Read in Italian. I am happy to introduce to you my friend Diego Cattaneo, the director of Venice Italian School. Diego was born in Venice, he graduated from Bologna and has been teaching Italian since 2000. He is as passionate about teaching the language, as I am about learning it. As a result, we decided to join forces to support and promote the idea of learning Italian in his city of birth – Venice. In April 2013, for 10 days we will share a language and cultural immersion experience in which students of the language and those who are intrigued with the city can participate. In his first guest blog, Diego tells us about the pride a new generation of Venetians and explains the current situation in Venice.
Venezia under water? San Marco, a big swimming pool, where tourist amuse themselves taking a swim in November? Or still: Venezia is sinking, sinking and just waiting for an Adriatic tsunami to finish her off?
I, as a Venetian, think that the international media are a little too “apocalyptic”. The high tides are not going to submerge Venice and Venice is not sinking. Certainly the acqua alta (high water) is a very serious problem. I remember years ago, when the “sirens” sounded in the middle of the night; they were the ones used during the second World War; what fear for a child to waken to this alarm in the dead of night.
And I remember the fatigue and the frustration of my father, a merchant with two clothing stores at risk, how he had to begin his day, to the sound of that alarm. First he was off and running to place the barriers at the front doors of the house and then on to the stores to save the store’s merchandise, elevating all the merchandise five feet from the ground. And then there was the waiting there for the tide to pass (six hours up, six hours down) in order to clean, rinse and put everything back in place. At that point, and only then could he begin a “normal” work day. What a hassle!
Yet, despite what the media says, Venice is NOT a second Atlantis waiting to be submerged! L’acqua alta comes during a short period of the year — usually between November and February — and mainly affects some of the low lying areas of the city (primarily the famous Piazza San Marco) and those who live or work on the ground floor of buildings in those areas.
However, the high water is NOT the main problem of the city in recent years.
What really worries the Venetians is not so much the high tide but rather, the low population. What does this mean? It means that the population of Venice in the last 30 years has decreased by 25,000 residents and the number of people leaving the city continues to increase.
The problem is not sinking, but rather the shrinking of the population.
Why are Venetians leaving their beautiful city? There are some several factors. Among the first: “Venice is an expensive city in which to live”. The cost to buy a home is out of reach for a vast number of young people and those who remain have been lucky enough to have a house they have inherited from grandparents or bought by parents.
Other reason people are leaving the city is that many say “Venezia is uncomfortable” there are no cars and you have to walk everywhere, even with shopping bags. “Venezia is too touristy” There are too many tourists about and there are mask and souvenir shops everywhere. “Where can one go to buy a regular old carton of milk? In general, it is all true.
And yet…and yet there is a new generation of Venetians that is resisting all this. They are the young entrepreneurs and Venetian artisans who are not abandoning their city, but choosing instead to stay, live and work in Venice despite all these difficulties. This is a new generation who want to work to innovate the city and renew its image, while at the same time keeping alive the old traditions and the rich Venetian culture.
Alberto, decided to stay to teach the craft of Venetian rowing to to new residents of the city, including our students. There is also Stephen, who organizes bicycle tours in the Lido and then of course myself along with my sister Lucia, who together have opened the Venice Italian School to teach Italy, with the profound desire to introduce to students the real Venice, its language, food, wines and traditions.
Are you interested in discovering this side of Venice? Then we suggest you come along with Venice Italian School & Melissa Muldoon for the 2013 Cultural Immersion Tour. For ten days we will bring students in contact with the Venice “away from mass tourism”. In addition to our traditional language classes our students will have the opportunity to escape the classroom and meet, interview and converse with these professionals, tradesmen, craftsmen, artists and entrepreneurs. Our students will hear their stories and interact with them using the Italian language.
This is more than a language holiday: this is learning Italian and living in Venice like a local Join us in April!