VENEZIA ARCHEOLOGIA e RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: The uglification of Italy is a moral failing - The problems of Venice are a paradigm for other historic cities, says a former Getty chief, ART NEWSPAPER (21|01|2015).

VENEZIA ARCHEOLOGIA e RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: The uglification of Italy is a moral failing – The problems of Venice are a paradigm for other historic cities, says a former Getty chief, ART NEWSPAPER (21|01|2015).

Salvatore Settis is a professor of archaeology who has been an adviser on cultural matters to the Italian government and was head of the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in the 1990s. He is well known in Italy for his eloquent accusations in the press that everything that has made La Bella Italia so beautiful is going to hell in a handcart. Se Venezia muore is a development of some of these writings, which have also appeared in the French, German, and Russian newspapers; Settis really wants the world to know that Venice may die.

Venice, he emphasises repeatedly, is a paradigm for other cities around the world in the tensions between its historic nature and modern needs, in the delicate relationship between the built city and the environment, and in the rush to exploit it for short-term gain.

The strength of this book is that it shows how wrong and lazy thinking has led to wrong policies—or the absence of policies. He pounces on the complacent mantra, “Beauty will save the world”: “It won’t save anything or anyone if we don’t manage to save beauty”, he snaps, and quotes the sober words of Article 9 of Italy’s admirable constitution, written in 1947, which are the touchstone against which he compares to the havoc, neglect, corruption, hypocrisy and bombast that have done so much damage over the past 50 years. “The Republic furthers culture and scientific and technical research. It protects the country’s landscape and historic and artistic heritage.”

“Whoever fights for Venice with the weapon of the Constitution fights also for Italy”, Settis says.

He rightly identifies one of the reasons behind the decline as being economic liberalism, which has led to the opening up of the Italian cultural sphere to private enterprise. He sees that it has encouraged a naive selling-out to the profit motive (as with the huge advertisements defiling Venice, I would suggest) but he could, perhaps, have added that this has happened because the reasons for the symbiosis between public and private that exists in the UK and US have not been understood by successive Italian governments. In the Anglo-American world the collaboration has been beneficial because all parties have remembered what the mission and purpose of a restoration project, museum, theatrical performance etc should be. No one in the UK or US responsible for such an iconic site as St Mark’s Square would dream of allowing those ads to appear and no sponsor would dream of putting them there, because the whole point of sponsorship is to buy into the superior status of art, not drag it down to the level of everyday life.

Settis is aware of how socio-economic dogma has also added to the poisonous mix. He takes on fashionable theories such as the economist Joseph Schumpeter’s idea of creative destruction. Venice, says Settis, must remain unchanged but learn to develop “an artistry of reuse” that is not just devoted to mass tourism.

VENEZIA ARCHEOLOGIA e RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: The uglification of Italy is a moral failing - The problems of Venice are a paradigm for other historic cities, says a former Getty chief, ART NEWSPAPER (21|01|2015).

I do not fear, as he seems to, that the many imitation Venices around the world will accelerate the loss of identity of the city by polluting its image, but I agree with him whole-heartedly that the current non-management of the tourist industry and the way in which the authorities fail to lift a finger against the shortest of short-term economic interests will destroy the city as a living and diverse community.

He has also sniffed out the ghastly hypocrisy of those who have persuaded themselves that Venice is not a “real” place: “That is how the genuine problems of Venice become the excuse to make them even worse by pillaging it.”

This is a painful book to read. It is a lament for the day-by-day destruction of great beauty, “the fairy city of the heart”, as Byron called Venice, and it is full of anger and disappointment at what the author sees as the moral bankruptcy of Italy today, a stupidity and vulgarity that makes his country unworthy of its great heritage.

In his next book, it would be good to see him name names and describe the shameful trahison des clercs by which two well known academics became mayors of Venice yet actually accelerated the city’s decline when they should definitely have known better. One is Massimo Cacciari, a philosopher and Dante expert, who in his first mandate (1993-2000) allowed the conversion of private houses into B&Bs, which in a trice caused property prices to shoot up, Venetians to cash in and leave town, killing off neighbourhood life and replacing it with tourism. The other is Paolo Costa, an economist, the former rector of Ca’ Foscari University and now head of the Venice Port Authority, who is proud of having brought the big cruise ships into Venice and is even now proposing an alternative route for them to reach the port that involves digging a deep and wide channel through the lagoon that will damage its ecology even more.

Settis could also look into the governance structure for Venice that is splintered between half a dozen authorities with the result that they could not possibly run the city and its lagoon strategically even if they all loved each other as brothers—which they do not.

For after all the weeping and gnashing of teeth, we must have action if we truly do not want Venice to die, and the only way to make that happen is by analysing the current dynamics of power there and reshaping it drastically so that it can come up with a long-term plan for the city—and then apply it. For the solutions to the Venice problem will be technical in nature, not a miraculous improvement in the morality of the nation.

Se Venezia muore, Salvatore Settis; Giulio Einaudi editor, 154pp, €11 (pb); in Italian only


— ART NEWSPAPER (21|01|2015) – By Anna Somers Cocks. Books, Issue 264, January 2015
Published online: 21 January 2015.


— “Coca-Cola, Venice | Italy,” (03|10|2009).


— VENEZIA ARCHEOLOGIA e RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: Prof. Giacomo Boni, in: “Venezia Dying, Unless the Engineers Saves It,” THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Magazine Section, 11 AUGUST 1907, [PDF] p. 48 (?).



– ROMA RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA e ARCHEOLOGIA: prof. arch Gustavo Giovannoni, ‘Restauri di monumenti’ & prof. arch. Giacomo Boni, ‘Il «metodo» nelle esplorazioni archeologiche,’ pp. 1-42 & 43-67, in: BOLL. D’ ARTE, fasc. I-II (1913), [PDF] pp. 1-42 & 43-67. = “Venezia, Il campanile di S. marco ricostruito.”

– ROMA ARCHEOLOGICA E BENI CULTURALI: Prof. Giacomo Boni, Il “metodo” nelle esplorazioni archeologiche, in BdA, fasc. I-II, 1913, pp. 43-67 [PDF pp. 1-31], [G. Boni, Roma, Collezioni d’archivio (1998-2013)].

– [trans. = Prof. Giacomo Boni e Venezia, Il campanile di S. marco ricostruito, 15|11|1902].
VENEZIA and ROME: Amy A. Bernardy, “GIACOMO BONI – THE ARCHITECT WHO WIL REBUILD THE CAMPINALE,” A Brilliant Characterization by a Personal Friend – Boni’s Own Touching Account of How the Remains of the Fallen Tower Were Committed to the Adriatic – Difficulties if Re-erecting the Campanile and Boni’s Qualifications for the Task,” The Boston Evening Transcript, Saturday, November 15, 1902 [15|11|1902], p. 46.

– VENEZIA ARCHITETTURA e BENI CULTURALI: Il crollo del campanile di San Marco e ricostruzione (1902-12). Foto: Prof. Arch. Giacomo Boni, Campanile di San Marco (01/08/1902).

ITALIA & PROF. ARCH. GIACOMO BONI e il restauro architettonico : ‘dov`era com`era’ – Il crollo del campanile di San Marco, San Marco, Venezia (02|1902).

ITALIA & PROF. ARCH. GIACOMO BONI e il restauro architettonico : 'dov`era com`era' - Il crollo del campanile di San Marco, San Marco, Venezia (02|1902).


— LAS VEGAS | The Venetian resort-Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas (16|06|2013) [01|2015].

— LAS VEGAS | The Venetian resort-Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas [01|2015].