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In Venice, Heritage Wins Over Cruise Ships

March 15, 2011

A photocrom view of Venice's Rialto Bridge around 1890. Library of Congress.

It’s been a hard struggle for Venice to cling to any sense of authenticity amid the throngs of tourists. Every year, more and more tourists come. Every year, fewer and fewer Venetians can afford to live there year-round. The quiet markets in back alleyways serving locals are gone. The fish market at the Rialto Bridge has remained, though. But not without threats.

But now, Venetian activists are enjoying a rare victory that will preserve the market, where Venetians have shopped for 1,000 years.

“If the people who still live here are going to protect this city, we have to pull together, and I think that’s finally happening,” Michela Scibilia, head of the residents’ association 40xVenezia, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Writes the Guardian:

The fish market was threatened by plans to expand docks for the enormous cruise ships that tower over St. Mark’s Square like skyscrapers. This would have forced the Rialto market’s main suppliers to leave Venice for the mainland. The furious response from residents saw a dramatic U-turn by the mayor, Giorgio Orsoni. At a press conference last week he conceded: “The fish market at Tronchetto will not be moved.”

Had the Tronchetto market moved, it would have left the Rialto market without a supplier, activists said.

“We are watching this carefully,” said Matteo Secchi, head of the protest group “We want shipbuilders to be given space. After all, we were masters of the trade for centuries but are now forced to buy our vaporetti from builders in Ancona.”