High-End Dialogue: What The Big Voices Say
But UNESCO is, of course, not in the business of protecting contemporary societies. Like me, they don't exactly get to vote in the upcoming elections. They have and they do use their tremendous influence to protect the World Heritage Site of Venice and It's Lagoon. UNESCO can be thanked for repeatedly and consistently, leading the charge to ban large cruise ships from Venice and it's lagoon. Following the sinking of the Costa Concordia in 2012, UNESCO called on the Italian government to limit cruise ship traffic in the lagoon. In the fall of 2014, UNESCO threatened to place Venice on its World Heritage in Danger List if large cruise ships were not banned from the lagoon or if the Italian Government embarks on large construction – i.e. the dredging of the Canale Contora Sant'Angelo – in order to continue bringing the same number or more of large ships into Venice.
Reporting on this threat from UNESCO, Anna Somers Cocks pointed out, “Unesco also showed that it was well aware that economic interests had allowed the present situation to develop and urged financial institutions and agencies to ensure that heritage and environmental impact assessments be carried out to make sure that there would be no negative impact on Venice and its lagoon before planning investment in large-scale developments within the city and its setting.” There are those economic interests again...
It was in the summer of 2014 when the world's celebrities, rather than its preservationists, called on Italy to limit large cruise ships in the lagoon that a short-lived ban on large ships was actually put into place. The timing was probably a coincidence, but there's no denying that more people read about the open letters that celebrities sign than read press releases and reports from UNESCO. Sadly, the ban was quietly reversed while few famous people were watching. And, if the snippets of news released about it are any guide, the dredging of the canale contorto sant' angelo is far from off-the-table as far as the economic interests which control Venice are concerned.
Misinformation & Mass-Hysteria: Venice in Mass Media
The reality is that Dal Moro's has more than 3,700 reviews on one of the most popular tourism websites in the world. No matter how culturally inappropriate it may be, and no matter how much their customers are missing out on real Venetian food, tourists will continue going there because it is what they're going to find out about first. People who search online for information about where to eat in Venice learn about take-away pasta. They act on that information and later, in an effort to be “socially responsible”, they relay it to others. It's easy to understand how Venetians, who know how wrong this is, can view tourists as a hopeless faceless hoard of fools. It's almost easy to understand the urge to take advantage of that foolishness by opening a pasta-to-go restaurant. As far as anyone searching for “the best restaurant in Venice” on TripAdvisor is concerned, take-away pasta is tops.
That article was picked up by publications all over Europe, mostly because it also pointed out that the misbehaving tourists were behaving in ways they would never dare to at home and then seemed to excuse them anyway. The author of this editorial developed a new mass psychology that excuses bad behavior in Italy. The news was spread to the edges of the earth. Now everyone knows that is how you're supposed to behave if you're really having a good time in Venice. Italian administrative and governmental malfunction is something that outsiders have long romanticized, but this was surprising coming from a national newspaper.
All The Voices in The Crowd
There are responsible publications for educated people who already care, like UNESCO reports and The Art Newspaper. I personally love their work. I love the Venetian Tourism Authority Publication, Detourismo, too. But, I suspect they appeal mostly to those who already know a little bit and care to know more. The same goes for specific publications, which I also love, about regional food and artisan shopping in Venice etc... These are all wonderful things, but they exist on a higher plane than most of a cacophony about Venice while it's from the lower plane of internet search results that the masses get their information.
In between, there are smoke and mirrors that at best add to the confusion and at worst damage the reputation of Venice in the eyes of their readers. Here is where there are accidental theories about overdosing on la dolce vita. There is also deliberate obscuring of issues such as when those who advocate sustainable tourism are demonized as snobs who wish to prevent poor people from visiting Venice. There are lots of articles where semi-savvy business people debate the merits of a diversified Venetian economy without taking Venetians into account. And, lest we forget, here also is where the shortage of Murano glass is misinterpreted as a fall in demand for Venice' most in-demand product.
Rough, Tumble and Humble: Right Back Where I Started
Of course, I also love many of the blogs about Venice!