National Geographic : 2009 Aug
Accommodations established After 1999 Before 1999 VENICE ITALY AREA ENLARGED SANT' ELENA ISOLA DI SAN MICHELE (CITY CEMETERY) CASTELLO ARSENAL ten stories up. You might as well be in a helicop- ter. But it s not important. You arrive in Venice, write a postcard, and remember what a wonder- ful evening you had." e malady is chronic. e onset of infection, says art historian Margaret Plant, dates to the 1880s, when the city "was fetishized, and its face was turned resolutely to the past. At that point zealously guarded Venice became a commodity city, a package of the totally picturesque. Its own citizens were con rmed as a lower order." The contagion seeps down streets, climbs bridges, and crosses the piazza. "There goes another piece of Venice," Silvia Zanon, the teacher, said sadly when La Camiceria San Marco, a clothing store located near the Piazza San Marco for 60 years, had to move to a smaller, less prime spot because the rent had tripled. The shop, quintessentially Venetian, tailored pajamas for the Duke of Windsor and sport shirts for Ernest Hemingway. "It s like leaving the house where you were born," said Susanna Cestari, who had worked there 32 years, pack- ing boxes for the move. In August 2007, Molin Giocattoli, a toy store so popular an adjacent bridge was called the Bridge of Toys, closed. Since December 2007, ten hardware stores have gone out of business. In the Rialto market, souvenir sellers have replaced vendors who sold sausages, bread, or vegetables. Tourists will not notice. ey do not visit Venice to buy an eggplant. ey do, however, come to get married. e tourist machinery has incorporated weddings--- 720 in 2007. Predictably, nonresidents who married in Venice that year outnumbered resi- dents by nearly three to one. Should you wish to tie the knot, the marriage o ce of the City of Venice will oblige for $2,400 on weekdays. On weekends, $5,500. Would the happy couple like the ceremony broadcast on the Internet? One hundred ninety dollars, if you please. As for Carnival---once a charming, neigh- borhood event, now a commercial frenzy ("a cultural hijacking," Robert C. Davis, a profes- sor of history at Ohio State University, wrote in Venice, the Tourist Maze)---sensible Venetians leave town. One thing the Venetians haven t abandoned is their cynicism. When the exodus is complete, if the city ends up as nothing more than an exqui- site, gilded bonbonnière, "Who will be the last Venetian le ?" a woman whose family reached back generations was asked. "I don t know," she replied. "But certainly the last Venetian will want to be paid for it." Meanwhile, plans for the city s salvation ap- pear and disappear with the regularity of the tides, but the stakes couldn t be higher: Tourism in Venice generates $2 billion a year in revenue, probably an underestimate because so much business is done o the books. It is, reports the University of Venice s International Center of Studies on the Tourist Economy, "the heart and soul of the Venetian economy---good and bad." Some people suggest that Venice s wounds are PLACES TO STAY Of Venice's six districts, or sestieri, Cannaregio has the most residents, San Marco the most tourists. A 1999 law made it easier to convert residences into hotels and guesthouses, further diminishing the housing supply for locals.