With Venice Carnival 2012 wrapping this weekend, we wanted to take a moment and reflect on the challenges the city of Venice faces as one of the world’s oldest cities and top tourist destinations. Over 12 million people visit Venice each year; Venice’s location, on a lagoon by the sea, contributes to its structural challenges. The city is, quite literally, slowly sinking.
Fortunately, there are efforts on many fronts to preserve and protect Venice. Several non-profits have been working for years on Venice restoration projects. Save Venice, a New-York-City-based organization, is in the final years of restoring the Church of San Sebastiano. We highlighted this important Venice restoration project in a blog post last year about Save Venice. According to its website, Save Venice is at any given time working on a major restoration project. Past Venice restoration projects have included the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and the facade of the Scuola Grande di San Marco.
Venice in Peril is another nonprofit working on various restoration projects in the city. The London-based organization was started in the late 1960s after major floods damaged Venice. Its list of restoration projects is impressive.
Of course the City of Venice is doing its part. Sometimes that comes with controversy. For the past several years, the city has partnered with corporate sponsors, including Coca Cola and Bulgari, which have plastered large billboard ads around the city in exchange for their contributions to restoration projects. A firestorm erupted over billboards erected during the recent restoration of the Bridge of Sighs. Last summer, in a much less controversial move, the Venice City Council voted to add a hotel tax that would help pay for restoration projects in Venice. The tax is based on a hotel’s star rating, five euros per night for a five-star hotel, four per night for a four-star hotel, etc.
UNESCO is also involved in preserving and restoring Venice, working to ensure that one of the world’s great cities, a UNESCO World Heritage site, can find a way to balance its popularity as a tourist destination with its many challenges.
So, here’s to the magical city of Venice, one of the world’s greatest cities of all time, and the many efforts going into keeping it that way.