For the last few weeks, the closed for holiday signs have sprouted up all over the city. Everyone is headed to the mountains or the beach for the traditional Italian holiday -Ferragosto. While technically the holiday is only one day, August 15, Italians stretch it for almost the entire month.
This summer is having a run of "stuff" happening, much worse than previous years, in my mind. I cannot recall a year being quite as bad as this one. Not weather-wise, it's routinely hot and humid here. But I think the weather might have contributed to Venice going a bit mad. I think all the summer madness began when the ridiculous ticket booth, il Gabbinotto, was erected at the base of the Campanile in St. Mark's square. That incited quite a bit of indignation amongst the locals, for sure.
Next was the cruise ship that came too close to the embankment near Via Garibaldi. As if Venice needed any more cruise ship bad news!!!
There was an accumulation of record breaking algae in the canals and unprecedented numbers of dead fish. Weird.
There have been crazy fights between vu compra (the illegal handbag salesmen), the local vendors and gondoliers. Also weird.
The huge purple inflatable statue has taken up residence on San Giorgio Maggiore until November. Yes, very weird.
Gondoliers have experienced a new run of bad press through the summer months including the poor treatment of a ganser (the guy who helps people get off a gondola), roughing up some passengers at Redentore night, and the reported bad language addressed at a regular passenger at one of the traghetto stations. The result: random drug and alcohol testing for gondoliers.
In the last week we've seen numerous articles in the local newspapers relating to poor tourist behavior- sleeping in the streets, riding bicycles, going shirtless, and swimming in the canals. (By the way, Venice has several rules about proper decorum in the city- one of them is going shirtless. Riding bicycles is an offense which carries a fine.)
(photo from Il Gazzettino)
(photo courtesy Sebastiano Scomparin)
Not to be left out of all the summer chatter is ACTV- the company that operates the vaporettos. The boats have been running behind schedule on numerous days; they have been unbelievably overcrowded; there have been altercations between tourists and the workers on the boats, instigated undoubtedly by the crankiness due to those late arrivals and all those crowds; and there have been staff on board boats checking tickets and writing out fines left and right. The latest from ACTV is the new poster announcing fines for people on the docks without a valid ticket.
And last but not least, just two days ago, an oil spill on the Giudecca canal near San Basilio that necessitated two days of clean up, probably caused by one or more of the cruise ships in port that day.
I seriously believe Venice is overdue for a vacation. I expect to see one of these Ferragosto closed for holiday signs hung on Venice's front door.
Buon Ferragosto, Tutti!!!