|A pastoral paradise within sight of the campanili of San Giorgio Maggiore and San Marco|
For more than 10 years the federal money that once would have gone to the city of Venice to fund the extraordinary maintenance required to keep this most extraordinary of cities afloat (so to speak) has been directed instead to the system of underwater floodgates at the portals between the lagoon and the Adriatic known as MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico). Built by a private consortium of companies who were handed a no-bid contract not only to build it but to maintain it when (or if) it is finished (which means a guaranteed annual income of many millions of euros in perpetuity) this project is responsible for the fact that the 592 million euros the city received in 2002 has been reduced for the last decade to a small fraction of that amount: only 20 million euros in 2005, according to Ana Somers Cocks's recent piece in the New York Review of Books entitled "The Coming Death of Venice?" (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jun/20/coming-death-venice/?pagination=false Moreover, Somers Cocks (former chairperson of Venice in Peril) writes that "the 40 million euro allocated to it in 2011 only arrived from Rome this April." That is, two years behind schedule.
(An excellent book on MOSE and the problem of rising tides is John Keahey's Venice Against the Sea: A City Besieged. Though published in 2002, the glacial rate at which change happens in Italy means that it still reads as if were published last year.)
The diversion of all these funds to this private monopoly--to which, as Keahey writes, the EU had very strong objections--means that the city budget is a shambles: school children must, for example, bring their own toilet paper to school, and this summer the few public lawns of Venice are being left to grow wild for longer periods of time than I've seen before, as there's no money to pay the city giardinieri. The grass in Sant' Elena reached such a height at the beginning of this summer that Jen remarked you could easily lose a child in it. I believe she was understating it: in truth, it was quite high enough to swallow up a good many of their grandparents, too.
But it's not been all bad, as I hope the photo above suggests. There's never been a better summer in the three years we've lived here to appreciate the wild flowers.