Nel  giugno scorso Repubblica ha pubblicato ampi stralci dell’articolo di Anna Somers Cocks “The coming death of Venice?” pubblicato su The New York Review of Books:

Anna Somers Cocks non è una persona qualunque. Londinese, è stata presidente di Venice in Peril fino all’anno scorso ed ha molte referenze nella salvaguardia della cittĂ , cosa di cui le va dato atto. Ha però quell’atteggiamento nei confronti di Venezia che Carlo Rubini ha felicemente descritto nel suo ultimo editoriale come “una falsa coscienza che mantiene per sĂŠ e a casa propria i vantaggi della modernitĂ  e scarica nell’ultimo paradiso perduto l’alibi di qualcosa di alternativo”. Nutre una passione per i toni apocalittici ed abborre le sfumature: i suoi NO sono senza se e senza ma, mette i buoni da una parte e i cattivi dall’altra.

È insomma a pieno titolo un’insigne rappresentante del Partito del NO di cui tanto ci siamo occupati in questa testata. Proprio per l’autorevolezza e la cultura del personaggio, mi è sembrato interessante ed opportuno risponderle. L’ho fatto personalmente tramite Facebook (senza che la signora si sia degnata di un cenno di risposta) e con una lettera aperta che ho inviato a The New York Review of Books. Dubito altresĂŹ che l’autorevole rivista pubblichi l’intervento di un carneade quale il sottoscritto mentre Luminosi Giorni …

Riporto allora integralmente qui di seguito il mio messaggio alla signora, fiducioso che possa essere di interesse anche per qualche lettore di LG.


Anna Somers Cocks

Anna Somers Cocks

Dear  Madame,

first and foremost I’d like to express my acknowledgement for your long dated commitment relevant to Venice and your unexhausted effort to safeguard the town I was born and I have been living in for all my 54 years life.

I read your piece “The Coming Death of Venice” in the New York Review of Books, dated June 20th 2013 very carefully and I share your concerns over Venice’s current situation and your worries about its future. However, I do not agree with the idea of Venice you are obviously nourishing. And, being your attitude paradigmatic of a rather widespread way of looking at my unfortunate town, I thought it worth the effort to reply to your piece.

There are of course things I agree with you upon:

  • The clumsiness of the Town Council. You are right, our Town Council is quite unfit to run so complicated a town like Venice. The local political class lacks large personalities and are unable even to deal with even the most everyday administrative tasks, not to mention the incapability to conceive a coherent idea for the future and to firmly move towards it.
  • Who does what in Venice. As you highlighted, the sharing of responsibilities among different entities is so intricately entangled that the final outcome is that no one is accountable for anything. I’d say this is actually a typical Italian malpractice, not exclusively Venetian.

As for the aforementioned, on the other hand, I don’t share your understanding of the overall scenario. An understanding quite Manichean: on one side the good guys, the safeguard of Venice (or I’d better say of a certain idea of Venice), the  kind-hearted people and on the other side the bad guys, the dirty interests of business, the vultures who benefit from the exploitation of the unmatched, world-wide appeal the town holds. Not even the least attempt to tackle issues by balancing pros and cons, to reconcile conflicting needs and constraints,  to explore the possibility to identify jointly agreed and acceptable solutions.

On the contrary, bare facts are often introduced in the most possibly catastrophic way possible, frequently threatening likeliness.   

Il Palais Lumière

Il Palais Lumière

Let’s consider for example your aversion for the Cardin tower (the notorious Palais Lumière). The projection you mentioned is doubtlessly an arithmetical fact, your words, but does not take into consideration the dimming effect that the distance produces on the view of the structure. It is the Leonardo Da Vinci’s sfumato effect, surely well known by the founding editor of The Art Newspaper. Strange omission indeed. And it is rather amazing you completely omitted any consideration of the economic implications the Palais would have, as well as the refurbishment of a currently desolated area that God knows how much it would have needed to be refurbished…

As for the Big Ships issue, the doubtless success of Paolo Costa in developing the cruise traffic, his plans for the development of a transport hub for merchandise in the mainland, is seen purely as evil. The economical return in terms of direct and satellite activities, the thousands of people who earn their living in this business sector and, may I add, the history itself of Venice (yes: this is also a heritage, regardless of what you may deem of Costa’s words).. all these issues seem irrelevant in your point of view. For the sake of clarity: I share the concerns of many people over these giants crossing the Basin of San Marco but I would humbly suggest you consider that option zero is not an option..

Paolo Costa, uno dei nemici giurati della signora

Paolo Costa, uno dei nemici giurati della signora

A compromise solution must be found in order to reconcile economical constrains and environmental concerns. For instance, (please see this article the environmental footprint of the port area produced by ships while they are engaged in port operations is unacceptable. This also considering that feasible technical solutions are available to provide ships with power supply from the port facilities. Of course, this would imply huge investments that be demanded only in the event will a final word be said about the possibility of the port to keep its home in the Marittima berths.   

The tourism: it is, undoubtedly, a serious issue. I rather agree with many of your views, albeit the proposed solution to allow access to the town by introducing a ticket is quite unlikely.

Le navi in Marittima: una scelta contestata

Le navi in Marittima: una scelta contestata

Let me just highlight that you failed to mention one of the most serious plagues strictly connected to tourism: the unbelievable boom in private apartments being turned into Bed & Breakfast, frequently through a borderline interpretation of the law if not completely illegally. This phenomenon has deprived the town of a huge residential patrimony thus dramatically worsening the problem of the constant decrease of the population in the historic town.

Last but not least, Mose: the infrastructure will protect the town for the incoming years from flooding (not to mention the positive outcomes in terms of qualified jobs for the maintenance thereof) as you acknowledge. True, it has drained a lot of resources and recent events have demonstrated that the Consorzio Venezia Nuova was lacking transparency (to be euphemistic..) in the handling of the enormous power wielded from the management of immense resources it has been assigned. Nonetheless, these terms do not affect the bare fact that Mose constitutes the sole possible protection for the future, at least in the short and medium terms. As for the long term, you yourself reported a range from 7 to 23 inches of sea level rising by 2100. In other words, we are ranging from an almost negligible effect to a severe threat that could necessitate rising the barriers almost daily… Either way, at least Venice would be protected. Please consider that, in the worst scenario, or even more catastrophic (as it will possibly come out from 2014 IPCC report), most of the coastal areas all over the world would be seriously on danger. So, what are you really arguing about, Madame? There’s no fudging, there’s only a titanic work of human talent and brilliance and you’d better take good note of it.

Surely, the impact of the sea level rising on the building bases exists and it is severe. But the statement that this state of affairs is unprecedented in the history of the city is definitively not true. On the contrary, in the first decade of 2000 the town was enjoying a vast series of refurbishment interventions carried out by Insula, the joint stock company controlled by the municipality, there included some limited scale main drainage systems, dredging of the canals, raising of the canals banks to prevent flooding. The former along with a substantial sum distributed to private building owners for maintenance interventions (subjected to the binding requirement of residency). Once again, it seems to me that you, perhaps inadvertently, have painted a picture in the shades of catastrophe rather than giving an objective frame of reality.     

 I obviously don’t have the least expectation that you’ll agree with any of my words, nevertheless I thought it opportune to disclose this point of view, my own as well as that of a not negligible part of Venetians.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Lorenzo Colovini