Last Saturday, the group Venessia, held a funeral for the sinking city of Venice. A bright pink colored coffin sailed through the canals, covered in yellow flowers. The protest was designed to highlight the severity of Venice’s dropping population, dipping below 60,000 people in the historic center.
I myself mourned Venice’s ghost town quality back in February of 2008. As I wandered the canals, streets were packed, but not packed with locals. Tourists elbow and poke each other for a gondola ride during busy times throughout the day. Waiters outside Venetian restaurants scream in desperation to get you to sit down at one of their tables. They do this all in English of course. Italian is seldom spoken around here and that is where the beginning of the end began for Venice.
Looking up at the windows on Venice’s buildings, they all seem empty. You could almost hear a pin drop in the town if the tourists would quiet down. I remember having dinner at a tourist trap in Venice in 2008. Having studied Italian for years, I knew by this point more than enough basics to get by at dinner. I ordered in perfect Italian. The arrogant waiter spoke back in English. I continued in Italian. He continued in English.
Venetians largely blame the inundation of tourists to their city for its declining population. This seems to be true, however some Venetians like my waiter are putting the nails on their own coffin through Americanization and the Disneyland atmosphere Venice holds. The minute you let your language go, so goes your culture. The Italian culture in Venice is now the tourist culture. Everything is catered to tourists and not locals. The only Italian aspect to Venice remains in its architecture.Venice may have been put to rest last Saturday, but it died long ago, when waiters, gondoliers, and vendors only began to cater to tourists.
In true Italian fashion, the coffin sailing around the canals of Venice housed bottles of spumante, later squirted through the crowd. I guess Venice if you are going down, you might as well shower in spumante to drown your sorrows in the sinking city.
To read more details about the funeral held for Venice, read the New York Times article Mock Funeral for Venice Dramatizes Flight of Residents From City’s Heart by Rachel Donadio.