The Tourist a Film with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

What’s going on?

Why is a a tourist and visitor information blog reviewing a popular hollywood film? In short, because the action is based in Venice. Don’t worry, our perspective is firmly focussed on the Venetian and Italian aspects, though we probably cannot resist a few general comments regarding the plot and acting.

The setting

The film starts in Paris, but main protaganist Angelina Jolie, is soon on the Eurostar bound for Venice, on which she meets Depp. The Eurostar is shown speeding through the Italian countryside, before more or less immediately arriving at the railway causeway, alongside the road one opened by Mussolini, that connects Venice with the mainland. And that is the first bit of geographic inaccuracy. For in reality, the nearest countryside is before the train arrives in Padova, 20 mins previously, and from Padova onwards, it is very built up. The train would also stop at Mestre rather than leaping from countryside to Venice. But that would not make a good movie at all.

Hotel Danieli

The next part of the action takes place in the five star Hotel Danieli, which is close to St.Marks Square and the bridge of sighs (or signs as it is nicknamed due to its present coverage with advertising!). The hotel Danieli, whose bar is shown in our caption photo for this article, is a classic five star hotel with beautiful views of the lagoon. The dining room where Depp has dinner with Jolie looks authentic, but the view where Depp looks out the window of their suite and you can see Rialto Bridge is very definitely poetic license.

Views of Venice

Much of the rest of the action takes place around Venice, and there are some beautiful views of the city as well as the canals and lagoon. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the airport is quite as close and convenient as the film makes out either: it is quite convenient but not located in the city centre!

Italian style and fashion

More than anything, the film showcases the Italian lifestyle in terms of designer dressing and fashion. The characters are dressed in sharp Armani suits and Bulgari abounds, never mind the canal-side dinner settings and clinking of Campari. In addition, the Italian characters in the film are portrayed by famous Italian actors.

The Film

There is just enough of a plot and narrative thread to keep one’s interest, but the film is let down by the wooden characters portrayed Depp and Jolie. Both can act and have done so brilliantly in other settings, so it’s a shame Jolie is reduced to a two dimensional femme fatale and Depp an emotionally retentive  character. Jolie’s best moment is probably provided by the obligatory boat chase down canals and across the lagoon, where it looks like she is handling the launch with expertise.

Depp enjoys a rooftop chase, reminding us that that was indeed the modus operandi of many infamous  Venetian cat burglars in the past, but Depp does it in dalylight, in his pyjamas no less. Apart from this, the film portrays the French police as incompetent, the English as only interested in ticking the ‘crime solved’ box, and the Italian police as corrupt. Plus ca change.

Throw in some romance, an expected twist as a finale and you have a fairly typical Hollywood movie set in the splendour of Venice.

Verdict: not worth seeing as an action movie in its own right but if, like us, you are interested in Venice, the extra dimension adds a reason to go see it.

For more stories, features, reviews and inside information on Venice visit the Venice Infosite

Donna Leon, Guido Brunetti and the Mystery of Venice Police Station

January 3, 2011 3 comments

The Guido Brunetti Series of Novels

Donna Leon’s best-selling series featuring the principled, but warmhearted Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti has won her countless fans, critical acclaim, and international renown as one of the world’s best crime writers.

Brunetti contends with ingenious corruption, bureaucratic intransigence and everything the Venetian climate can throw at him from Acqua Alta, dense fog, rough seas, to the stifling heat of the Venetian summer.

Based mainly in Venice and surrounding areas

All Leon’s books are packed with colourful Venetian characters and the splendour of Venice, its lagoon and surrounding area, provide the perfect backdrop for a range of crimes for Commisario Guido Brunetti to investigate. Apart from his kindly nature and forensic skills, Brunetti often shows his human side when, for example, he is anxious to escape the tourist crush and fictional crime scene of Venice to spend some time with his family, only to find yet another crime that requires his talents.

Brunetti’s family

Brunetti is a cynic who knows he can only go so far in changing the system, although he continues to fight the sytem as well as crime.  Brunetti is happily married to Paola, a hereditary Contessa, from one of Venice’s oldest families, and they have two children, Raffi and Chiara. Paola teaches English in the public system and leans to the left wing, with fond memories of 1968.

The warmth of the Brunetti family contrasts with corruption and cruelty that Brunetti encounters at work. Venice’s head of police, Vice-questore Patta, is vain and self-serving , while Sergente Vianello and the all-knowing and well-connected Signorina Elettra, Patta’s secretary, provide practical help for Brunetti.

Donna Leon lives in Venice

While American in origin, Donna Leon has lived in Venice for 25 years. It is ironic then that her fans are causing a new tourist crush, as they visit and take photos of the police station, where Guido Brunetti is supposedly based. Whilst the novels have been translated into many different languages and have been made into 16 German TV films for example, the author has refused to have them translated into Italian. So most Venetians including the local police are bemused by this interest in their workplace and put it down to more eccentric tourist behaviour!

The 19 Brunetti books

The complete Brunetti series comprises:

  1. Death at La Fenice 1992
    During a performance of La Traviata at La Fenice opera house the distinguished German conductor is found dead, apparently poisoned by a cup of coffee. Brunetti embarks on a voyage of exploration among the often murky world both of opera and his family eventually unearthing a surprising conclusion.
  2. Death in a Strange Country 1993
    Brunetti confronts a grisly sight when the body of a young American is fished out of a fetid Venetian canal. Though all the signs point to a violent mugging, something incriminating turns up in the victim’s apartment that suggests the existence of a high level conspiracy.
  3. The Anonymous Venetian  1994 aka Dressed for Death
    Brunetti’s hopes of a refreshing family holiday in the mountains are dashed when a gruesome discovery is made in Marghera – a body so badly beaten that the face is completely unrecognizable. But when the victim’s identity is revealed, the investigation takes a very unexpected turn.
  4. A Venetian Reckoning 1995 aka Death and Judgment
    A truck crashes on one of the treacherous mountain roads in the Italian Dolomites, spilling a terrible cargo. Meanwhile, a prominent international lawyer is found dead in the carriage of an intercity train at Santa Lucia. Can the two tragedies possibly be connected? Commissario Guido Brunetti digs deep into the secret lives of Italy’s elite classes to find the answer.
  5. Acqua Alta 1996 aka Death in High Water
    As Venice braces for a winter tempest and the onslaught of acqua alta – the flood waters  – Commissario Guido Brunetti finds out that an old friend has been savagely beaten at the palazzo home of reigning diva Flavia Petrelli
  6. The Death of Faith 1997 aka Quietly in Their Sleep
    Brunetti comes to the aid of a young nursing sister who is leaving her convent following the unexpected death of five patients. At first, Brunetti’s inquiries revel nothing amiss, and he wonders whether the nun is simply creating a smoke screen to justify abandoning her vocation. But perhaps, she has stumbled onto something very real and very sinister – something that puts her life in imminent danger.
  7. A Noble Radiance 1997
    The new owner of a farmhouse at the foot of the Italian Dolomites is summoned to the house when his workmen disturb a macabre grave. Once on the job, Brunetti uncovers a clue that reignites an infamous cold case of kidnapping and disappearance involving one of Venice’s oldest, most aristocratic families.
  8. Fatal Remedies 1999
    For Commissario Brunetti, it begins with an early morning phone call. In the chill of the Venetian dawn, a sudden act of vandalism shatters the quiet of the deserted city. But Brunnetti is soon shocked to find that the culprit waiting to be apprehended at the scene is someone from his own family. Meanwhile, he is under pressure from his superiors at work to solve a daring robbery with a link to a suspicious accidental death. Does it all lead back to the Mafia? And how are his family’s actions connected to these crimes?
  9. Friends in High Places 2000
    Commissario Brunetti is visited by a young bureaucrat investigating the lack of official approval for the construction of Brunetti’s apartment years before. What began as a red tape headache ends in murder when the bureaucrat is later found dead after a mysterious fall from some scaffolding.
  10. A Sea of Troubles 2001
    The murder of two clam fishermen off the island of Pellestrina, south of the Lido on the Venetian lagoon, draws Commissario Brunetti into the island’s close-knit community, bound together by a code of loyalty and a suspicion of outsiders. When Signorina Elettra volunteers to visit the island, where she has relatives, Brunetti finds himself torn between his duty to solve the murders, concerns for Elettra’s safety, and his not entirely straightforward feelings for her.
  11. Wilful Behaviour 2002
    When one of his wife Paola’s students comes to visit him with an interest in investigating the possibility of a pardon for a crime committed by her grandfather many years ago, Commissario Brunetti thinks little of it, beyond being intrigued and attracted by the girl’s intelligence and moral seriousness. But when she is found stabbed to death, Claudia Leonardo is suddenly no longer simply Paola’s student, but Brunetti’s case.
  12. Uniform Justice 2003
    Brunetti faces an unsettling case when a young cadet has been found hanged, a presumed suicide, in Venice’s elite military academy. As he pursues his inquiry, he is faced with a wall of silence and finds himself caught up in the strange and stormy politics of his country’s powerful elite.
  13. Doctored Evidence 2004
    When a universally disliked elderly woman is murdered, suspicion immediately falls on her Romanian housekeeper, who is killed attempting to avoid arrest. The Venetian police consider the case closed until a neighbor returns from an extended trip abroad…
  14. Blood from a Stone 2005
    Shortly before Christmas, a man is killed in Venice’s Campo Santo Stefano. An illegal immigrant from Senegal, he is one of the vu’ cumprà who sell fake fashion accessories while trying to stay ahead of the law. At first, the crime seems like a simple clash between rival vendors, but as Commissario Guido Brunetti probes more deeply, he begins to suspect that this murder was the work of a professional. And why does his boss want him off the case?
  15. Through a Glass Darkly 2006
    When the body of a night watchman is found in front of a blazing furnace at De Cal’s glass factory along with an annotated copy of Dante’s Inferno, Brunetti must investigate. Does the book contain the clues Brunetti needs to solve the murder and uncover who is ruining the waters of Venice’s lagoon?
  16. Suffer the Little Children 2007
    A brutal attack on a pediatrician by a Carabiniere captain and two privates, who also take away the doctor’s eighteen-month-old son, draws Commissario Guido Brunetti and his colleague, Inspector Vianello, into a dangerous case involving a ring of baby traffickers and an illegal money-making scheme between pharmacists and doctors
  17. The Girl of His Dreams 2008
    One rainy morning Commissario Brunetti and Ispettore Vianello respond to an emergency call reporting a body floating near some steps on the Grand Canal. Reaching down to pull it out, Brunetti’s wrist is caught by the silkiness of golden hair, and he sees a small foot – together he and Vianello lift a dead girl from the water.
  18. About Face 2009
    A socialite asks Guido Brunetti to investigate a murder that happened in the underworld surrounding southern Italy’s garbage dumping grounds.
  19. A Question of Belief 2010
    With his hometown beset by hordes of tourists and baking under a glaring sun, Commissario Guido Brunetti’s greatest wish is to go to the mountains with his family, where he can sleep under a down comforter and catch up on his reading of history. But before he can go on vacation, he has police work to do. A folder with court records has landed on his desk, brought by an old friend. It appears that certain cases at the local court—hardly known as a model of efficiency—are being delayed to the benefit of one of the parties. A creative new trick for corrupting the system, perhaps, but what can Brunetti do about it?

Venice Police Station can be found at

Sestiere Castello, 5053
30122 Venice, Italy
For more stories, reviews and features about Venice go to

2010 in review

January 2, 2011 Leave a comment

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,200 times in 2010. That’s about 15 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 20 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 76 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 62mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 12th with 548 views. The most popular post that day was Giotto and the Hedgehog.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for italexpat blog, venice water campaign, crabs in venice, mr bean in puglia, and soft shelled crabs in venice.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Giotto and the Hedgehog August 2010


Death in Venice: a Tale of Soft Shelled Crabs, a Seasonal Delicacy September 2010


The Thief, The Artist, The Boy, and The Chambermaid September 2010


Mr and Mrs Bean Go Camping in Puglia: Tales of Asian Loos and Other Inconveniences August 2010
1 comment


Ferragosto in Trieste, the Natural Capital of Nowhere: Tropical Nights where Santa Barbara Meets Feast of the Assumption August 2010

Categories: Uncategorized

Casanova’s Stomping Ground: the historic red light area

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

You may have read the review on the Veniceinfosite of the ‘Antiche Carampane’ of the ‘Old Prostitute’ as the name translates, which more than hints at the historic red light district. This article looks at how the red light district grew rapidly and where it was concentrated.

The growth of the red light district

Prostitution had existed in some form or other from the very founding of Venice in 421 AD. But the trade took a very interesting turn in the 15th century.

Fornication of course was frowned upon by the Catholic church, but by the late 14th century, Venice’s rulers were particularly perturbed by what was described as an ‘eastern habit’, in fact a growing tide of homosexuality that was sweeping the city.

In 1358 the first city brothel was licensed, paving the way for a new class of prostitute, or courtesan as they would become known.

The first city brothel was set up near the Caramapane area, and tightly controlled. Six guards ensured the tarts kept to their night curfew and prevented them working on holy days or religious festivals. A Matron collected fees from the clients and paid the girls their monthly salaries. We cannot ascertain whether tax was deducted at source or not, but the tax is said to have funded the excavation of Arsenale, in 1519
The authorities attitudes towards prostitution waxed and waned

The authorities tried to contain the spread of prostitution by, for example, banning it in public bars and trying to concentrate it into the city brothels but with mixed success.

In 1482, a law was passed outlawing sodomy, and those caught and prosecuted were executed and then incinerated between the two columns in St.Marks Piazzetta-that is the small square where you leave St.Marks square towards the lagoon. This coincided with a more tolerant attitude towards prostitution again.

In 1535 it was recorded that there were 11,000 registered prostitutes in Venice, or 25% of today’s population! As well as servicing the locals, Venice’s growth as a mercantile power ensured a steady flow of seafarers and its increasing architectural development ensured a further source of clients. Among the latter group were pilgrims, who satisfied their carnal desires in tandem with their devotional duties.

In 1608, Thomas Coryat, an English writer claimed that there were 20,000 prostitutes, in Venice, ‘outnumbering nuns and patrician women better than 10 to 1’.
Venice’s tolerance of prostitution waned somewhat in the later 17th century and certain restrictions were placed on them. They were no longer permitted to prosecute non paying clients for example. But by that stage, Venice’s pleasure zone reputation was established and visitors continued to arrive to sample the courtesans and gambling dens and high life.

Where the red light district was concentrated

The first official brothel was close to the Carampane di Rialto, and the carampane and surrounding areas were the focus of activity. The windows and doorways alongside the Rio di San Cassiano were a popular location, as were the areas the Grand Canal from Traghetto del Buso and the area around the famous Bridge of Tits (Ponte delle Tette). Ponte delle Tette is part of Casanova’s old stomping ground, and reptedly near where he seduced a nun.

Prostitutes were encouraged at various times to expose their bosoms and spread their legs publicy, all in the name of reducing homosexuality, and the Ponte delle Tette, was a famous location for baring one’s breasts.

The area became known as ‘Castelletto’ or little castle, and is not to be confused with Castello, another area of Venice. The Sotoportego del Casin dei Nobili, in Dorsoduro, was also a centre for courtesans, even though its raison d’etre was as a gambling house only open to nobles.

Origins of Carampane

While carampane came to mean and still means prostitute, it’s origins are prosaic. It derives from Ca (sa) di Carampani, a local family whose house reputedly later became a brothel. The word is also used these days as the English might use the word tart. The carampane di Rialto stretches away from the Bridge of Tits towards Rialto.

the famous bridge of tits

The original common tart or cortigiana continued alongside the growth of the more upmarket cortigiana or cortigiana onesta, as they became known as. These were women from middle class families who were educated in the arts and languages. The cortigiana career path offered them an escape from home, possible wealth, and the chance to mix with nobility. No doubt, this was an exciting alternative to joining a convent!

Many of these became famous in Venetian society, and were able to choose and limit their clients. A guide was published that listed their names and addresses and rates, and the rate became a mark of prowess and fame.

The 1998 film ‘Dangerous Beauty’ charts the story of Veronica Franco and how she was trained from an early age to be able to catch a wealthy husband. She did have a short-lived marriage to a doctor, before becoming one of Venice’s most famous courtesans to wealthy men and royalty.

The film is based on a book ‘The Honest Courtesan’, by Margaret F. Rosenthal. Another book you may like to check out is ‘In the Company of the Courtesan’ by Sarah Dunant.

Venice and prostitution feature in other books, plays, films and opera. These range from Casanova, The Merchant of Venice, to Verdi’s La Traviata, among others. Casanova will feature in a separate article here shortly.

See Veniceinfosite for other articles on Venice, maps and features

Bare-breasted statue hints at the area's origins

Venice Good Food Guide

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Venice is built on an archipelago of 117 islands formed by 177 canals in a shallow lagoon. With its rich maritime history, it’s no surprise that much of the food in Venice centres around seafood. Wild water fowl is also common on menus and many vegetables these days are cultivated on the islands of the lagoon.

Our good food guide focusses on these foods actually from Venice or its surroundings and tell you what to look for in each season.

Fish is a Key Part of the Venetian Menu

Food Category Italian name Season

Gilt head bream Orata July-Sept
Striped bream Mormora Apr-Sept
Turbot Rombo Oct
Eel Bisato Aug-Nov
Grey mullet Boseche otregani Sept-Oct
Red mullet Triglie barboni Sept-Nov
Cuttlefish Seppie Mar-Apr
Italian flounder Passarini Sept-Nov
Baby squid Calamaretti Sept-Oct
Grey shrimps Schie Nov-Dec
Baby bay shrimps Gamberetti Nov-Feb
Mantis shrimps Canoce Sept-Nov
Murex snails Garusoli June-Sept
Sea scallops Cappesante Oct-Nov
Lagoon clams Capparossoli All year
Shore crab Masenete Oct-Nov
Sea bass Branzino July-Dec
Sole Sogliolo Aug-Oct
John Dory San Pietro (a.k.a Hugo!) All year
Corb Corbo or corvina Apr-Sept
Black goby Go or ghiozzo Oct-Mar
Piper fish Lucerne Sept-Nov
Baby cuttlefish Seppioline July-Aug
Baby octopus Moscardini Oct-Nov
Sardines Sarde June-Oct
Anchovies Sardoni June-Oct
Imperial shrimps Mazzancolle Sept-Nov
Mussels Cozze or peoci June-Sept
Razor shell clams Cappelunghe Autumn
Venetian scallops Canestrelli Autumn
Sea clams Bevarasse All year
Soft shell crab Moleche, mo’eche or granseole Mar/Apr and Oct/Nov

Lagoon vegetables

Artichokes Carciofi June
Baby artichokes Castraure Apr-May
Courgettes Zucchine May-Sept
String beans Tegoline July-Sept
Selines Carletti Mar-May
Hop sprouts Bruscandoli Apr
Artichokes Fondi June
Courgette flowers Fiori di zucca May-Sept
Peas Bisi June-July
Beans Borlottini July-Sept
Asparagus Sparese May-June
Beef-heart tomatoes Cuore di bue Aug-Sept

Wild water fowl

Mallards Anare or masorini Oct-Nov
Teals Salsegne or alzavole Oct-Nov
Widgeons Ciossi or fischioni Oct-Nov
Bald coot Folaghe Oct-Nov

Use this guide to choose fish, fowl or vegetables that are in season. All seasons are approximate as they depend on sea and air temperatures.

For more information on Venice click here

Ghosts in Venice Halloween Fun

October 31, 2010 4 comments

Dressing up is Fun

Ghosts in Venice
La Serenissima, sublime and steeped in history, has its share of ghost stories and hauntings. Many of these appear in literature down the ages. Tartini’s 18th century text Curiosita Veneziane refers to a ‘palace of spirits’ on the corner of Sacca della Misericordia, and speculates that its name originates from the strange noises to be heard from within. Perhaps these are generated by wind or echo, or simply voices transmitted from the Fondamente Nuove, but for the purposes of Halloween we will let our imaginations run wild!
Not far from this point in Campo dei Mori, is the Palazzo del Cammello, called Camel Palace because it has the noble ship of the desert portrayed on a bas-reiief on its front. In 1757 the palace was the alleged scene for the presence of a poltergeist. Tassini reports from that time that ‘for several evenings and at the same times, all the five bells inside the rooms of the palace were heard ringing.’: ‘there was much fear, women fainting, blood curling,’. The poor residents of the palace had to request the Chaplain from the Scuola di San Fantin to come and exorcise the apparition.

Poor Old Bruno-Ahead of His Time
The palace of Ca’ Mocenigo too was reputedly troubled by a distinguished, walking dead. Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600), born Filippo Bruno, was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, who is best known as a proponent of the infinity of the universe. His cosmological theories went beyond the Copernican model in identifying the Sun as just one of an infinite number of independently moving heavenly bodies: he is the first European man to have conceptualized the universe as a continuum where the stars we see at night are identical in nature to the Sun. Far-sighted views in those days and sufficient for him to be burned at the stake by the authorities in 1600 after the Roman Inquisition found him guilty of heresy.

The Venetian connection was that Bruno had been in-house tutor to Mocenigo for about two months. When Bruno announced his plan to leave Venice to his host, the latter, who was unhappy with the teachings he had received and had apparently developed a personal rancour towards Bruno, denounced him to the Venetian Inquisition, who had Bruno arrested on May 22, 1592. Among the numerous charges of blasphemy and heresy brought against him in Venice by Mocenigo, was his belief in the plurality of worlds, as well as accusations of personal misconduct. Bruno defended himself skillfully, stressing the philosophical character of some of his positions, denying others and admitting that he had had doubts on some matters of dogma. The Roman Inquisition, however, asked for his transferral to Rome. After several months and some quibbling the Venetian authorities reluctantly consented and Bruno was sent to Rome in February 1593. Strange perhaps that his troubled soul should return to Venice to cause mischief, but perhaps it was simple retaliation for his host’s ingratitude and criticism of his teachings, never denunciation.

Ca’ Dario is one of Venice’s most mysterious and eerie palaces but despite large numbers of owners ending their lives tragically there are few reliable tales of hauntings. Its bloody history is a litany of violent deaths and suicide. One of the more recent of these events was the suicide of Christopher Lambert, erstwhile manager of the Who rock group. Lambert bought the palace in the 80s, and later committed suicide by slashing his wrists. The palace is now owned by a multinational who, one presumes, hope a spread ownership may prevent a recurrence.

Massariol-Mind Your Breasts
More amusing is the legend of Massariol, a cheerful prankster, elf. His favourite trick was to change into a coiled rope and when a woman clutched it to her bosom, he (the rope) would chant ‘touch the breasts, touch the breasts! Truly we have here an elf who would have fitted comfortably into many a junior school. But what we may ask, were Venetian women doing, clutching coils of rope to their breasts?

More recently in the fifties an elderly Jewish man with a beard, perhaps a Rabbi, appeared in a house in the ghetto an in the synagogue.

Zani the Bellringer
Another ‘famous’ Venetian ghost is that of the Saint Mark’s Campanero, bell-ringer, a very tall man named Zani, whose skeleton is conserved at the Museum of Natural History at the Fondaco dei Turchi, across from San Marcuola. I cannot find any references to the period he lived in but reputedly he leaves the museum and twelve tolls occasionally at midnight. Gianni Nosenghi reports on this and other Venetian mysteries in his book entitled ‘the great book of solved and unsolved Venetian mysteries’ ‘il grande libro dei misteri di Venezia risolti e irrisolti’ and that book would make a great starting point for caring to undertake further research

Sleep Well at Venice Youth Hostel
Finally, you will probably be able to sleep without interruption in the Venice Youth Hostel for we have heard no reports of ethereal beings there, beyond those of a few undernourished students. For haunted hostels you will have to go to Florence. There the youth hostel in the 7 Santi convent is reputed to be haunted and the whispers of souls trapped in its walls may be heard if you are lucky-or is that unlucky? Certainly the intolerance, treacheries and poisonings of the Borgias would have provided a rich seam of potentially tortured souls!

For more news, views, features and inside visitor information on Venice visit

Thanks to Goldberg for the photo

Venice Sinking Under Weight of 13 Million Plastic Bottles

October 4, 2010 1 comment

The Problem with Bottled Water
Bottled water is a worldwide environmental problem. The plastic water bottles consume large amounts of oil in their manufacture, may leach chemicals into the water they contain, and do not biodegrade for hundreds of years.

These Plastic Bottles Floating at Sea Will Take Hundreds of Years to Biodegrade

Re-used bottles can leach even more chemicals into any water or other liquid you put into them. Bottled water may simply be filtered tap water, or of inferior quality to tap water. The bottles are ‘disposed of’ in increasingly scarce landfill sites, or clog up the sea, breaking into smaller and more dangerous particles but still not biodegrading. Some 85% are never recycled. Last year scientists confirmed that there are millions of tons of plastic floating around the Pacific Ocean in an area known as the North Pacific Gyre, a slow moving vortex. Four major currents have carried millions of tons of rubbish into the remote area, with the mostly plastic refuse now covering an area estimated to be larger than Texas. Moreover, water is heavy and the transportation of bottled water is an energy intensive activity.

20 Million Tourits = 13 Million Plastic Bottles
Over 20 million tourists visit Venice every year, drinking an estimated 13 million bottles of water, in addition to those consumed by the 60,000 inhabitants. No wonder Venice is sinking. Tourists tend to be suspicious of tap water and the public water fountains in Venice are unmarked, and appear old and corroded. No surprise that the sight of tourists clutching plastic bottles is ubiquitous. In fact, tap water in Italy is strictly controlled and Venetian water comes from the same sources as some bottled waters.

Unmarked and Corroded Water Fountain in Venice

As well as massive environmental impact, the disposal of all those plastic bottles is a huge cost to the local economy. Waste disposal costs around $335 per ton in Venice compared with $84 per ton on the mainland.

How Other Regions in Italy Are Tackling the Problem
And yet there is much that can be done to change this. The Italian region of Cinque Terre is an area of World Heritage coast, which lies south of Genoa in the province of Liguria. Some 3 million tourists visit the area every year discarding two million plastic bottles, some of which tumble down the cliffs and end up littering local beaches and polluting the sea.

Under a new initiative, tourists entering the national park which encloses the region will be encouraged to buy one litre reusable flasks, stamped with the park’s logo. Automated water fountains offering chilled, fizzy and still water will be installed in the coming months so they can replenish their water supply as they hike the nine mile long coastline.

Franco Bonanini, the president of the Cinque Terre national park, said the ban was being introduced because the area was being “buried” in plastic. “With so many visitors, the footpaths and villages of the Cinque Terre are at risk of being transformed into a great big open air dustbin. We are going to update the existing water fountains and install new ones: they will provide people with still or sparkling filtrated water. By the start of next Spring, we hope to have liberated ourselves from this nightmare,” said Mr Bonanini. “If the Cinque Terre is reduced to a rubbish dump in five years’ time, they will suffer the consequences. This is a sacrifice that will benefit shopkeepers and everyone else. To the three million tourists who come here every year, we ask them for a little bit of understanding, in order to save this paradise for the future.”

In Florence too, action has been taken but mainly for residents rather than the millions of tourists that descend on the city each year. “Fontanelli” have been installed around the city that dispense cooled water and at one even sparkling water. In 2009, 6 million litres of water were distributed from these fountains in and around Florence, saving families over a million Euros in cost, and avoiding 15.000 kilograms of plastic, or 1.5 million bottles, from being introduced into the environment. These water fountains all lie outside the Florence ring road, hence their limited impact on tourists. But it’s still a great step in the right direction.

Fountains are Unused Even in Popular Locations

Three years ago Venice created Veritas, a municipal umbrella company that is responsible both for city water and for rubbish collection in the region. Officials of the new company realized that by promoting the former, they could reduce the latter and rubbish collection costs. A campaign in Italian run by the last Mayor was aimed at the 60,000 inhabitants. Venetian officials claim some success for the scheme with the amount of plastic refuse down to 261 tons a month now from 288 tons a year ago. But with tourists outnumbering residents by a factor of over 300 the real impact will only happen when the campaign is rolled out to tourists in languages other than Italian. Shopkeepers may not like it losing sales of bottled water but they can be rewarded through a generous cut of sales of a recyclable flask.

The Main Issues in Venice are:

•No publicity about the public water fountains in any language

•Absolutely no labelling on the fountains saying ‘drinking water’

•Water fountains that are old and corroded and do not appear attractive and are therefore hardly used

•Fountains that run continuously adding to the impression that this is not quality drinking water and adding to waste

The Time for Tap Campaign says let’s stop this crazy environmental destruction now. Our clear pragmatic objectives can easily be implemented in stages:

A publicity campaign aimed at tourists i.e in English and other common languages alerting them to the public water fountains, their location and the fact they dispense excellent quality drinking water

• The provision of more public fountains

• The replacement of old fountains, with ones that dispense water with valve operation

• The provision of recyclable flasks as in the Cinque Terre initiative

• To work towards a ban on the use of plastic bottles on the all the Venice islands

To join the Time for Tap Campaign click here

For more news, features and information on Venice visit


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.