautiful city in the world.
Because of the complexity of what Venice faces, I will address themes integrated by historical notes, because one cannot discuss present-day Venice without an appreciation of the city’s past. As a vivid reminder of conditions in Venice, more and more young people are leaving the historic centre - and this speaks volumes about the vitality of any city, especially Venice.
It is important to know the real Venice, and not the romanticized image from Hollywood films, or dazzling photos by tourism operators.
A daily Venice, hidden and precious.
A Venice that the tourist will never see without a local guide.
Because Venice is much more. Infinitely more.