Paul Chong Tuesday, 17 November 2009
That glorious unique exotic paradise with its romantic canals & gondolas, bridges & some of the most exquisite buildings still draws a tourist crowd of some 55,000 visitors per day, that is a staggering 20,000,000 in a year. However, the magic stops there & does not prevent an exodus of its inhabitants.
There was a time when Venetians were worried about their city sinking & eventually be lost to the surrounding water. Only this time, the threat is not from the rising tides & the subsiding foundations of the island city. The fear of sinking is now switched to shrinking with its population migrating rapidly to the mainland. This is Italian “arrivederci”!
Venice population was 175,000 in 1961 but it has been falling to its present 59,992. This is worrying the City’s administrators as well as the loyal citizens that still remain. Venice though visited & renowned as tourist paradise is not lived in!
Contrary to popular belief, a popular city that attracts a relentless influx of tourists has generated rising costs in property, food & transport driving out its city’s inhabitants from their ancestral homes. Prices have soared and found to be higher than those in the mainland, so naturally the local Venetians are forced out of this historical city.
A city without vitality or enough lived-in inhabitants could only mean its demise. With a population in decline, something must be done to prevent it from becoming a modern Pompei. This is indeed a far cry from way back in 1960 when we visited the vibrant city. Ladies were then being warned about the Venetians pinching their bottoms! I remember well the great Plazza San Marco (San Marco Square) with its teeming pigeons & Basillica, romantic bridges & canals, gondola rides on the Grand Canal, and endless delightful walking tours among the thousands of tourists.
How do you save a city in decline?