In Venice and tourism

What is a stool in Venice? … please be patient and read it till the end 🙂

I am reading an interesting booklet written by Salvatore Settis (I am afraid available only in Italian) and published by Giulio Einaudi in 2014, Se Venezia muore (If Venice dies). I had hoped for Mr Settis to become our minister for cultural heritage, but his critical attitude against the recent construction development in Italy at the expense of natural and cultural sites had made him too many enemies.

His recent publication which he came to present personally also in Venice just a few weeks ago argues that Venice is a city where ugliness is dramatically threatening the uniqueness of the city. How can a city die? How can ugliness endanger a city? And what do we mean by decreasing beauty?

Virgin Mary, Bas relief in Venice

Virgin Mary, Bas relief in Venice

I agree with him when he points out that a city can die if it loses its historical memory, if it tries to be identical to other cities giving up its uniqueness. But what I like most, is Settis’ idea that cultural heritage is nothing without human heritage: in other words, how he places the accent on the person rather than a monument, thus moving from an economic value to intangible value.

Settis lists the discouraging numbers of depopulation of Venice and its transformation in a city without its soul:

In 1951 we had 174,808 inhabitants
In 1971 there lived 108,426 people permanently in Venice
In 1991 the number had gone down to 76,644
And last year the inhabitants were 56,684

So while the rest of the world tries to imitate Venice and creates commercial malls with canals, gondolas and replicas of the bridge of sighs, here it’s Venice that is gradually looking more similar to its replicas…

The Venetian, Las Vegas

The Venetian, Las Vegas

Souvenir shop in Venice

Souvenir shop in Venice

A few years ago, in 2005, in Faro, a city in Portugal, the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the value of cultural heritage for society was written and in these years many countries have signed it. What does it say? Here is the link if you want to read it all:

But here are the words I love most:

“(…) cultural heritage is a group of resources inherited from the past which people identify, independently of ownership, as a reflection and expression of their constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions. It includes all aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time”

and more later:

“(…) everyone, alone or collectively, has the right to benefit from the cultural heritage and to contribute towards its enrichment”

Oh my, we have a right to beauty and we need to be responsible for it!

So what’s the story of the stool in the title? You have been so patient to have read all the way through 🙂

Well, here is Bang, the thought provoking art work exhibited by Ai Weiwei at the Venice Biennale of Arts in 2013:

Ai Wei Wei, Bang, Venice Biennale

Ai Wei Wei, Bang, Venice Biennale

Ai Weiwei was there to tell us that the three-legged stool which Chinese families used to pass from one generation to the next is cultural heritage. The room was filled up with almost 900 of these stools composing something similar to a DNA string, telling us dramatically that history can hide in a simple object as long as it echoes human memory. In fact it was as if visitors attended a chaotic synapsis in the brain, sparkling at every passage as we moved our eyes from one stool to the other.

So my question is what is my stool in Venice? And as a tour guide in this city, what can I do to keep the beauty of Venice human and alive? Can tourism also be a way to enhance beauty in the city? Follow the next posts of me searching for stools in Venice 🙂

by Luisella Romeo
registered tourist guide in Venice, Italy


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Showing 2 comments
  • Thomas Swick

    Dear Luisella, so glad to see you’ve started a blog (and an elegant one at that). I look forward to being a regular reader. Tom

    • blogseevenice

      Dear Tom,
      thank you for your encouragement! Coming from such a great lover of words and travels as you are, let’s see what you think of the next posts 🙂
      Hugs to Florida!