Though Venetians are prone to have all kinds of theories about why a particular work of reconstruction is taking so much longer than planned--who is making money from the delay, what secret benefits are being funneled into the hands of a crafty few--they are of course happier than anyone else when all the scaffolding comes down and the building they'd spent their lives with is finally returned to them.
In the case of the campanile in Piazza San Marco--its base surrounded for years by a full-blown construction site--the end of the long restructuring seemed, really, like an act of liberation.
A liberation, however, that was extremely short-lived.
Before most Venetians could even get a good full view of the campanile again, unobscured by any ugly building materials, a new ugliness was thrust upon them: the tourist gift shop you see above.
In a city in which most residents already feel as though every single decision made is exclusively for the benefit of tourists, the comune and those who (mis)manage it could not have hit upon a gesture more inclined to inspire intense and bitter antipathy.
This is, of course, the same city government which issued outraged proclamations about the sanctity of Venice's single most important historic public site when a few tourists had the stupid idea to slip into bathing suits and treat the piazza like their own private pool during last November's extremely high acqua alta. Where, the politicians fumed, was those barbarians' respect for the civic heart of the city?
Where indeed... The difference, of course, was that the swimmers were foreigners whose disrespectful act lasted less than one hour. Much more troubling is the disrespect of elected officials who like to wrap themselves in the flag of San Marco even as their actions reveal they all march loyally behind a far different banner: the euro.
In any case, we have been without internet connection in our house for the last few days and I type this in a bar, beneath the aegis of free wifi, with some of the most distracting quasi-music blasting I've ever heard. I can barely remember my own name with this kind of noise, much less type it--or a coherent sentence. So for the present I'll refer you to the facebook group site of those dedicated to the removal of the new tourist container store or gabbiotto:
Earlier today I noticed that one woman posted that il gabbiotto made her feel as though she finally had to admit that the city was lost. Others have not been so ready to give in. There are a series of photoshopped images of il gabbiotto in front of other world famous historical sites (Stonehenge, Parthenon, the Taj Mahal, etc), and one video of its emphatic destruction. The headline of one local paper stated that everyone was opposed to it. Local officials are already scrambling to evade responsibility and claiming that it was only intended to be there temporarily. Hopefully it will turn out to be far more temporary than they ever planned.