Category Archives: About Venice

What is a calle, anyway?

When does a visit become an assault?

Translated from an article by Marco Petricca in La Nuova Venezia:

At 9am, the onslaught begins. 33,000 day cruisers begin to disembark in groups of a thousand at a pop, from 7 massive ships and 2 ferries. It’s a surge that continues uninterrupted until 5pm, when these floating cities start to sail away.

There’s not a moment’s pause in this Venetian August: thousands of vacationers head for the People Mover to transfer to Piazzale Roma, although the tram was overwhelmed yesterday with endless lines and inconvenience. The tram runs every three minutes, each car jammed full of passengers dragging suitcases and rolling bags. Those meeting them on their return drag buggies, shopping bags and water bottles.

Before 10am, the line at the People Mover station to Piazzale Roma already spans the distance between the exit of the port and the tram ticketing machine [about 1/2 mi]. Those who get fed up decide to cross the roundabout in front of the port entrance and walk instead, keeping an eye out for trucks and vans that whiz into and out of the port and dodging the snake of cars before as they arrive to undergo VTP security checks.

Definitely in the minority are those who take the sidewalk to reach Piazzale Roma. But still there are plenty and form long, single file lines along the side of the road, halting road traffic at crosswalks.

They all make their way to Piazzale Roma, hampered by barriers and contruction work, but eventually finding themselves at the foot of Calatrava bridge. At this point they accelerate their pace: smiling faces; smiling, smiling.

The mass of tourists [ignores alternate routes and] follows itself, bound intently for the center [and Piazza San Marco], so much so that the expansive riva in front of Saint Lucia station is already thronging with people.

At 11.30, lines begin to form in reverse: at Piazzale Roma and below the entrance of the tram. There’s plenty of People Mover staff available, giving directions and attempting to regulate the line. One of the three tram railway ticketing machines is broken and the line continues to grow; increasing the chaos are commuters and those who come this way because the Tronchetto bus isn’t running due to the construction in Piazzale Roma. Those arriving don’t add much to the problem, though; it’s mostly due to the large number of those who are heading in the opposite direction.

They merge with the other tourists who, numbering at least in the hundreds, come rushing out of Saint Lucia train station, heading straight for the cruise ships, via the People Mover.

At noon, the line is so long that it blocks the cars leaving the Garage San Marco, complicating the traffic trying to get into the port and the municipal garage. The trouble spreads over the entire traffiic chain: the information points, bars, tobacco shop, the kiosk of the hotels, all overwhelmed by the crowds.

• top photo courtesy Venice in Peril

Out, out, big ships.

Venetian citizens insist: Get those massive cruise ships out of the Bacino.

Join the Facebook group – download the original document

From the press release, Venice, 11 July

We are a large group of Venice residents and sympathizers from all over the world who are concerned about the fate of Venice.

In recent weeks we have focused our attention on the problem of the negative impact and intensifying traffic of large ships — 610 mega-cruiseships in 2010 — that travel across the unique ecosystem of the Venetian Lagoon and pass just a few metres from Piazza San Marco along a canal that flows through the heart of the precious city.

On 28 April 2011 we sent a letter to the relevant administrations and local authorities, setting out a series of important issues regarding this type of traffic such as air and noise pollution; the hydrodynamic underwater effects that affect buildings especially in proximity to the smaller lateral canals; the opportunity cost to the city of this additional tourism induced pressure in economic, social, environmental and cultural terms. In more than two months, not a single one of the eight institutions that received our letter has replied.

[lv: On the contrary:]

  • The Cultural Minister, Giancarlo Galan, president of the Veneto Region for many years, superficially reduced the serious issues raised as a collection of questionable and subjective claims based on merely aesthetic criteria.
  • While he was the Mayor of Venice, the current President of the Port Authority, Paolo Costa had highlighted the need to re-route cruise traffic further away from the delicate city centre, but has not yet followed through with a commitment since taking on the Port role.
  • The current Mayor, Giorgio Orsoni, has also spoken out against the presence of these big ships in the lagoon on several occasions. But he too has not yet taken a clear stance now that the citizens he represents have asked him to.

Italia Nostra – Venezia* recently launched an appeal to the United Nations (Unesco) regarding the poor management of Venice. A quick scan of the main foreign websites covering Venice also reveals the high level of concern overshadowing our future.

Yet it doesn’t seem as though this concern is shared with those who – above all – should make the destiny of the city and its residents their priority.

We created a Facebook group to collect followers, ideas, suggestions and open a broad debate on this subject in order to inform thinking about a more sustainable future for Venice and the Lagoon. This spontaneous initiative is underwritten by a varied and representative range of political parties, residents associations, pressure groups, local businesses, celebrities as well as single individuals with a shared focus.

We demand some attention: we have concrete proposals that would safeguard tourism and commercial interests as well as guaranteeing an acceptable quality of life for the Venetians, and without compromising the heritage of the city given the environmental impacts and risk factors associated with the passage of the ships through its heart.

We ask for clear responses to these proposals and a clear stance by the relevant public authorities and administrations. There is no time left for just words. If no response is forthcoming, we will not hesitate in going further to confront the city’s administrators and those responsible for deciding port activities in other contexts such as the international organisations overseeing issues like public health, environmental protection, art, culture and heritage preservation, and are best positioned to provide a balanced and objective evaluation of the state of the city and future trends.

The whole world should be exposed to what is happening in Venice.

There is an urgent need to clarify who is responsible for damaging it, who is not, and who is keeping the silence. Venetians want to know.

New members and suggestions are welcome on the Facebook page:

facebook group: Fuori Maxinavi del Bacino San Marco or


Venetians  want to know — along with a lot of other folks. Not sure what they’ll be able to do however, as they’ve just opened a new passenger terminal at Port Isonzo, and Paolo Costa has come up with a  grand solution of a one-way passage, “like New York,” that of course would involved digging a whole new canal from the Marittima to Fusina.

If you’re unfamiliar with the situation of the ships in Venice, watch the montage:


* remember you can translate (kinda) any page instantly using the Google Chrome browser, or going to and copy/pasting text.


Inside the Intricacies of Burano Lace

With the entire building extensively restored, restructured, and renovated and its precious collections re-envisioned, the Museo del Merletto — Burano Lace Museum — reopens to reveal an ancient craft in an ultramodern setting.

According to the press release, this restoration is a total one, from physical plant to interior design to presentational concept.

Located on the island of Burano in Piazza Galuppi, the museum is also the former location of the renowned Scuola Merletti di Burano (Burano School of Lace), founded in 1872 by Countess Andriana Marcello and in operation until 1970. It became a museum in 1981 and has been part of the Venetian Civic Museums since 1995.

We are proud to represent the synthesis of female wisdom and sensitivity an art that has transcended borders, social classes, regions…”

The objective of this long-overdue restoration was to highlight one of the greatest expressions of local artistic craftsmanship — the art of lacemaking — which is so intrinsically linked to the traditions and cultural history of the lagoon, and of the island of Burano in particular. This noble, ancient trade is almost exclusively carried out by women, combining two unpretentious, everyday materials (needle and thread) with skillful hands to produce intricate, true works of art. The museum presents the visitor with an overview of the historical and artistic vicissitudes of Venetian lace from its origins to the present day.

Lace Brought Back to Life

The revitalized interior incorporates island color schemes and innovative show cases designed and constructed specifically for this installation. The over one hundred and fifty samples of lace on display were selected from the most important collections of the Venice Civic Museums; you’ll also find paintings from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries, drawings, documents, journals, fabrics and costumes.

You’ll also be able to view skillful, tireless lace maestros at work; they are still today the guardians of an art that has been passed down from generation to generation. During the upcoming school year, educational activities will be resumed, including workshops, with initiatives aimed at both pupils and their families.

Said City Councilor for Cultural Activities Tiziana Agostini, “This is the story of hardworking hands, that over time have created priceless artifacts. We are proud to represent the synthesis of female wisdom and sensitivity an art that has transcended borders, social classes, regions, remain etched in the folds of time.”

Visitor’s itinerary completely redesigned

The objective of this long-overdue restoration was to highlight one of the greatest expressions of local artistic craftsmanship — the art of lacemaking — which is so intrinsically linked to the traditions and cultural history of the lagoon, and of the island of Burano in particular.

You’ll be immediately immersed in the world of lace with a brief, evocative film (subtitles in English); informative, illustrative panels reveal the secrets of this skillful technique and its most common points (punto Venezia, punto Burano).

A chronological visit continues one floor up though four rooms with four different themes:

1. Origins – sixteenth century. The diffusion and development of this art is documented by outstanding craftsmanship: From small trinette or ‘puntine’, accessories for men’s or women’s clothing, garments for ecclesiastic functions, and underwear with decorated hems with ornate designs;

2. 17th – 18th centuries. In the seventeenth century lace reached its peak: it became widespread throughout Europe, a symbol of prestige and social rank owing to its great value and intricate elegance. Production reached substantial proportions throughout lagoon islands and on Burano, which specialized in needlework, while in Pellestrina they adopted a bobbin technique — both still true today.

3. 19th – 20th centuries. Economic and social transformations and changes in fashion including the growing popularity of more comfortable and functional clothing marked the beginning of the decline of the lace market; it was gradually overcome thanks to the revival of the Burano lace school.

4. The Burano Lace School (1872-1970). With the patronage of the future Queen Margherita of Savoy, enlightened aristocracy and politicians devised a project opening a Lace School with the aim both to revive lace production and somehow ease the poor economic conditions of the island’s inhabitants. These sections employ video- and film clips, explanation sheets and a series of period glass, garments, books, drawings, paintings that create a context that is both informative and evocative.

Finally, a new museum guidebook published by Skira-Marsilio is now available in all city museum bookshops.

Piazza Galuppi, 187 – Burano

Open daily
10am-6pm, Apr – Oct
10am-5pm, Nov – Mar
Last ticket purchase one hour before closing

Closed Tuesdays, December 25th, January 1st, May 1st

Admission €5, reduced €3,50

images courtesy Musei Civici Veneziani

When is a typewriter store a work of art?

Ah, but it’s not really a store, and it’s not just any typewriter. It’s the Negozio Olivetti — and a pièce de resistance of architect Carlo Scarpa.

This is the first article by a new contributor, Gioia Tiozzo. Gioia is a journalist, born in Venice and still living here. She’s interested in communication and the Internet, and would like others to know her city better; to that end she has established the web site (in Italian for now, but scan her daily photo blog). Gioia is also interested in the concept of Venice as a water city, and given that water is an indispensable element of life, how important it is to have great respect for it.

Gioia will be submitting articles of interest from time to time, with me translating them. When I received this first one on the recently-restored Negozio Olivetti, I ran right out and shot the photos. Welcome, Gioia!


After years of closure and a 12-month restoration, the magnificent showplace for historic Olivetti office machines has returned to take its rightful place on the Piazza.

Designed by renowned architect Carlo Scarpa (who also is responsible for the impeccable renovation in the basement of the Querini Stampalia), the Negozio is considered a masterpiece of modern art. Conceived in the ‘60s, it has never been a point of sale of typewriters and calculators, but rather the prestigious company’s elegant exhibition hall overlooking one of most beautiful and famous squares in the world. Closed in 1997, the following year Negozio sold tourist paraphernalia. But the restoration in 2010 supervised by the Superintendence for Architectural Heritage has restored all the property’s complex beauty, making it once again available for all to enjoy.

Negozio Olivetti’s story began in 1958 when captain of industry Adriano Olivetti asked Scarpa, one of the greatest architects of the twentieth century, to create a space that would represent the Olivetti company and their products. The result is a space of linear perfection where light and elegance interact flawlessly. Marble, mosaic tiles, glass, water and wood are integrated so seamlessly that the entire space becomes a work of art in and of itself. The marble staircase that leads from the ground to the upper floor is today considered a symbol of Scarpa’s modern art; the colored glass mosaic floor a gesture of his abiding affection for  the city. Reflections and transparencies create a sense of incredible volume to this long, narrow space just over 20 meters long and 5 meters wide.


With the desire to open an exhibition venue in Venice, Adriano Olivetti was pioneering the idea of partnering art with industry, and therefore with sustainability. An art patron who called on Scarpa to embark on an artistic adventure managed to create what is today considered an important work of modern art. The idea of being an entrepreneur and investing in works of architecture able to leave a distinctive mark over time, was one of the elements that distinguished Adriano Olivetti.

The Negozio Olivetti is on the “Quadri” side of the Piazza San Marco, toward the Correr.

Open Tue – Sun, 10-19 (Apr – Oct), 10-17 (Nov – Mar)
€5 entrance fee (full price)

Audio tours are available in Italian only at the time of this writing (in Italian)

The property is owned by Assicurazioni Generali and has been loaned to the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano, Italian Environmental Fund), who manages it through volunteer participation.



Rialto Fish Market non se ne va (not going anywhere)

“The Tronchetto fish market will not be moved” affirms Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni

It’s as official as it gets around here. According to the press release, neither the wholesale fish market at Tronchetto nor the Rialto Fish Market are in any danger of disappearing:

“‘The Tronchetto [wholesale] fish market will not be moved.’ That was the affirmation Venice Mayor Orsoni at the press conference yesterday. Orsoni stressed to journalists the position of the Administration on sustaining the fish market’s location, seeking to officially calm the fears of Rialto fish vendors:

‘The Rialto Fish Market was never at any risk, and its vendors, with whom I met about 10 days ago, can sleep well. The historic Rialto market is a Venetian patrimony, and any decision must be made with its care in mind. The hypothetical transfer of Tronchetto to Fusina was only that – from the beginning – proposed only to evaluate the feasibility.

During the last few weeks, qualified assessors along with vendors have taken a close look at the situation at the Tronchetto wholesale market: the structure itself is in sore need modernization and, with this goal in mind, a number of restructuring projects will be devised that will be able to satisfy everyone’s needs.'”

The fear was that if the wholesale market was moved from Tronchetto to Fusina, the logistics would make getting fresh fish to the Rialto Market would be impossible. For locals, if the fish isn’t fresh, it’s not worth eating. Having something so precious at stake in a city where residents already feel they have no say in decisions of this type, had rumors flying — let’s hope the actions to renovate the Trochetto market are the end of this discorso.


“Il mercato ittico del Tronchetto non sarà spostato”. È quanto ha affermato oggi nel corso di una conferenza stampa il sindaco di Venezia Giorgio Orsoni. Il sindaco ha sottolineato agli operatori dell’informazione l’interesse dell’Amministrazione verso il mantenimento del mercato del pesce al Tronchetto tranquillizzando così gli operatori dell’ittico di Rialto:

“Il mercato di Rialto non ha mai corso alcun rischio e i suoi operatori, che ho incontrato una decina di giorni fa, possono dormire sonni tranquilli. Lo storico mercato rialtino è un patrimonio per la città e qualsiasi decisione deve essere presa in ragione della sua tutela. L’ipotesi di un trasferimento del mercato ittico dal Tronchetto a Fusina era tutta da vagliare e da approfondire e come tale è sempre stata considerata sin dall’inizio.

In queste settimane gli assessori competenti hanno affrontato un percorso con gli operatori dell’ingrosso: le strutture del Tronchetto – ha aggiunto il sindaco – hanno necessità di essere ammodernate e, in questo senso, approfondiremo alcuni progetti di ristrutturazione che possano soddisfare le esigenze di tutti.”