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PETRA RESKI

The tourist is a person with a hidden resentment.  He kills.  He doesn’t notice the Venetians with whom he gets in contact, he doesn’t see them. Or: He doesn’t establish a relation with a Venetian except, perhaps, when he sees that a beggar has the profile of some doge.

It was Jean-Paul Sartre to write these words. At the beginning of the Fifties. Today his gracious bon mot no longer corresponds to reality – first, because there aren’t any more Venetians (there are fewer than 53,000 residents and the number is declining.) The second reason is that most visitors to the city have no idea what a doge is.

Tourists, however, know that Venice stands in water and they do know where to find “ the best Instagram spot, far from the mass of tourists”. They know where to have a picnic alongside the Grand Canal, and they know that they can save the cost of a ride in a gondola by taking a traghetto that costs only two Euros. We are only a hindrance to the tourists who wander the calli dragging their enormous suitcases because they can’t find the Airbnb on Google Maps or when they want to use the vaporetto for a sightseeing ride because they’ve read that the tourist boatrides are very expensive.

Tourism is the curse of our days.

Thanks to low cost flights, Airbnb and cruise ships, tourism has been transformed into the industry that is the curse of our days. Not even the Plague of 1631 was as effective in removing the last Venetians as has been Airbnb: there are no limits and all one needs is a request on simple paper. And as if this weren’t enough, Chinese financiers are building new hotels in Mestre – 4,800 beds – and other tourist accommodations.

This is the result of the political program of the mayors of Venice for the last thirty years – “Get rid of the Venetians and let the tourists come in.” At this point, to those who say that “the fault is that of the Venetians themselves; it is necessary to vote in a better way,” I will point out that Venice was forced into marriage with the mainland where the largest portion of voters live.

Since 2015, Venice is governed by the businessman Luigi Brugnaro, a user of tweets like Salvini and a man with conflicts of interest like Berlusconi. Like his predecessors, he has faith in mass tourism as strong as that of any jihadist: whoever doesn’t join his faith will be beheaded.

The tweets from the villa on the mainland.

On holidays and during the summer, the calli of Venice arrive at a state of collapse. This is the reason why experts on international tourism refer to the “Model of Venice” when they want to give an example of how mass tourism will destroy a city. When the Mayor of Barcelona said that her city “doesn’t deserve the same fate as Venice,” she was strongly attacked by Sindaco Brugnaro.

This man lives in a grand villa in Mogliano Veneto and from there, on holidays, when because of the uncontrolled assault on the vaporetto stops, one sees apocalyptic scenes and the one-day tourists, who are 90% of the tourists, leave behind tons of garbage, he twitters that it would be impossible to close Venice.

My program: more taboos.

“All of the problems of man result from the fact that he is not able to remain calm inside one room,” observed the French philosopher Blaise Pascal. How true. If it depended for me to decide, if I were the mayor of Venice, I would not make myself ridiculous by positioning a pair of local police behind the turnstiles, for controlling mass tourism it’s as useless as attempting to push water uphill.

Nor would it pass through my head, even for a second, that a tax on entry would dissuade anyone from coming to Venice. My first official act would be to organize an hour of psychotherapy for the people who throw themselves down on the pavement to eat their sandwiches. There would be, of course, the clever ones who would bring camping chairs, but I would outwit them. I would start a world-wide publicity campaign that would instil in people a moral limit to their desire to destroy the vital space of other people.

It would be a publicity campaign that would declare tourism a taboo; not as serious as paedophilia, but almost. To steal the homes of people or poison the air they breathe with the exhaust of cruise ships should be as embarrassing as shooting elephants or wearing fur coats.

Anyone who admits they came to Venice on a low cost flight for 29.99 only to take a selfie in Piazza San Marco must be considered as repulsive as someone who says they eat little roasted dogs.

Anyone who sees Venice from the top deck of a cruise ship, which leaves disaster in their wake in the form of pollution and damage to the embankments of the city, should be considered like those people who, after a few beers, admit that they watch child pornography films.

And, yes I’d introduce more taboos. Democracy is so overrated. And to arrive at this decision I did not have to watch “House of Cards.” The Italian at my side views me as a queen of terror since, by mistake, I said that I belonged to a “bloody” group, which description he found better for a German woman than a mere “blood group.”

Here in Italy, it comes naturally to think that the despotic trait – given my origins – comes from my blood: the same blood as the Sturmtruppen, the comic book about a unit of German soldiers, as dynamic as unlucky, that had great success in Italy. For this reason, I assume to be already on the way to an electoral victory as mayor.

You think I have no chance?  The same was said of Trump.

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