Venice 1, tourist tat 0
Italy’s new culture minister, Massimo Bray, has won a small but symbolic victory with the removal of a cheap tourist shop below St Mark’s bell tower
By Ermanno Rivetti. Web only
Published online: 18 June 2013
It’s still too early to tell how effective Italy’s newly appointed minister of culture, Massimo Bray, will be. However, he has already won a very small but highly symbolic victory in Venice, that many hope will be the first in a long line of measures and reforms designed to restore Italy’s historic city centres to their former glory. Following widespread public demand and a personal visit, Bray has successfully pressured the city’s government into dismantling an unsightly tourist store which was selling cheap souvenirs right at the foot of one of Venice’s iconic landmarks—St Mark’s bell tower. The store was initially put there to sell tickets to the “Manet: Return to Venice” exhibition at the Doge’s palace, which opened in April.
Venice is well known for its high influx of tourists, and too often local politicians are tempted to bend their own rules while trying to squeeze more cash from visitors. The shop was built out of aluminium and plastic, both of which are banned from being used as construction materials in the city’s centre. Ordinary citizens, as well as conservators and historians, were enraged by the shop’s location and 7,000 Venetians signed a petition to have it removed. Despite the victory, however, the local press reports that the shop will be rebuilt entirely in plastic (still a banned material) under the porticos of St Mark’s square. A small step for Bray, an equally small leap for Venice.
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