Venezia, città di gondole, di storia, di arte, di stile... chi non desidera andare in questa città italiana quasi fiabesca? Eppure, mentre si è a Venezia o si pensa di andarci, pochi si preoccupano dei problemi relativi alla sua salvezza.
Si sa già che Venezia è costruita su 117 isole, il cui terreno presenta il pericolo di sprofondamento. Effettivamente con il passare degli anni, il livello dell'acqua è salito notevolmente e continua a salire anche a livelli allarmanti. Diversi anni fa, lo Stato ha ideato un progetto di salvaguardia per Venezia e la sua laguna, e ha anche iniziato a implementarlo, investendo ingenti somme di denaro. Ma Venezia è ancora in balia dell'acqua alta, che sembra aumentare regolarmente ogni anno di circa 0,5 - 1 mm.
La salvezza della Serenissima non concerne soltanto l'aspetto
geografico, ma anche quello socio-culturale. Si dice che Venezia abbia vissuto
il suo momento d'oro durante gli anni '50, quando era affollata di
pittori e artisti, ed era animata da una vita propria che esisteva aldilà
del turismo. Purtroppo, la situazione attuale è ben diversa. Oggi, si teme che
a Venezia tocchi inevitabilmente un destino che la farà diventare una
città simile a Pompei, ovvero una città-museo. Mentre i turisti aumentano, i
veri veneziani sono sempre di meno e i giovani sembrano essere più attratti
dalla vita che si svolge nei grandi centri veneti come Padova, Treviso, Verona
Tuttavia, in questo clima d'indifferenza e di rassegnazione vi è anche e sempre un pizzico di ottimismo, ottimismo che a volte sembra ispirare esperti a escogitare alternative a un destino altrimenti ineluttabile. Ma quale sarà il destino della famosa Venezia nel terzo millennio? Non perdetevi il prossimo numero del Gazzettino dedicato al segreto della salvezza di questa città unica al mondo.
Nella prima parte dedicata a questa magica città, si è concluso che Venezia si trova senz'altro in una situazione precaria. Ma "salvarla" che cosa significa? Fine ultimo del salvare Venezia sarebbe quello di ridarle vita, di ristabilire il legame con la terraferma. Ci sono stati vari tentativi proprio per non escludere Venezia dalla vita moderna (per esempio, la linea ferroviaria, il ponte automobilistico, la mostra cinematografica, ecc.), eppure, è scattato ugualmente l'allarme!
Uno dei pericoli principali è in realtà costituito proprio dal turismo. Pur avendo favorito l'economia della città, il boom turistico si è sviluppato in modo esagerato e di conseguenza ha contribuito all'elevatissimo costo della vita a Venezia, tanto che i veneziani stessi sono fuggiti per ritrovare altrove la quotidianità di una vita normale. Coloro che si possono permettere il lusso di vivere a Venezia spesso non sono i veneziani e appartengono a un ceto sociale molto benestante. La situazione crea squilibri nella struttura sociale e fa sì che predomini una monocultura basata quasi interamente sul turismo.
Una soluzione proposta di recente consisterebbe nel collegare Venezia con la terraferma, costruendo una rete metropolitana sublagunare. I collegamenti includerebbero Padova, Mestre, Treviso e varie zone di Venezia stessa. Il costo del progetto sarebbe minimo visto che si tratta semplicemente di appoggiare un tubo sul fondo della laguna e costruire le varie stazioni secondo uno schema di circumnavigazione della città. Il métro potrebbe diventare un collegamento più rapido ed efficace, paragonabile alle fluide reti stradali nei grandi centri urbani. Con il métro s'immagina un ritorno alla vivibilità per l'italiano medio a Venezia. Non tutti però sono d'accordo e la questione ha suscitato l'interesse di molti studiosi. Per chi desidera saperne di più anche per quel ch'è il destino di Venezia nel terzo millennio, Il Gazzettino suggerisce la lettura del libro di Gianfranco Bettin intitolato Dove volano i leoni.
Nicholas Lezard on Paul Morand's love affair with Venice and Régis Debray's polemic against falling in love with the floating city
Saturday July 20, 2002
Venices, by Paul Morand, trans Euan Cameron (Pushkin, £12)
Against Venice, by Régis Debray (Pushkin, £9)
This week, it is harder than usual to make a choice of one particular paperback: Pushkin Press has wittily issued two books about Venice which are mortal enemies of each other; and yet which go together as well as a rich meal and the sorbet which cleanses the palate after it.
Paul Morand's Venices is so lush that at times one imagines one is reading a parody. This year-by-year collection of snapshots from his time in Venice contains the kind of archness that you can imagine Cyril Connolly debunking: "When I ran away for the first time, not yet 20 years old, I threw myself upon Italy as if on the body of a woman." And yet... it can be like that, can't it?
Morand was the all-round aesthete; that is, he could be picky not just about his art but about the company he kept, as well as where he kept it. There are stories here, many of them first-hand, about Diaghilev, Proust, Renoir père, d'Annunzio, Les Six (there's a picture of them on page 110 which you can refer to whenever you get stuck trying to remember their names), Paul Claudel ("who handed out hard-boiled eggs, on which he had written poems, to each of us"), and a whole host of now-obscure statesmen, poets, writers, diplomats, courtiers. And the thread running through this is his love of Venice, his unending fascination with the place, its constant yet mutable depravity, all recalled in 1970, at the age of 82.
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And if you can smell something sinister, something hinted at by remarks like "these Leicas, these Zeiss; do people no longer have eyes?", you'd be right: for Morand served in the Vichy government during the second world war, and even though he was pardoned by De Gaulle in 1968 (and, having been elected to the Académie Française, is now technically immortal), his last 30 years were marked by bitterness and shame. You will note that while each chapter heading is a year, there are no entries between 1938 and 1950.
Against this very book - it is explicitly mentioned in the text - is Régis Debray's Against Venice, written in 1995, and very ably translated by John Howe. Debray may have been an adviser to Mitterrand, but he also fought with Che's guerrillas in Bolivia, and was imprisoned there for three years. He can write brilliantly. Why can't we produce anyone like him? Or even Morand? God, the British are dull.
Debray's mischievous polemic denounces not only the modern tourist but the so-called sophisticate for swooning over a Venice that is little more than a narcissistic reflection of the viewer's own pretensions. "The Venetian idiot is not the Venetian born and bred... He is the foreign noble who is obviously mad on Venice, mad from nobility and by nature, since the passion for Venice has become the statutory characteristics of Verdurins aspiring to be Guermantes..." He's right, of course; and he's getting at the likes of Morand. "Why does Venice turn the heads of French academicians? Two out of three of them go there to drink it all in, noisily. As if it were part of the job." Debray is funny, hugely intelligent, immensely quotable, and possibly quite insincere.
superb books about Venice, poison and antidote together. The bad news is that
together, they cost £21. This is a lot to ask for 320-odd small but perfectly
formed pages. Blame the chain booksellers, who cannot get their heads round
Pushkin books' unconventional format. But buy these if you possibly can.
by Don Barker
One of the most visited tourist centers in the world is today threatened by the very element that makes it famous. The canals of Venice can no longer hold back the rise of the tidal waters.
Of major architectural significance in the sinking city and one of the lowest areas of the island is the Piazza San Marco. The plaza now becomes fully immersed during the highest tides of autumn and winter.
With high tides of more than a meter, the city streets become blocked with water, and raised wooden walkways must be placed along established pedestrian thoroughfares. In addition to disrupting the lives of the inhabitants, the high water is causing considerable damage to their architectural heritage.
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Is Venice sinking? Or is the water level rising? The answer is complex but "yes" to both questions. The mean level of the land has lowered by 9 inches (23 centimeters) relative to sea level. Tapping the underground water supply has caused a reduction in pressure in the subsoil and, therefore, a contraction of the ground itself, with a subsequent lowering of structures above.
At the same time, the tidal level has increased by some 3 inches (8 centimeters) for several reasons, including organic structure growth on the barrier reef in the lagoon basin and changes in atmospheric pressure and wind action on the Adriatic Sea.
Eustasy, or the global variation in sea level, is tied to changes in the world's climate. During the last century, the eustatic rise for the city of Venice, independent of its subsidence, was on the average 0.05 inches (1.27 milimeter) per year.
The problem is significant and reflected in the Italian government's declaration that the safeguarding of Venice is of "national interest." The problem, however, does not belong to Venice in isolation; it includes the surrounding lagoon and its complex interdependencies between environment, architecture, and socioeconomics.
Invasions of the First Millennium
Why was a city built on a sedimentary island in a lagoon off the coast of Italy? Blame Attila the Hun. During his invasion of Italy in 452, the population of the countryside fled to the small islands of the lagoons lining the western coast of the Adriatic.
Although many of the refugees returned to their mainland homes after Attila's withdrawal, the seed was planted for the founding of Venice. Many of the migrants remained on the islands such as Torcello, Burano and Malamocco.
It was not until the assault on the settlements of the Venetian lagoon in 810 by Pepin, the son of Charlemagne, that the foundations were firmly laid. Pepin's forces easily seized land-based towns, but his main aim was Malamocca island, the Venetian capital. The tidal channel between Palestrina and Malamocco, however, ultimately proved too much of an obstacle.
The lagoon's inhabitants decided to move the capital to the more protected group of islands in the center of the lagoon. That area was known as Rivo Alto, or "Ri'Alto" (high bank), because the islands were sedimentary banks of the Brenta River delta, whose mouth lay several kilometers to the west.
As the population grew, they expanded their island's area dramatically by landfill behind rows of pilings. The area at Ri'Alto soon became the metropolitan center of the lagoon, the city known today as Venice. "Rialto" survives as the name of the commercial area that surrounds the oldest bridge on the city's Grand Canal, which is itself the vestigial river bed of the Brenta River.
Flooding of the 20th Century
The flood of 1966 was of symbolic importance. Venice and the other historic towns and villages in the lagoon were submerged under more than three feet (one meter) of water. Inspired by this disaster was the initiative for a series of studies, experiments, projects, and remedial work.
The main parties were the Italian government, responsible for physical safeguarding and restoration of the hydrogeological balance in the lagoon; the Veneto Region, for pollution abatement; and the city councils of Venice and Chioggia, for urban conservation, maintenance, and activities aimed at promoting socioeconomic development.
Researchers from the mechanical engineering department of Swansea University in Wales, UK provided computer models of the rock strata, including joints, cracks, and faults. They have been instrumental in understanding the cause of the subsidence problems.
Solutions for the Third Millennium
In broad terms there are two types of remedial work: protecting the land mass and preventing the destructively high tidal movements. Within this there are a number of initiatives for protecting coastal zones from sea storms and restoring environmental balance to the ecosystem.
In the cities, towns, and villages in the lagoon and along the coastline, local protection initiatives involve permanently "raising" the lowest areas. However, concerns for historic architectural integrity and entry-way accessibility limit such lifting to an agreed-upon 40 inches (100 centimeters). Therefore additional means are needed to control the highest tidal waters.
It is widely accepted that modern boats contribute partially to the general malaise in Venice's waterways. Agitation caused by propellers and waves is undermining building foundations. Workers are finding larger holes in buildings and quays. Canals are occasionally closed and pumped dry to carry out remedial work.
There are three types of flooding: from water breaking over the wall, filtering through subsoil, or overflowing from drains. The plan provides a solution for all three types of flooding with solutions appropriate to the delicate architectural and construction context.
To prevent flooding caused by filtration through the subsoil without modifying the height of the square, a "horizontal defense system" will be adopted involving the laying of a clayey compound membrane under the paving in the public areas.
In addition to protecting public areas up to 40 inches (100 centimeters) above sea level, some private areas on the ground floor below sea level will also be safeguarded against seepage. In some forty properties, waterproof overflow tanks will be constructed, flooring will be raised, and waterproof membranes will be installed as appropriate.
Land is also being protected from the erosive forces of the sea by rock jetties that extend out to sea.
The Flood Barriers
One of the most ambitious projects is construction of a high-water barrier, which will protect the whole lagoon from the sea.
The Consorzio Venezia Nuova (Venice Water Authority) is responsible for implementing measures to safeguard Venice and its lagoon. Its main task is the construction of mobile flood barriers at the lagoon inlets, which will come into operation when tides exceed 40 inches (100 centimeters).
The barriers' conceptual design was completed in 1989. In 1995 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston produced an environmental impact study of the design.
In 2001 the work on the design and planning continues its path through politics, environmental objections, economics, and other obstacles.
The mobile flood barriers will consist of box-shaped metal flap-gates built into the inlet canal beds. In normal tide conditions they are full of water and lie flat in their housings. A gate is 66 feet (20 meters) wide and varies in height 66 to 98 feet (20 to 30 meters) and thickness 13 to 16 feet (4 to 5 meters) depending on the depth of the inlet.
The flap-gates are "mobile" because when tides exceed 40 inches (100 centimeters), an emission of compressed air empties them of water and the unhinged edge rises. They temporarily isolate the lagoon from the sea, blocking the flow of the tide.
The inlets remain closed for the duration of the high water and for the time it takes to maneuver the flap-gates, a total of 4.5 hours.
The housing consists of prefabricated concrete caissons which are inset in the lagoon floor and contain service tunnels and machinery.
Eighteen flap-gates are required at the Chioggia inlet and 20 at the Malamocco inlet. Because the Lido inlet is twice as wide, a structure will be placed in the center of the entrance, with 20 gates to one side and 21 to the other.
Once the go ahead is finally given, it will take eight years to carry out the work at a cost of an estimated £2 billion.
The struggle to save this historic site continues through localized remedial work against the rise of tidal waters and with a groundbreaking engineering solution that has never been tried on this scale before.
Don Barker is a freelance writer and photographer in London, UK, who has lived and worked in Europe, Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
High tech may hold back floods that are sinking famous Italian city. Find out more, Thursday 3/28 at 9 p.m. Eastern on 'Tech Live.'
By Bob Hirschfeld, Tech Live
One of the world's most beautiful cities is slowly sinking. Venice, the Italian city of gondolas and canals, is in desperate need of a high tech repair job to keep its priceless architecture from eroding. Tonight on "Tech Live" we take a look at what's being done.
Along with the scenic canals, exquisite works of art, and historic buildings, there's one other thing that tourists often find in Venice: rain, which causes frequent flooding.
It's been a problem in Venice for centuries, and now it's taking its toll on the city's architecture.
An international team of engineering experts is working with the Italian government on a unique project to keep the Adriatic Sea from taking over the island city.
"It has a lot of short-term damages. For example, tourism, and therefore, economy is affected," Chiang Mei, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said. "In the long term, a lot of architectural treasures are decaying because of the frequent flooding and salt aggression."
Mei is one of the international consultants brought in to help solve the problem.
The experts have devised a unique solution: a series of floodgates across the three inlets just outside the lagoon that surrounds Venice.
The individual segments are normally filled with water and lie out of sight at the bottom of the sea.
"When a storm is forecast, they would pump air into each one of these gates, which is a hollow box, and so they would come up by buoyancy, and they would be inclined at about a 45-degree angle," Mei said.
The planning has been underway now for more than a decade, but there have been problems with money, politics, and even the basic engineering involved.
"Against certain waves," Mei said, "it's possible that the gates don't swing together. They swing out of phase. And so there may be some gaps in between."
He laughed at the obvious understatement, "This will possibly destroy or reduce the efficiency as a dam."
Some environmentalists oppose the project, saying the floodgates will prevent necessary "tidal flushing" by the lagoon and could damage fish farms in the area.
But Mei is confident all the problems can be straightened out in the next few years, leading to another six or seven years of actual construction.
The final cost, according to Mei, will probably be around $2.5 billion.
Originally posted March 28, 2002
“The barriers for Venice are indispensable”
Italy’s leading oceanographer and climatologist Roberto Frassetto, says politicians are to blame for the delays
By Anna Somers Cocks
VENICE. It is thirty years since Roberto Frassetto
started working on how to protect Venice from the waters. He has been certain of
what should be the solution for almost as long, but has grown weary of talking
about it in Venice, where the whole issue has become bogged down in scepticism,
suspicion and short term politicking.
He will, however, ask people just to look at the scientific evidence rather than leap for any of the woolly and often wild ideas in circulation about how to protect the world’s loveliest city. For he is one of Italy’s most distinguished oceanographers: ten years at Columbia University; from 1970 to 1982 director of the Istituto per lo Studio della Dinamica delle Grandi Masse in Venice, which was given the task by the Italian government to study the geology, physics, technology and environment as they related to the protection of Venice; from 1982 he has worked on climate change and he is chairman of the Italian Commission of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme.
He has Italy’s highest medal for valour; as a young naval officer he took part in the famously dangerous underwater raid on the British fleet in Malta in which he and his companions rode what were essentially manned torpedoes, with devastating results for the British ships. While many may have forgotten this episode, his subsequent scientific career has been of a coherence and single-mindedness that, in any country less cynical and sceptical than Italy, it would guarantee him a respectful hearing. The Art Newspaper interviewed him on the solution for Venice.
Dr Frassetto, there appears to be no political will to create the mobile barriers that international experts believe essential to prevent the flooding. Is it true that these barriers are indispensable?
We began in 1971 by calling upon all the greatest international engineers to find out how to defend Venice from the seas. It emerged that a mobile barrier was the most likely and effective solution. Thirty years later no one has come up with a better idea except for that of raising the entire city!
So why have the barriers not been built?
This has been the dilemma of the last 30 years. We realised that the objections came from the politicians. There is a fear that by closing them for 100-300 hours a year—and there are some 8,600 hours in a year—it would affect the exchange of water between the sea and the lagoon, and that the lagoon would become polluted.
As the Special Law for Venice says that the lagoon is inseparable from the historic city, it is not possible to act on one part rather than the whole.
There was also opposition at first from the Port Authority which said that by closing even 100-300 hours a year, this would damage the shipping trade. This could be partly true, but only partly, because when there is a really high water, the wind is in any case so strong that ships cannot enter the lagoon.
Have these objections been overcome?
I would hope so, but they continue to be brought up for political reasons, and people don’t know how to respond to them.
What about the Valli da Pesca (fish farms) in the lagoon and the Canale dei Petroliferi, the deep channel cut in the last century to allow the passage of petrol tankers? The Green party say that these contribute decisively to the flooding of Venice and that if they were reduced or removed, that the problem would be largely solved.
They are wrong. Very precise studies have been done and there are all the mathematical models and evidence which show that if you widen the Valli da Pesca to allow the expansion of the water you may reduce flooding by one or two cm, which would not begin to tackle the problem. As for taking the Canale dei Petroliferi back to the shallow depth of past times, that is absurd. You cannot put the clock back.
It seems that, from the scientific and technical points of view, the problem of flooding can and has been faced. It is now a political problem. Who is against the solution? It seems to be the Green party, and as they form part of the coalitions in power both nationally and locally, the government cannot move.
You are asking me something about a sector of society which I refuse to consider. Science is not compatible with politics and whoever introduces politics into science is out of order. If the politicians ask us for scientific evidence, we are ready and willing to provide it.
The long-term risk is the ongoing damage to its buildings. The other, immediate risk is the socioeconomic damage. This is very important; every time there is a flood, the shopkeepers and people living on the ground floor suffer economically. And a consequence of the lack of investment by business in the city is the exodus of the population; when I came to live here 30 years ago, there were 130,000 inhabitants; now there are 65,000.
This recent flood reached 140cm above mean sea level. How great is the risk of a flood such as the one in 1966, that reached 200cm?
First, I must point out that this recent flood could have been worse: both the 1966 flood and this one happened in a phase of neap tide, in which case the sea level can be 20-30 cm lower than spring tide.
So we could easily see a repetition in our life time of the 1966 flood and much worse. In fact, present climatological studies, which are beginning to give very interesting results, show that there is no possibility of a diminution of the frequency and intensity of atmospheric perturbation; rather, a tendency for it to get worse, so the flooding will also get worse over the course of the century.
If you were prime minister of Italy what would you do?
I would already have built the barriers.
If they are not built, will those politicians who have failed to act bear the responsibility for what may happen in the future?
Absolutely. The gates are of course expensive, but all defences are expensive. The gates that defend London, Hamburg, Holland and St Petersburg have all been expensive, but they have all been built. Venice is lagging behind.
Perhaps people want further certainty where the scientific data is concerned—all the possible consequences of such measures—but the data is available. It has been considered by an international commission that in the end made only two recommendations: more study of the effects of sea level rise in consequence of climate change over the course of this century, and more work on improving the forecasting of storm surges caused by strong winds.
Is there a final solution for the protection of Venice or will it always be work in progress?
There will never be a final solution; the world is constantly evolving and so one must always be adapting to it and bringing things up to date. And then there will be the problem of maintaining the barriers and coordinating all the protective systems. The solutions will change just as the risks continually change.
VENICE: DUELS OVER TROUBLED WATERS
Piero Piazzano, Italian journalist, editor in chief of the magazine Airone.
How can the ecological balance of Venice be reconciled with the demands of industry? Is the highly controversial construction of mobile floodgates the solution? The decision will be made by 2001
Each day, they are fewer and older. In 1951, about 175,000 people lived on one
of the 118 islands connected by 160 canals which form the historic centre of
Venice. In 1998, a mere 68,000 remained, and that figure will likely drop to
40,000 by 2005. If students are not counted—they are lodged by landlords who do
not declare them to avoid paying taxes—
residents under the age of 19 make up a tiny percentage of the population. The average age, already 50 in 1998, continues
The Venetians are leaving, and they are taking their institutions with them: the Assicurazioni Generali insurance company, the daily newspaper Il Gazzettino, the local Rai station (the State radio and television network) and the banks. Tourists, who arrive en masse, fill the void: 10 million debarked in 1994 and 15 million are expected in 2005. The city of theatres, churches, convents, monasteries, palaces and bordellos is turning into a huge eating place. From 1976 to 1991, the number of pizzerias, restaurants and hotels increased by 144 per cent.
Confronting the sea with picks and shovels
Will Venice grow old and die like its inhabitants? That is anybody’s guess: the truth is hard to come by in this labyrinthine city. Venice is the city of “perhaps,” as unstable as the lagoon’s ecological balance. It is impossible to imagine the city without its lagoon, an uncertain space, neither land nor sea, whose very name expresses absence: lacuna is Latin for “lack.” This precarious and provisional place emerged little by little as the rivers, torrents and streams that flow across the plains on their way to the Adriatic deposited millions of cubic metres of silt.
The lagoon is not part of the sea; it is separated from the Adriatic by 50 kilometres of sandbars that end with the mouths of the Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia ports. Every six hours, the tides run through the bars, flowing in as salt water and receding as briny water. Like a gigantic lung made up of thousands of bronchial tubes, the lagoon breathes. It is not only formed by islands high enough to stand up to the sea’s equinox tides. Barene, the sandbars that emerge at low tide, are complex ecosystems, home to plants and animals which have adapted to this environment oscillating between air and water. Velme are the mud-flats visible at low tide while ghebi are channels that are green with mire and seaweed through which the water leaves the lagoon at low tide.
The lagoon was bound to disappear until, one day, a group of bold men decided to make something solid out of an unstable mass. Then, from one generation the next, the Venetians battled the elements like funambulists walking a tight-rope. Prepared with shovels and picks to confront the sea’s efforts to upset the delicate equilibrium, they had only one thing in mind: to preserve the existence and richness of Venice, the city of stone and marble that they built on spongy marshland, as if it were on terra firma. Venice was a utopia: the world’s most fragile city, but powerful enough to rule a far-flung empire.
Those stubborn people started by drying out the land, digging canals and deviating rivers. For example, as part of a huge project begun in 1501 and completed two centuries later, they changed the course of the lagoon’s three main waterways: the Sile, the Piere and the Brenta. Then, and with increasing frequency, they launched major public and private building projects to further the civil and military development of the “most serene republic.” These projects enabled merchant vessels and warships boasting the biggest drafts of their time to enter the harbour or the Arsenal.
“Although with each project the technology became more aggressive than the simple shovels and picks of the early days, these interventions have always given the lagoon enough time to develop a new balance,” says Stefano Boato, professor of city planning at the University of Venice. The same was true during the operations carried out in the second half of the 19th century, when Venice was definitively integrated into the Kingdom of Italy (1866) after changing hands several times between France and Austria.
It was not until much later, between 1952 and 1969, that the city was dealt its harshest blow. A straight, 15-metre deep canal was dug so that oil tankers could berth at the industrial port of Marghera. At the same time, highly polluting chemical and petrochemical plants were built across the lagoon, pumping more and more water out of the aquifers and pouring more and more poison into the water. “At that time, the delicate balance that had always existed, and that Venetians had always managed to maintain over19 centuries of interacting with nature, was broken. The situation is becoming alarming,” says Boato.
Aquatic highways for tankers and tourists
The lagoon, a unique ecosystem formed of fresh water, brine and salt water, is inexorably turning into an arm of the sea in its central portion and a swamp around the edges. During the time of the republic, it was forbidden to dig canals more than four metres deep.Today, there are veritable aquatic highways over 20 metres deep. Oil tankers, freighters and powerful speedboats that can carry hundreds of tourists create waves that destroy the sandbars and mud-flats, and cancel out the natural movements that once slowed down the advancement of the tides.
All these disruptions increase the erosion that is ruining the depths of the lagoon and eating away at the foundations of buildings. The Venezia Nuova Consortium, a group of public and private companies which the Italian Public Works Ministry and Venice’s Water Department have put in charge of carrying out preservation work in the lagoon, says that 1.2 million cubic metres of soil are washed away each year, while the province of Venice puts the figure at four million. The mussel fishermen who “work” the floor of the lagoon using a fishing method that is outlawed but tolerated also contribute to the erosion.
To make matters worse, fishing zones surrounded by dikes limit the tides’ area of expansion. Twenty years (1950-1970) of pumping subterranean water lowered the city’s ground level by 10 centimetres. Lastly, the Adriatic is rising, worsening the floods to which the city and the surrounding area fall victim.
As a result, in 1990 Venice was 23 centimetres lower than in 1908. Furthermore, between 1965 and 1995, the Venetians “forgot” to clean the city’s canals, a practice that their ancestors considered indispensable for reasons both physical (to improve the circulation of tidewater) and hygienic (to wash out accumulated waste).
The neglect has proven costly. On the one hand, Venice is beleaguered by over 50 days a year of acqua alta (“high water”), which floods many of the streets and squares. On the other, with increasing frequency the tides are so low that vessels can no longer sail on the canals.
Hard work for meagre results
On November 4, 1966, a gigantic acqua alta entirely submerged Venice and the lagoon’s islands for 24 hours, causing tremendous damage to the city’s economy and art works, and sending a wave of panic around the world. If the water had risen a little higher, the world’s most beautiful city might have been lost. And the flooding could reoccur at any time! The shock triggered countless initiatives: Italian and international commissions were set up, studies conducted, laws passed and projects proposed. Major international bodies went on the alert, UNESCO chief among them. The organization moved its office for science and technology in Europe to Venice and undertook the grandiose “Project Venice,” an initiative that has given rise to a profusion of studies and meetings to pore over all the problems of the city and its lagoon: geology and morphology, the water’s dynamics, chemical and biological processes, contamination, demographics, traffic and cleaning up the canals.
No other city in the world has been studied in such detail. None has been so painstakingly dissected to determine the reasons for its rise and fall. And, it must be added, never has so much hard work produced such meagre results.
All things considered, and at the risk of oversimplifying, this complicated business can be summed up in two sentences. They are written in bureaucratic jargon in law 798, the most important piece of legislation concerning Venice passed since the 1966 flood. The first sentence says that the work to save Venice must “restore the hydrogeological equilibrium of the lagoon, slow down and reverse the process of degradation and eliminate its causes.”
In other words, everything must be done to clean up the canals and to restore their depth to acceptable levels (other laws specify 12 metres), to re-open the fishing lagoons, and to recreate the sandbars and mud-flats. But a harmless-sounding sentence in the same law specifies that all these operations must be carried out while “preserving the area’s productive and economic interests.”
In other words, the bottoms of the canals must be raised but oil tankers must not be prevented from travelling through them, the size of the lagoon’s harbours must be reduced but the current level of traffic must be maintained, the tidal swells must be contained but vessels must be allowed to continue carrying swarms of tourists to the islands of Torcello and Murano. The law’s authors seem to be the direct heirs to the playwright Carlo Goldoni and his Harlequin who served two masters.
The system of mobile dikes and floodgates planned as a solution has been a bone of contention for nearly 20 years, setting off many debates and discussions between engineers and politicians. It is called Mose, the Italian name for Moses and an acronym that stands for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, a prototype floodgate that was tested in the Treporti canal between 1988 and 1992. After years of studies and numerous variations, Project Moses was adopted by the Venezia Nuova Consortium. The plan is to equip the entrances of the Lido, Chioggia and Malamocco ports with a system of mobile floodgates: chests that are 20 metres wide, 20 to 30 metres high and four to five metres deep.
In normal conditions and as long as the tide’s amplitude does not exceed one metre, the water-filled chests will lie on the floor of the canal. When the tide is dubbed “exceptional” (an average of seven a year and 20 in 1996), a hydraulic system will fill the chests with air to raise them. Since the chests are connected to the canal’s floor with stakes driven into the mud, they work by rising like a gate that closes, becoming dikes that cut the lagoon off from the sea. Under the plan, 18 floodgates will be set up at the entrance to the port of Chioggia, 20 at Malamocco and two sets of 20 and 21 separated by an intermediate harbour basin at the entrance to the Lido.
Furor over floodgates
According to estimates, this enormous task will require eight years, 6,000 workers and 3,700 billion lire (approximately $1.8 billion). The city of Venice puts the project’s total cost at 5,334 billion lire (in 1992 prices), or some $2.6 billion—not including maintenance.
“These mobile dikes must be built,” affirms Philippe Bourdeau, a professor at Brussels’ Free University and chairman of the international committee of experts named by the Italian government to evaluate the project. “The mobile floodgates,” he says, “are, along with raising the ground level and the other planned measures, the best way to save Venice for the next 100 years.”
“These mobile dikes must be absolutely avoided,” replies Stefano Boato, along with the Green Party, the Italia Nostra environmental group, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and other environmental organizations, which say that the project would have a disastrous effect on the fragile ecosystem. But the municipality of Venice, together with the Environment and Cultural Heritage ministries, are leading the camp of those invoking the precautionary principle. They argue that the lagoon’s geomorphological, hydraulic and biological balance must be restored—for example, by cleaning up the canals, which began in 1998 (see box), and raising the ground level—before any decisions about the mobile dikes are made.
In addition to this controversy, other questions have arisen. For example, the city’s autonomy is at stake. The Department of Water, which depends on the Public Works Ministry in Rome, and the companies that make up the Consortium, which include major public and private corporations (such as Fiat), have few or no ties with Venice, whose population has been accustomed to solving its problems alone for 2,000 years.
Fear of oil spills
And then there is the economic aspect: $2.6 billion, a sum that rises with each passing day, is a tremendous amount of money. If all of it is allocated to a single project, what will be left for other initiatives and for the small Venetian companies that could carry them out? When all is said and done, the big corporations in Milan, Turin and Rome would reap the benefits and Venice would have to settle for the crumbs.
The debate has been raging for a long time. In November 1998, the project’s environmental impact commission, appointed by the Environment Ministry and chaired by Maria Rosa Vittadini, an architecture professor at the University of Venice, issued a negative assessment and requested the Consortium to review the entire project. One month later, a ministerial commission published a similar review, which was annulled in June 2000 by the regional administrative tribunal of the Veneto. The latest news is that, during a meeting of experts held in Rome in July 2000, Prime Minister Giuliano Amato said the final decision would lie with his office and that it would be made at a cabinet meeting by the end of the year.
But what if Venice’s real problems is not the exceptional tide, such as the one that struck the city in 1966? And what if the next disaster comes not from the lagoon but from the sea? Each year, 25 million tons of freight is shipped on the lagoon, half of which is oil and petroleum products. A single oil tanker accident would be enough to cause incalculable damage to the ecosystem, cover the canals with a thick coat of petroleum and leave greasy, viscous streaks on the foundations of palaces and churches forever. On November 29, 1995, five tons of light fuel spilled into the lagoon, forming a huge slick that drifted for four days. Was that a warning?
In the city of masks, the fiery glow of the beautiful red sunsets over the city’s palaces and churches, which enchant tourists the year round, may not be solely the gift of nature. That extra shade of red may well come from air pollution arising from Marghera’s petrochemical facilities.
Pierre Lasserre and Angelo Mazollo (eds.), The Venice Lagoon Ecosystem, UNESCO Publishing/Parthenon, 2000.
Venice is no doubt a cultural treasure, but without initiative on the part of the Italians to preserve the city, how much can the US really do? The harsh reality is: Venice is going to sink - and unless Italy takes more action - there is nothing anyone else can do about it. The law recognizes this unfortunate reality and therefore, requires the New York Attorney General to ban fundraising to save Venice until Italy has established a long-term plan for the city’s protection.
The water which makes Venice the most majestic city in the world now threatens the city’s very existence. On November 4 1966, a flood hit Venice so hard that Venetians every day since have lived in terror for the next big flood. And, Venice does continue to flood. St. Mark’s Square and other areas of the city were flooded 101 times in 1996 and 79 times in 1997.1 Then, on November 6, 2000 Venice experienced the third worst flood since 1900 with ninety-three percent of the city being covered in water. Experts say that it is no longer a matter of whether Venice will flood , but simply when the flooding will occur.2 The "acqua alta" - the high waters that cause the flooding - are here to stay. And to make matters worse, the sea levels are rising. The combination of these factors will inevitably lead to the sinking of Venice.
For a number of years, Italy has been posing a system of mobile dykes and floodgates called MOSE as a solution. However, even Venice officials themselves do not believe that MOSE will actually provide a long-term solution.3 Global warming means that the floodgates will eventually be up almost all of the time, ultimately sealing the city from the sea. While a decision regarding the MOSE gates will be made in the next year, many doubt that MOSE will actually save Venice from sinking. Therefore, at the moment Venice is inevitably doomed.
Both United States and international law dictate that the New York Attorney General should ban fundraising to Venice until a long-term plan for the city’s protection has been established. First, the UN places the responsibility of saving Venice on Italy, not the United States. Second, Article 7-A of the Executive Law, Solicitation and Collection of Funds for Charitable Purposes instructs the New York Attorney General’s Charities Bureau to ban fundraising to Venice.
First, the UN places the responsibility of saving Venice on Italy, not the United States. Until Italy takes responsibility, international assistance (including assistance by the United States) is not warranted. Italy is the only one who can establish and implement a long-term plan. So, without action by Italy, assistance by the US is meaningless.
Article 4 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage states that the legal duty to establish a long-term plan rests with Italy.4 Italy is the only one with the power to develop a long-term plan. Yet, Italy has failed to fulfill its duty under Article 4. Italy has failed to file a request to have Venice included on the World Heritage List in Danger.5 Since Venice is part of Italy’s territory, Italy must be the one to place Venice on the endangered list. If Venice had been included on this list, Italy would also have been able to request emergency financial assistance. However, because Italy only placed Venice and its lagoon as a common entry on the World Heritage List, UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee are limited in the actions they can take on behalf of Venice. They cannot make Venice a priority because Italy has not made Venice a priority. In addition, Italy neglected to use its influence and power to get UNESCO to pay more immediate attention to Venice. Until 1999, one of the vice-chairpersons of the World Heritage Culture was Italian, and consequently, Italy had a key position in the Bureau of WHC.6 Furthermore, the Italians could have put Venice on the urgent agenda of the International Center of Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). ICCROM collects, studies, and circulates reports about the scientific and technical problems of the preservation and restoration of cultural property. Since Italy has neglected to satisfy its obligations under Article 4, outside assistance will do very little to help the situation.
Outside assistance on the part of the United States will continue to be meaningless until Italy establishes a long-term plan. However, it is unlikely that Italy will establish a long-term solution for three reasons. First, special law no. 798 of 1984 makes the implementation of a long-term plan nearly impossible. Law 798 requires that the city and the lagoon both be helped simultaneously.7 However, most efforts to save the city tend to hurt the lagoon and vice versa. Therefore, a long-term plan becomes implausible. Second, even Italy’s leading oceanographer and climatologist Roberto Frassetto, admits that there will never be a final solution for the protection of Venice.8 However, Venice no longer has the time for a "work in progress." If there will never be a final solution, Venice will sink no matter how much money is placed into trying to save it. Third, Italian politics make it difficult to implement a long-term plan. Italian politics is a "cat’s cradle of coalitions" at the state, regional, and city level. The Italian government has changed hands more than twenty times, and with each the change, the government’s priorities change as well.9 The prime minister and the mayor of Venice both depend on the Green party for support. The Green party rejected project Moses because of environmental concerns, and they will continue to reject any future proposals that do not account for the environment and the lagoon. The Green’s party rejection of the Moses plan has divided Venice, thereby making the implementation of a long-term plan even less likely. The chances that Italy will establish a long-term plan that can save Venice are extremely slim. Therefore, any money spent on trying to save money might as well just be thrown into the sea.
Second, United States law requires the New York Attorney General’s Charities Bureau to ban fundraising to Venice until a long-term plan is established. Italy does not have a long-term plan currently and will most likely not have a long-term plan in the future. By soliciting charitable contributions without a long-term plan for the city’s protection, Italy is engaging in a fraudulent act in violation of Article 7-A. Article 7-A states: "no person shall engage in any fraudulent or illegal acts, device, scheme, artifice to defraud or for obtaining money or property by means of a false pretense, representation, or promise, transaction or enterprise in connection with any solicitation for charitable purposes."10 The term fraud includes acts which may be characterized as misleading or deceptive. To establish fraud, neither intent to defraud nor injury need to be shown. So, even though Italy might intend to use the charitable contributions to help save Venice, Italy’s intentions are irrelevant. The fact that Italy is taking efforts to save Venice does not overcome the fact that Italy is defrauding donors by making a false promise. Italy is promising that the money donors contribute will help save Venice when unfortunately, this money will not help Venice. Furthermore, since the advertising used to seek charitable contributions says that the money will save Venice from sinking, any advertisements used to solicit funds are in further violation of Article 7-A. Absent a long-term plan, all the money in the world could be put towards saving Venice, and Venice would still sink. Italy is deceiving US citizens by allowing them to contribute to a hopeless cause. And, until Italy establishes a long-term plan for Italy’s protection, Italy will continue to mislead the US. The New York Attorney General, therefore, has an obligation under US law to prevent Italy’s fraudulent behavior by banning all fundraising to Venice until Italy can fulfill its promise that the charitable contributions will actually help save Venice.
1. See Ellen Knickmeyer, "Saving Sinking Venice," http://www/abcnews.com/sections/travel/DailyNews/venice981202.html
2. See Anna Somers Cocks, "The ecological dangers of Venice are not being faced, say chairman of Venice in peril," http://www.theartsnewspapers.com/news.article.asp?idart=1292
3. See Ellen Knickmeyer, "Saving Sinking Venice," http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/travel/DailyNews/venice981202.html
4. See Krassimira J. Zourkova, "Saving Venice: The Practical Implications of the Law on Cultural Heritage Preservation" 15.
5. See Id.
6. See Id at 12.
7. See Piero Piazzano, "Venice: Duels Over Troubled Waters," http://www.unesco.org./courier/2000_09/uk/planet.htm
8. See Anna Somers Cocks, "The barriers for Venice are indispensable," http://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/article.asp?idart=3950
9. See Krassimira J. Zourkova, "Saving Venice: The Practical Implications of the Laws on Cultural Heritage Preservation" 5
10. Article 7-A of the Executive Law Solicitation and Collection of Funds for Charitable Purposes As Amended through the Laws of 1997 §172-d.
La verità su Venezia
Esodo da Venezia
Il degrado di Venezia
è una regione del nordest d'Italia. Confina a nord con l'Austria, a nordest
a sud con l'Emilia-Romagna, a ovest con la
a nordovest con il Trentino Alto-Adige e si affaccia al sudest sul mare
Adriatico. Il territorio è diviso in pianure, zone montuose, una fascia
collinare e una fascia costiera [interamente bordata di lagune e paludi].
I fiumi sono numerosi [direttamente tributari dell'Adriactico], i più famosi
sono l'Adige, il Brenta, la Livenza e il Piave. Venezia, poi, è composta da 117
isole, tra loro collegate da oltre 400 ponti. Il Veneto ha una superficie di 18
364 kmq con una popolazione di 4 366 244 ab. Il capoluogo di regione è Venezia
ed è suddivisa in 6 altre province: Belluno, Padova, Rovigo, Treviso, Verona,
Breve storia di Venezia
1. LINEE DI STORIA VENEZIANA:
NASCE UNO STATO TRA TERRA E MARE
Chiamata Venetia la "X Regio" nell'Impero Romano era costituita grosso modo dai territori che oggi conosciamo come Veneto, Friuli, Trentino e Istria. Il confine meridionale era rappresentato dal mare Adriatico: un'ampia zona soggetta a progressivi mutamenti orografici, con fiumi di ampia portata che, combinando la loro azione con quella dei flutti marini, davano origine a un ambiente di tipo paludoso, con numerose lagune. Si trattava di un ecosistema "dinamico", una sorta di "via di mezzo" fra l'ambiente dell'entroterra, relativamente stabile, e quello marino.
Questa zona, che faceva parte della terra dei Veneti, assimilati all'Impero, era in epoca romana, abitata da pescatori, "salinari" (addetti, cioè, alle saline), tutti esperti nell'arte di costruire e manovrare imbarcazioni adatte all'ambiente lagunare e fluviale. La stessa zona, tra l'altro, forse per la sua "tranquillità", era usata come "luogo di villeggiatura" dai ricchi abitanti delle vicine città romane (come Padova, Altino, Aquileia).
Col progressivo disgregarsi dell'Impero e con invasioni dei popoli germanici, in particolare nel VI secolo, le zone lagunari finirono coll'offrire un rifugio a quanti vedevano le loro terre e i loro beni in balia degli invasori: avventurarsi via fiumi e canali non era facile, per chi non conosceva la zona, e i lidi sabbiosi costituivano un'ottima protezione da un eventuale attacco (dal mare). Fu in particolare, l'attuale laguna di Venezia a vedere crescere maggiormente la sua popolazione. Naturalmente questo significò anche un profondo mutamento della composizione sociale nel territorio lagunare: molti profughi erano benestanti o proprietari terrieri o allevatori delle città dell'entroterra, come Altino e Oderzo. I primi centri che si vennero a creare furono Malamocco (su un lido), Torcello (un'isola allo sbocco del fiume Sile) e un altro gruppo di isole al centro della laguna, la futura Venezia.
Se l'entroterra era in mano alle popolazioni germaniche, le lagune restarono, invece, nell'orbita latina, come parte dell'Impero d'Oriente, dipendendo direttamente da Ravenna. Fin dall'inizio, dunque, si stabilisce un profondo legame col mondo bizantino. Alla fine del VII secolo gli abitanti delle lagune non erano più governati dai "tribuni marittimi", i comandanti militari bizantini, ma avevano un comando autonomo sotto un "dux", da cui il termine "doge". Nasce in tal modo la prima forma di stato veneziano (seppur legato a Bisanzio): il "Dogado".
Verso l'810 il governo del "doge" Agnello Particiaco si sposta da Malamocco e si insediò nella zona di Rivo Alto, al centro della laguna. È qui che per convenzione comincia la "Storia di Venezia".
2. LINEE DI
LA CONQUISTA DEL LEVANTE
C'è una strana storia che riguarda il trafugamento del corpo di S. Marco avvenuto in Egitto; la tradizione vuole che per nascondere alle guardie portuali egiziane il corpo quando venne trafugato, "scaltri" mercanti lo nascondessero sotto uno strato di carne di maiale, notoriamente aborrita dai musulmani. Nella prima metà del X secolo furono due i mercanti veneziani che trafugarono da Alessandria d'Egitto le spoglie di S. Marco evangelista, e la leggenda narra che lui si fosse rifugiato su una delle isole realtine, dopo un naufragio. Il corpo viene quindi "ri-portato" a Rivo Alto e tumulato nell'erigenda cappella del doge, quella che sarà la Basilica di S. Marco. Aldilà di leggende e trafugamenti avventurosi, quel che è interessante da un punto di vista storico è la presenza di mercanti veneziani nel Levante già dal IX secolo!
Ciò significa che, all'epoca, i "navigatori lagunari" avevano già iniziato ad estendere il raggio della loro azione. In effetti, a quel tempo Venezia ha già cominciato a lottare per il controllo dell'Adriatico: deve farlo per sopravvivere, per difendere i propri interessi mercantili e per... accumulare ricchezze. Come tutte le potenze marittime, infatti, Venezia alterna azioni di "polizia marittima", per proteggere i propri scambi e gli interessi di quell'Impero d'Oriente che ora più che mai lei rappresenta, ad azioni di vera e propria "pirateria". In questo modo arriva a controllare tutto l'Adriatico. Grazie all'abilità della sua "marina militare" ottiene decisivi riconoscimenti dall'Imperatore d'Oriente ed eccezionali privilegi per i suoi mercanti. Alla fine dell'XI secolo, i veneziani sono i principali clienti e i principali fornitori di Bisanzio!
Ma l'abilità della marineria veneziana era integrata da un'altrettanta abile "diplomazia", che porta il giovane stato ad una serie di fruttuosi accordi commerciali (oltre a quelli già stipulati con Bisanzio e l'Imperatore germanico) con i principi nordafricani, siriani ed egiziani. Ormai Venezia vuole diventare il tramite dei traffici tra l'Oriente e la penisola, perciò inizia una serie di azioni e di guerre contro i porti rivali dell'Adriatico (Ancona, Zara, Ragusa) e contro i pirati slavi, passando dal "controllo" al "dominio" del mare. La presa di Bisanzio fu favorita da un artificio bellico dei Veneziani.
È però con le Crociate che Venezia ha l'occasione di incrementare la propria posizione sullo scacchiere del mediterraneo orientale e di risolvere il suo ambiguo rapporto con Bisanzio. Nel periodo delle prime tre crociate i veneziani avevano avuto l'occasione di accumulare notevoli ricchezze con le razzie e, soprattutto, col controllo e coi vantaggi dei commerci in varie aree del Levante. Ma fu con la IV Crociata che la Repubblica di S. Marco compì il "salto di qualità" e si inserì nel novero delle potenze marittime. Fu un'impresa guidata dagli stessi veneziani, che riuscirono a trarne i massimi vantaggi: lungi dal liberare i luoghi santi e prendendo spunto dalla crisi interna all'Impero d'Oriente, la spedizione portò, nel 1204, alla conquista e al saccheggio di Bisanzio e allo smembramento del suo Impero. Alla fine, Venezia conquisterà "un quarto e mezzo dell'Impero romano", il che si tradurrà nel possesso di tutta una serie di isole, porti e fortezze costiere nell'Egeo e nello Ionio: l'inizio del suo Impero Marittimo.
3. LINEE DI
ASCESA DELLO STATO ("MERCANTILE")
Il successo riportato con la IV Crociata dava modo a Venezia di consolidare i suoi traffici con la "Romània" (ciò che era stato l'Impero d'Oriente) e l'"Oltremare", cioè quelle zone costiere della Siria e della Palestina in cui i crociati avevano fondato i loro effimeri regni. Porti come Tripoli (del Libano), Tiro, Acri, Giaffa, Haifa costituivano dei centri commerciali ben appetiti, poiché vi giungevano delle mercanzie estremamente pregiate e molto richieste in Occidente come spezie (provenienti dalle Indie), tessuti e prodotti di lusso.
Ma la concorrenza diventa facilmente rivalità e questa può a sua volta mutarsi in conflitto. È quello che successe tra Venezia e Genova. La repubblica marinara genovese si era insediata anche lei nell'Oltremare e, per gli aiuti dati ai Crociati, aveva ottenuto più privilegi. Ad una serie di incidenti avvenuti in Tiro, seguirono quattro violente guerre, che nello spazio di circa 120 anni, sfiancarono e provarono duramente le due contendenti. L'ultimo conflitto fu il più drammatico per Venezia, perché vide compromessa la sua stessa sopravvivenza: pressata a nord-est dal re d'Ungheria e dalla Signoria padovana dei Carrara, si ritrovò coi Genovesi in laguna, dato che nel 1378 conquistarono Chioggia. Ma fu tutta la città a unirsi strettamente nel momento di maggior pericolo e Venezia riuscì a resistere e a riconquistare Chioggia. La pace che ne seguì (Torino, 1381) lasciò irrisolti i problemi di fondo che avevano provocato il lungo conflitto con Genova, ma alla lunga, il solo fatto di essere sopravvissuta e aver mantenuto le colonie principali la resero la vera vincitrice della lotta.
Il pericolo corso durante la guerra di Chioggia, convinse i Veneziani della necessità di un controllo sul retroterra, per impedire che una qualsiasi potenza bloccasse le vie di accesso alla laguna, vitali sia per la sopravvivenza che per i commerci e per l'approvvigionamento di materie prime. Iniziò così una fase di espansione in terraferma. Alleandosi al Signore di Milano, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Venezia sterminò i Carraresi di Padova e, agli inizi del '400, conquistò Padova, Vicenza e Verona. Poco più tardi acquistò anche Bergamo e Brescia, penetrando profondamente in Lombardia. In questo periodo la potenza navale raggiunge l'apogeo e la Repubblica di S. Marco assume l'appellativo di "Serenissima" e il doge quello di "Serenissimo Principe".
4. LINEE DI
IL DIFFICILE CONFRONTO CON I GRANDI STATI NAZIONALI
L'espansione in terraferma aveva sancito, per Venezia, il ruolo di "potenza", con tutto ciò che poteva comportare: i territori, dopo averli conquistati, bisogna anche difenderli e una politica espansionistica attira sempre le invidie e le preoccupazioni degli altri Stati.
Così Venezia si trovò impegnata su due fronti estremamente ambiziosi: il predominio sul mare e quello sulla penisola italiana. Ma alla fine del '400, grandi avvenimenti stavano sconvolgendo il mondo: le nuove scoperte geografiche e il nuovo ruolo degli Stati nazionali. Le prime non fecero sentire immediatamente il loro influsso sulla vita della Repubblica di S. Marco, ma le seconde sì.
L'invasione dell'Italia da parte dei francesi nel 1494 apriva un'era nuova per tutti gli Stati peninsulari e Venezia si trovò impegnata con entità statali molto più potenti. Il giro di alleanze e la sua strategia la portò nel 1495 a conquistare avamposti in Puglia, area chiave per il controllo di Adriatico e Ionio, e ad ottenere la ricca città di Cremona. Ma, concentrandosi troppo sulla penisola, perse di vista il suo impero marittimo e nel 1499 i Turchi la privarono d'importanti città sulle coste albanesi e greche. Con la pace del 1503 Venezia rinunciò alle sue pretese su queste città, dimostrando di pensare più ai territori italiani che alla potenza navale.
Lo spregiudicato gioco di alleanze e il suo ruolo di prima potenza italiana (come in effetti era diventata) produssero una colossale alleanza contro di lei: nel 1509 si costituì la lega di Cambrai che vedeva quasi tutta l'Europa contro Venezia. Dopo aver tentato di spezzare diplomaticamente la coalizione, Venezia mise in piedi un esercito colossale per uno stato italiano: 20.000 uomini. Per errori strategici ,esso però fu sonoramente battuto ad Agnadello, in Lombardia, e costretto alla ritirata. La sconfitta scatenò la ribellione delle città assoggettate, cosicché Venezia si ritrovò assediata, come nella IV guerra con Genova. Ma ancora una volta il pericolo suscitò il patriottismo in laguna, mentre nelle provincie artigiani e contadini si accorgevano dell'arroganza e della ferocia degli invasori e si aggregavano alle truppe riorganizzate. Dopo sette anni di guerra, riuscendo anche a rovesciare diplomaticamente molte alleanze, Venezia riuscì a riguadagnare il grosso dei territori di terraferma perduti.
Dopo questa esperienza Venezia seguì una politica di neutralità e, con la diplomazia, riuscì a difendersi dagli invasori che imperversavano nel resto della penisola. Ma il confronto con le "grandi potenze" vedeva ridimensionata la sua forza sul mare, data la crescite delle marinerie dell'Impero Turco e di quello Spagnolo.
5. LINEE DI
ULTIME GLORIE, NONOSTANTE TUTTO
La nuova situazione che si era venuta a creare con la formazione e il consolidamento di grandi imperi a est e a ovest del Mediterraneo, metteva Venezia in una posizione difficile; d'altro canto Venezia si era dissanguata con le guerre italiane e ora si trovava in difficoltà anche sul mare: le flotte spagnola e turca la costringevano ad un continuo sforzo di adeguamento.
Intanto nuovi e pericolosi concorrenti si affacciavano sulla scena mercantile, ma Venezia riuscì per un certo periodo a tener loro testa, anzi, nel corso del XVI secolo si verificò una significativa ripresa dei traffici per i mercanti veneziani, che detenevano ancora buone basi come Cipro, Creta e Corfù fino al 1570.
All'inizio del 1570 il sultano turco sequestra navi veneziane nel Bosforo e nei Dardanelli e manda un ultimatum alla Serenissima. Il governo di Venezia respinge l'ultimatum e si mobilita diplomaticamente, ma a luglio una flotta turca sbarca a Cipro e assedia la capitale.
Venezia cerca di mobilitare altre potenze e, inaspettatamente, trova un alleato in papa Pio V, che vede la possibilità di un'ennesima "crociata". Tra mille difficoltà politiche e diplomatiche si riesce a mettere insieme una coalizione, la "Lega Santa", i cui principali fautori erano Venezia, gli Asburgo (e certo il Papa).
Il risultato fu la grande vittoria navale di Lepanto (1571) che, purtroppo, non portò a Venezia i benefici sperati.
Lepanto, in pratica, costituì una grande "vittoria morale", celebrata in città in mille modi, ma non impedì alla potenza navale veneziana di imboccare la via del declino. Il periodo che seguì vide l'affermarsi di altre vie di traffico (quelle oceaniche) e il progressivo venir meno delle rotte nel Mediterraneo. Il XVII secolo si presenta come un periodo di stasi economica e politica. Venezia, sorda a quanto sta avvenendo negli oceani, cerca di riaprire le vie del commercio Levantino e di mantenere i suoi ultimi possedimenti. Ma alla metà del '600, l'Impero Turco la impegna in una lunga lotta per il possesso di Creta, fra l'indifferenza delle altre potenze impegnate nella "Guerra dei trent'anni". Nel 1669 anche Creta è perduta.
Venezia si rifarà qualche anno più tardi col suo comandante Francesco Morosini, che diverrà anche Doge. Egli strapperà ai Turchi il Peloponneso, che la pace di Carlowitz del 1699 confermerà come ultima conquista veneziana.
6. LINEE DI STORIA VENEZIANA:
L'ultima conquista, difficile da mantenere per la lontananza, non ebbe vita lunga: nel 1714 i Turchi si ripresero senza eccessivo sforzo il Peloponneso, approfittando della solitudine "politica" di Venezia. Tentarono poi di prendere anche Corfù, ma la resistenza della Serenissima si acuì e stavolta le vennero in aiuto alcuni stati cristiani, fra cui gli Asburgo d'Austria. Anche grazie al loro aiuto Venezia riuscì a conservare Corfù (1716), ultimo baluardo di quello "stato da mar" che tanto inorgogliva la Venezia del passato. Nell'Adriatico ormai le flotte da guerra straniere operavano tranquillamente senza il permesso di Venezia, come avveniva in passato. Ormai la potenza navale veneziana è solo un'ombra: la sua cantieristica è, di fatto, sorpassata e dopo la guerra di Corfù l'Arsenale si limiterà a produrre meno di una nave all'anno; il ruolo di "dominatrice dell'Adriatico" è un ricordo lontano e la "temibile" flotta da guerra veneziana stenta a proteggere i convogli mercantili dagli attacchi corsari.
Nel contempo la città gode un'incredibile stagione artistica: i suoi palazzi, le sue chiese i suoi luoghi pubblici si arricchiscono di un gran numero di opere d'arte, tanto che il Governo decide di farle inventariare per impedire che finiscano all'estero; Venezia è, infatti, meta di viaggio di molti forestieri facoltosi e il suo aspetto e i suoi tesori artistici ne guadagnano l'ammirazione e il desiderio di conservarne un ricordo tangibile. Ecco, quindi, nasce una scuola pittorica detta dei "vedutisti", che realizzano celebri "vedute di Venezia" (ricordiamo, fra tutti i vedutisti, il Guardi e il Canaletto).
All'interno dei palazzi e degli edifici pubblici furoreggia, invece, l'arte di Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, autore di bellissimi affreschi. Suo figlio Giandomenico, assieme a Pietro Longhi, si specializza nella pittura "di genere", rappresentando deliziose scene di vita sociale e familiare. Nei teatri imperversa la vena creativa di Carlo Goldoni. Nella sua bottega di scultore Antonio Canova crea il "Dedalo e Icaro", prototipo di quella scultura neoclassica che lo renderà celebre in tutto il mondo. E questi sono solo alcuni esempi.
Mentre la vita del patriziato cittadino si trascina tra feste e attività artistiche, nuovi grandi avvenimenti stanno sconvolgendo il mondo: le rivoluzioni americana e francese; l'avvento di Napoleone. Quando il Bonaparte invade la pianura padana, Venezia rinuncia ad appoggiare Bergamo e Verona che si erano ribellate all'avanzata napoleonica. Cerca di ricorrere ancora una volta all'abilità diplomatica, ma l'ambizioso comandante francese passa all'attacco. La classe dirigente veneziana, imbelle e troppo preoccupata di perdere i possedimenti in terraferma, accetta le incredibili condizioni e delibera la fine della Serenissima. È il 12 maggio 1797.
Solo il popolo, artigiani e bottegai in primis, capisce che dietro le "libertà" strombazzate da Napoleone c'è la rovina. Si ribella e viene preso a cannonate dal ponte di Rialto. Ma aveva ragione: dopo qualche giorno Napoleone col suo esercito entra in Venezia e la saccheggia; ancora qualche mese e la città viene ceduta all'Austria, diventando, così, suddita dell'Imperatore.
per ulteriori letture, v.
di Venezia, voll. I e II (Venezia: Centro internazionale delle grafica e del
Lane, F. C. Storia di Venezia (Torino: Einaudi, 1978).
Zysberg, A. e Burlet, R. Venezia:la Serenissima e il mare (Milano: Electa/Gallimard, 1995).