Friday, November 1, 2013

"Veniceland"...or Something Like it

Spend enough time around gondolas and you'll want to move to Venice,
or at least live there for a while.  I know a few people who have, and for the most part they've had nothing but great things to say about the experience. 
Sure, there are always things to get used to when living in another country,
but that's to be expected. 

Even so, I understand that while Venice has almost always been a major tourist draw, the numbers are ever-increasing.  Some years ago I had a gondolier from Venice working for me here in Newport; one of the things I remember him saying about life in Venice was that it was like "living in Disneyland".
I imagine that statement may be true, especially in some parts of the city.

In the wild world of Facebook, you can see just about anything, but I was still surprised when I recently came across graphics for something called "Veniceland" - with the name always scrawled in a Disneylike font.

Then I discovered a full map:

For a better view, go here: "Veniceland"

Ridiculous, and funny in a sardonic way, the artist touches on some amusing realities, like the "Margarita Night Walk" complete with a caption that says:
"open 24 hours, please be loud thanks".

A friend of mine, Marie Ohanesian Nardin (who hosts the blog Italy to Los Angeles and Back), moved from LA to Venice two decades ago.  She's married to a gondolier and has a well-versed view of life in La Serenissima.

Yesterday she posted a link:
"Outcry Over Plans for Venice Theme Park"

It seems there's a guy named Alberto Zamperla who is originally from the area. I'm not sure if he's actually from Venice; his main office is in Vicenza - a city in the Veneto.  Zamperla is in the amusement park ride business - works not only with Disney but also does business in Russia and China.  Mr. Zamperla wants to build a theme park on an old island off the end of Giudecca.

I asked Marie if this Zamperla-proposed project had anything to do with "Veniceland".

She summed it up for me:
What you've seen recently and in the past, Veniceland, was a protest by a local residents' group against the transformation of Venice into a theme park--almost predicting the Zamperla deal which was just announced in the press yesterday. One is not connected to the other except one,, wants to protect the 'real' Venice, while Zamperla wants to turn an Island that was once the city's incinerator, and is under jurisdiction of the Magistrato alle Acque (as in the sea not drinking water). It appears that this Zamperla builds amusement parks and wants to turn this Island into a combination 'culutral center' with rollercoasters.

Mhmm, sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
So many thoughts flying through my head, such as:
why build a theme park based on a place...IN that place?
And of course the idea of making cheesy versions of classic order to draw tourists attention away from those classic things (which are right across the water), seems less and less like a good idea the more I think about it.

Seems I'm not the only one thinking so.

Marie said:
Honestly, I don't think it will happen. Everyone is up in arms already, and I'm certain if they move forward large protests will occur. And the mayor of Venice, who has no jurisdiction over the 'Magistrate delle acque' has spoken out against it, too.
We'll see what happens next. I think this Zamperla went public with his idea to see what the reaction was. Well, he got it, and it was mostly very contrary.

Sort of a trial balloon, I'm guessing.

In the interest of trying to see things from both sides,
I do wonder if such an "attraction" might draw some of the annoying cruise-ship-daytrippers away from the well-worn paths and bridges, making more room for those of us who really appreciate Venice for what she is.  I for one would like to experience the city without having to dodge a herd of fifty Hungarians following their tourguide - inverted umbrella in one hand, bullhorn in the other.
Yes, I know, "then stay out of Piazza San Marco" you say, and that's a valid point, but I'm sure there are scores of Venetians who would agree with me.

Zamperla has also waved the classic politician's carrot, stating that
"construction and running of such a park would create at least 500 jobs"
It seems to me that any Venetian who knows how to stand on a traghetto, will hear a claim like that and ask who would get those jobs? And more importantly, once the park was open, where would the income be going?
(that grinding sound you're hearing is coming from the gears in my head,
which are drawing a connection to the cruise ship industry - with headquarters in places other than Venice)

All politics and business aside, I can wrap my head around the idea,
but not my heart.  Rollercoasters and ferris wheels are fun, but I don't know if Venice is the place for them.

Marie was the one who posted the link to the Zamperla article.
I think she said it best when she posted it:
Make it an educational center that speaks to Venetian history and culture; its present day difficulties (high tide, decreasing local population); a 'how to' save the city and its lagoon. But NO rollercoasters or theme park!

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