Post-residential Venice

While packing up the apartment for our move to San Francisco, I keep coming across articles I’ve clipped from newspapers and magazines, even whole chapters of books, that I obviously once meant to write about for BLDGBLOG…

[Image: J.M.W. Turner, The Dogana and Madonna della Salute, Venice, 1843; for more, see Tate Britain].

One such article, published nearly a year ago today, proclaims that Venice, Italy, may soon become “a tourist ghost town.”

Venice is on course to become a city virtually without residents within the next 30 years, turning it into a sort of Disneyland – teeming with holidaymakers but devoid of inhabitants… The city may then become a museum, to which, as La Repubblica remarked, it would be “normal to charge entry”.

Other cities for whom this fate could be very, very interesting, if culturally ill-advised? Detroit and the New York borough of Manhattan.
In any case, as the BBC describes this phenomenon:

At night Venice sometimes resembles an empty museum, a ghost town.
After [11pm], when the day trippers have all left and the restaurants and bars are closed, the waterways and calles – narrow streets that intersect the islands upon which Venice is built – are almost deserted.
Tomorrow another 60,000 people will arrive – and depart.

This vision – of Venice, populated only by the odd night security guard and a few absent-minded curators – surely sets up a far more interesting future storyline than Night in the Museum ever hoped to be.

(Earlier on BLDGBLOG: Venice Resonator).

11 thoughts on “Post-residential Venice”

  1. How many times have you moved home in the past year or so?

    I’d have to say it’s at least four?

    You should change your name from Geoff Manaugh to “Geoff Gypsy”.

    “Gypsy! Give me your tears! If you will not give them to me, I will take them from you!”

    You must have barely any possessions these days.

  2. I can confirm, I once wandered around Venice at 1am and it was a surreal experience. All the streets and canal were empty and there was no one to be found, not a even a whisper or a sound emerging out of the distance. I kept thinking that I was walking in a giant abandoned film set.

  3. Beat, it’s only the second move, actually: last year to Los Angeles and, now, to San Francisco. The move to SF wasn’t anticipated very far in advance, but a new job came up.

    And, sadly, I have a lot of possessions these days. Packing is neither easy nor fun.

    Meanwhile, Ben, give it 30 years and Venice probably will be a film set. Patrolled by armed guards.

  4. After someone mentioned it the comments on BLDGBLOG, I picked up William Gibson’s All Tomorrow’s Parties.

    In that book, Detroit is some sort of post-urban habitable nature preserve. I wish characters would discuss it more, but it’s always only alluded to or mentioned in passing. Fascinating concept though.

  5. My wife and I lived in the Czech Republic for a year, and I always hated going to Prague’s old town, despite its obvious charms, because of the crowds and texture of street life. One night we went to a Lou Reed concert in Prague; the person we were to stay with that night failed to show up, and we decided to stay out all night in the old town drinking. It turned out to be a wonderful way to experience Prague. We walked and walked, and it was amazing.

  6. Would it actually go that far? How much of Venice could you turn into tourist shops, hotels and museums before the market was saturated?

  7. An alternative to the disappearance of Venice:
    THE SECOND VENICE by Askin Ozcan
    ISBN 1598000888
    A humorous masterpiece

    reviewed at : (History of Venice page) (by luigi lizzeri in’critics’ corner)


  8. venice is well on it’s way to becoming a disney land with no inhabitants

    the only inhabitants left reside over tourist shops, and outside of the tourist area in a (very obviously) lower income area … that area is a prime real estate choice for developers hoping to expand on cheap(er) land, and as a result you can guarantee that hotels, shops, and tourist attractions will be ALL that is left of the ISLAND of venice

    the workers all come in on boats, and there is literally zero nightlife on the island … it’s only a matter of time (generational change) until the last remaining few communities leave …

  9. I’ve always considered that Venice was a city destroyed by it’s own beauty.

    After the hordes of day-trippers have left in the early evening, all that is left is the ghost of the city that once was.

  10. It’s already mostly there. I think you missed the best comparison: Las Vegas. Like the strip in Vegas (which is what most people think of as the city), Venice has become a commercial environment. There are sections outside the main corridors where people still live and work, but it was surprising that so many people who work there don’t live on the island. Even the owners of the place we stayed weren’t year-round or even week-round residents.

    I’ve heard the same description of Prague, and experienced it in miniature in Frankfurt. Cities as entertainment, with the real city being the part that no tourist ever visits.

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