Saturday afternoon in Venice. At the Arsenale, people are invited inside, participating in guided walks and listening to stories about the oldest shipyard in Europe. Fashion shows are taking place, also in the Piazzetta, just in front of the Doge’s Palace.
At the Rialto Market, about 250 people are learning how to use spices in the kitchen, assembling around tables with heaps of spices, and listening to the tales from the life of Marco Polo.
On the island Sant’Erasmo, the Italian TV station Rai Uno is getting ready to film another episode on the Lagoon for Linea Verde. And on the Lido, the Film Festival is taking place.
Not so far away, still in Venice, a group of Venetians is getting ready for la vendemmia – harvesting the grapes in the Sant’Elena vineyards.
In Piazza San Marco, work begins to build a glass barrier to keep the basilica safe from high tides, as autumn is drawing nearer. Meanwhile, Venetians are enjoying the afternoon, drinking spritz at Caffé Florian.
At San Giobbe, a part of the city overlooking the north-eastern part of the Lagoon, 200 students are just moving into their new housing quarters, ready to start their classes at the Ca’ Foscari university.
Well, this seems like utopia? True, it didn’t all happen on just one Saturday, but in late summer. In our opinion, it’s a sign that this city isn’t “doomed”.
Yet, the figures in the vetrina of Farmacia Morelli on Campo San Bartolomeo inexorably show the number of residents in Venice shrinking, falling below the fatidica soglia of 50,000 in early 2022, if trends continue.
If you look more closely, you can make out the effect of 15 months of pandemic and solitude: Some businesses, hotels, and restaurants closed or changed ownership. Venice was under a very strict lockdown from early March to mid-May 2020, then opening carefully in summer 2020, and closing again in early fall 2020. Several lockdowns ensued and until mid-May 2021, the city was a zona rossa, a red zone under complete lockdown. In early autumn 2021, Venice has become a “relatively safe white zone” called zona bianca.
Long-term solutions to tackling mass tourism and safeguarding the Lagoon (who – how – when) are being discussed, openly, and more so behind the scenes. Especially, the citizen associations are making themselves heard.
This is what Venice looks and feels like now, and the atmosphere you too will encounter, when you return to Venice.12