National Geographic : 2009 Aug
o cer. "No. He is very proud of that," she an- swered.) e day before, a torrential downpour had ooded Mestre. Rain caused the ood, not acqua alta, Cacciari said, sitting in his o ce. "MOSE [the ood barriers under construction; see page 108] wouldn t have helped. High tide is not a problem for me. It s a problem for you foreigners." End of discussion on ooding. No, he pressed, the problems lie elsewhere. e cost of maintaining Venice: " ere is not enough money from the state to cover it all--- the cleaning of canals, restoration of buildings, raising of foundations. Very expensive. e cost of living: "It s three times as costly to live here as in Mogliano, 20 kilometers away. It s a ordable only for the rich or elderly who already own houses because they have been passed down. e young? ey can t a ord it." Finally, there is tourism. Of that, Cacciari the philosopher said this: "Venice is not a sentimental place of honeymoon. It s a strong, contradictory, overpowering place. It is not a city for tourists. It cannot be reduced to a postcard." Would you close it to tourists? I asked. "Yes. I would close Venice---or perhaps, on re ection, a little entrance examination and a little fee." He looked bemused. Add the little fee to ridiculously high prices. Tourists pay $10 to ride the vaporetto, $13 for a so drink at Ca è Florian, $40 for a plastic Carnival mask, probably made in China. Or you can buy a palazzo. "Grand Canal is prime," said Eugenio Scola as we sat in his walnut-paneled real estate o ce overlooking San Marco. He wore a beautifully tailored black jacket, a crisp white cotton shirt, jeans with an alligator belt, and black loafers with the luster of polished calf. For years, buyers were Americans, British, and other Europeans, Scola explained. "But now we are seeing Russians. Also Chinese." Among his o erings was a three-bedroom restored apartment on the piano nobile, or main oor, of a small 18th-century palazzo, or palace. "Molto bello," Scola said, pulling out the plans. ere was a studio, library, music salon, two living rooms, a small room for the help, and a fine view from three sides. Only nine million euros. If I preferred, there was an entire palazzo---the 60,300-square-foot Palazzo Nani, to be o ered with a permit allowing its conver- sion to another use. "It will probably become a hotel," Scola said. When I asked for something more affordable, I was taken the next day to see a 388-square-foot studio that would give a sardine claustrophobia, but it was only 260,000 euros. Someone would buy it as an investment or pied-à-terre. But probably not a Venetian. , and not part of what Henry James called the "battered peep-show" of tourist Venice, if you are a resident who lives in a fifth-floor walk-up apartment (elevators are rare in Venice), someone who gets up, goes to work, goes home, Venice is a di erent place altogether. e abnormal is normal. A ood is routine. e siren sounds, protective steel doors come down. Boots, essential to any Venetian wardrobe, are pulled on. The two and a half miles of passerelle---an elevated boardwalk sup- ported on metal legs---are set up. Life goes on. Here, where everything anyone needs to live and die must be oated in, wrestled over bridges, and muscled up stairs, time is measured by the breath of tides, and space bracketed by water. e mathematics of distance, an accounting of footsteps and boat timetables, is instinctive to every Venetian. When Silvia Zanon goes to Campo San Provolo, where she teaches middle school, she knows it will take 23 minutes to walk there from her apartment on the Calle delle Carrozze. She leaves at 7:35 a.m. Memi, owner of a neighbor- hood trattoria, seated at a table reading the newspaper, looks up and nods. e young man collecting trash for the garbage barge mum- bles a greeting. She turns onto the Campiello dei Morti and passes a wall draped with a white climbing rose; a bridge, two squares, another le in front of a former movie theater, now a trendy restaurant, and she proceeds on to the Cathy Newman is an editor at large for the magazine. Jodi Cobb has worked in more than 50 countries. Her stories for the magazine include "21st-Century Slaves."