If Venice Dies

This is a book about the dangers of amnesia collettiva – losing collective memory … Se Venezia Muore – this is what scares me. There’s so much ancient wisdom living on in Venice. Open sources, for everyone to see. Less obvious ones  – the Lagoon. And hidden ones. These opportunities and issues are discussed in a book by Salvatore Setti. Recently translated into English, it describes the three ways of how towns can lose identity, and what we must watch out for.

First, a town can be physically destroyed, like the Romans destroyed Carthage in 146 BC. Second, towns are destroyed but a foreign population settles around the ruins. That happened to Tenochtitlan when Mexico City was built in 1521. Third, the inhabitants of a town lose their “collective memory”, forgetting about their historical and cultural identity. It’s so important for Venice not to lose her anima and that inhabitants take care of themselves!! Fight for their needs in a specific environment – with words and deeds.

Le città storiche sono insidiate dalla resa a una falsa modernità, dallo spopolamento, dall’oblio di sé. Di questa minaccia, e dei rimedi possibili, Venezia è supremo esempio. Dobbiamo ritrovarne l’anima, rivendicare il diritto alla citta. – Salvatore Settis, 2014


Basta l’indifferenza – no who-cares-mentality. Which is the impact on other countries in case the cultural heritage of Venice is lost forever?

Conservare e coniare l’anima della città. Noi ne siamo parte essenziale. We must not forget about the material shell (our buildings) and what they contain (ancient knowledge, history and stories). The unwritten laws of Venice, simply called Venezianitudine. 

More than 80% of the (scientific) know-how of the Republic of Venice is not readily available to Venetians. This percentage is even lower with guests. For this reason, we miss valuable knowledge on botany and pharmacies, building techniques, hydraulic principles and even in environmental management (how come did the Republic of Venice manage to properly build the ecosystem of the Lagoon? Without this wise care, the Lagoon would have turned into an arm of the sea five hundred years ago).

Venezia senza popolo. There’s no Venice without the people who coined this environment. Built the buildings. The solution is certainly not part-time inhabitants and holiday dwellers. Venice needs to define a role to have a future for its inhabitants. Make a sense in “modern” times to live in the prototype of a city.

The historical center of Venice is still intact, and there are no “outskirts” aren’t crowded with shopping centers. Venice has maintained her inner balance required to survive for any city. Venice can teach how humane cities work. How to find a balance in the polarity town-countryside. Venice is a natural mixture of components from both worlds.


The campagna – what we call he “liquid plain = Lagoon “hosts” this town. Venice is embedded in her Lagoon. Each part of the Lagoon had a function – even each island. That’s why we write Lagoon with the elle maiuscola.

Towns can’t survive without connecting with their surroundings. Satellite towns and favelas don’t make it in the long term, social and environmental problems are certain to develop. That’s an important lesson Venice can teach humanity, for it’s expected that by the year 2030, 80% of people will live in towns (compared to 3% in 1850 and 54% in 2014).

Listen to Salvatore Settis at his book’s presentation Se Venezia Muore (9 December 2014, Istituto Veneto).

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