National Geographic : 2009 Aug
e decline seems inexorable. Last year alone, the resident population fell by 444. Ortalli thinks Venice will end up as simply a theme park for the rich, who will jet in to spend a day or two in their palazzo, then leave. It is 10 a.m., and he is headed toward a kiosk in the Campo Santa Margherita to buy a newspaper before going to his o ce, though you can hardly nd the pa- pers for the jetsam and otsam of tourist kitsch: miniature masks, gondola pins, felt jester caps. "Everything is for sale," he sighs. "Even Venice." Meet the official charged with the solemn duty of managing the wear and tear of tourism. His name is Augusto Salvadori, and his card introduces him as Director of Tourism Promotion of Venice s Tradition, History, and Culture Protection of the Town s Propriety andCleanliness Prevention of the Wear Caused by the Waves StreetSignage Love is not too strong a word---in fact, it is inadequate to describe how Salvadori feels about Venice. He is not just the city s director of tourism and promoter of tradition; he is its defender. If Salvadori could command it, every balcony would be draped with geraniums. (He distributed 3,000 plants with that in mind.) Once, dining at a canalside restaurant, he leaned over the table to reprimand a passing gondo- lier for singing "O Sole Mio," a Neapolitan, not Venetian, song. In fall 2007 he dispatched a commando of volunteers to spread the gospel of neatness in the Piazza San Marco, to remind visitors to fol- low the commandments of good behavior: not to eat, drink, or sit anywhere other than in des- ignated areas. "We are ghting for the dignity of Venice," Salvadori says. In spring 2008, he announced decorum week; 72,000 plastic bags were distributed to residents so that they could dispose of dog poop. Useful, except that no one provided extra trash cans for the used bags.