Discovering the “real” Venice

A nice blog piece about the Venice as seen by the tourists of the world and the Venice where Venetians live. Apparently, the population is just 60,000 and has come down by half since the ’60s.

What I discovered was an endangered species: the native Venetian. The shrinking but still vital population hovers around 60,000, which is just half of what it was 40 years ago, when the city began flooding regularly. And it’s not just millionaire playboys in their vacation homes, either: there are working class people, kids, college students, and old folks

We are talking of facades here. One can see the same in many tourist towns of the country. Go during the off season and you will see the real economy. But Venice has a number of other issues

I looked into it, and learned that people started moving out in droves after the city began flooding in 1966. There was a lot of industrial activity going on at the time, and they dug too many deep wells, which drained the aquifer below the sand and clay and wood pylon foundations of Venice enough to lower the city itself, making it vulnerable to high tides and heavy rains. The ground floors of 16,000 houses became unusable. And over the years, real estate prices have gone through the roof. I lingered in front of a real estate agent’s window display, as I always do when exploring new cities, and the prices were comparable to apartments in New York. Want a third-floor walkup with great views of the Grand Canal? You’re looking at a million-plus Euros. As a result, a lot of the people who work in Venice live elsewhere, commuting from towns on the mainland or via waterbus from nearby places like the Lido.

[…]

Taken together, what it means is that Venice is on a course to become a city devoid of actual residents — sometime in the next thirty years, says the city’s housing chief, if the current trend isn’t reversed. If that happens, it really will become Disneyland, and the “real” Venice will disappear forever. And that would be a great loss both to Venice and its visitors.

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