One of the most distinctive sights in Venice – among many others – is the thousands of wooden navigation poles that dot the lagoon.
They’re used as markers by boats and ferries to prevent them from running aground in treacherous sandbanks, and they’ve been a traditional part of the Venetian scenery for many years.
Now, though, the city authorities have raised something of a storm by proposing that the 100,000 or so wooden stakes be replaced by plastic poles made out of recycled waste. They say these would last much longer and cost less to maintain than their old, barnacle-clad timber equivalents.
“We have hundreds of wooden poles which are rotting away - there are entire forests of them,” said Mara Rumiz, the city official in charge of public works.
However, critics of the proposed move say that it would bring an end to centuries of heritage and that the plastic poles would be much less picturesque. One commented that visitors would have the impression of a plastic Venice, not dissimilar to the one which exists in Las Vegas.
The Daily Telegraph’s correspondent in Italy, Nick Squires, said:
“It is the latest chapter in the decades-old saga over how to reconcile the history and heritage of one of the world’s most beautiful cities with the practicalities of day-to-day life.”
by Andy Moreton
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Venice is again considering radical plans to ease the overcrowding in the city in the summer months.
One proposal being looked at is to ban day-trippers; visitors would have to have hotel reservations to get in. It’s estimated that about 20 million people travel to Venice every year and as many as half arrive and leave on the same day.
Enrico Mingardi, who’s in charge of public transport, said: “There’s a physical threshold above which we cannot go.” He said Venetians could no longer tolerate the discomforts of mass tourism.
The council is to have discussions with tourist organisations and residents’ groups to explore ideas.
The notion of setting a limit on the number of tourists entering Venice has been discussed on and off for the past 20 or 30 years. “It’s always proved controversial because it goes against the democratic principle that anyone should be able to come to Venice,” said a council spokesman.
by Andy Moreton, with Nick Squires in Rome
Book your luxury hotel in Venice through Luxique. Our selection includes three of the classic places to stay in the lagoon city – the Cipriani, the Gritti Palace and the Danieli.
You had to be quick, but what a deal!
A four-star hotel near Venice mistakenly offered the ultimate low-cost vacation — a romantic weekend for 1 cent – that’s one-hundredth of a euro.
At first, the managers at the Crowne Plaza in Quarto D’Altino - about 15 miles from Venice - thought the offer had been posted by a hacker. But it turned out to be human error at the offices of the parent company, Intercontinental Hotels Group, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Not surprisingly, the hotel received bookings for the equivalent of 1,400 room nights during the few hours the rate was posted on its web-site. Those bookings will be honoured.
The offer was supposed to be for a two-night stay at half price. A night at the 151-room hotel normally costs between 90 euros (£77 / $128) and 150 euros (£128 / $213). The hotel stands to lose 90,000 euros (£77,000 / $128,000) through the slip-up.
“Although a pricing error, IHG is committed to honouring the 1 cent rate for guests who have a valid confirmation,” said Monica Smith, media relations manager for the hotel group.
by Andy Moreton/Associated Press
OK, so we can’t offer you that sort of deal, but Luxique has some tempting prices for some of the most gorgeous luxury hotels in Venice.
Congratulations to Venice’s first woman gondolier – 23-year-old mother-of-two Giorgia Boscolo.
The business has been all-male for some 900 years but Ms Boscolo passed the rigorous course, which involved propelling and guiding the 35-foot long gondola, navigating the city’s winding waterways and predicting treacherous tides and currents. She had to undergo 400 hours of instruction.
The course was introduced in 2007 after centuries during which the trade was handed down from father to son. Two other female applicants failed to make the grade.
Ms Boscolo inherited her passion for navigating Venice’s canals from her gondolier father, Dante, when she was seven. “I’ve always loved gondolas, and unlike my three sisters I preferred to punt with my father instead of going out with my friends,” she said. “I’m immensely happy and proud but today my day starts like every other, taking the children to school.”
Ms Boscolo’s new qualification will enable her to make a decent living. The rate for an evening tour of Venice is 100 euros (£85 / $140 ) for 50 minutes, with each additional 20 minutes costing 50 euros (£42 / $70).
by Andy Moreton
Enjoy that romantic gondola ride and let Luxique help you choose a luxury hotel in Venice.
As surveys go, this one is pretty gross. Our friends at Tripadvisor.com have come up with a top five tourist attractions that could be bad for your health as they’re so germ-ridden. Here they are in reverse order:
At number 5 is the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, where celebrities leave their hand- and footprints for posterity. Apparently, it’s covered in grime from the countless visitors who see if their hands and feet match those of the stars.
St Mark’s is a beautiful square in Venice, but it’s always suffered from a surfeit of hungry pigeons and the mess they leave behind. That brings it in at number 4.
At number 3 is Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Paris. People clearly like to kiss it, because it’s covered with lipstick prints. Yuk!
A wall outside Market Theatre in Seattle was placed runner-up in the survey. Since 1990, tens of thousands of people have stuck their unwanted chewing gum to the wall, turning it into a tourist attraction. The display was started by people waiting in line to visit the theatre. The wall has been scraped clean twice but is still covered with gum, some moulded into shapes and faces.
But the ‘favourite’ tourist attraction for picking up germs is the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle near Cork in the Irish Republic. More than 400,000 tourists a year literally bend over backwards to kiss the Stone, as legend has it that it will give you the gift of eloquent speech.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can promise you ultra-hygienic facilities at top-class hotels close to all the tourist attractions mentioned above: browse our selection of luxury hotels in Los Angeles, Venice, Paris, Seattle and Cork.
No sooner had I told you about the controversial Coca Cola proposal in Venice (see article last week), than the Mayor has backtracked.
Massimo Cacciari said the city was now opening up to other sponsors by starting a tendering process. “A call for offers is the most transparent procedure in the world,” he said.
The climbdown followed protests from critics who accused him of selling out to commercial interests. Others said the Coca Cola deal – at 2.1 million euros (£1.8 million / $2.7 million) – would not have brought enough financial benefit to the cash-strapped city.
The defiant Mayor issued a challenge to them: “All those who publicly said they would have made more advantageous offers than Coca-Cola will now have the possibility to prove it,” he said.
by Andy Moreton
Browse Luxique’s selection of the finest luxury hotels in Venice.
Venice is a city like no other and its people have always been anxious not to let anything spoil its uniqueness.
It was inevitable, then, that a row would break out over the decision by the Mayor to enter into a sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola worth 2.1 million euros (£1.8 million / $2.7 million).
Sixty vending machines will sell Coke (and snacks too) all over the city, including at the main waterbus stations and reportedly even in St Mark’s Square, where a city law already forbids picnicking by tourists.
The Mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, said the funds raised would be used to safeguard the city’s artistic heritage. He said commercial sponsorship was the only financial strategy for safeguarding the monuments of Venice in these difficult economic times.
The cash-strapped Italian government, led by Silvio Berlusconi, has slashed its budget for culture and the arts by half this year and is investing millions of euros in an ambitious engineering scheme of flood barriers to prevent Venice being swamped by high tides in winter.
Not surprisingly, bar owners and food vendors are irate at the Coca Cola deal because of what they see as unfair competition. “Custom is bad enough as it is,” said one.
Other residents feel the city is ‘selling its cultural soul’ and accuse the Mayor of double standards. They point out that only recently, the authorities announced a clampdown on eating in the street, litter and tacky souvenir stalls (See ‘Venice Battles The Boors’ and ‘Tracing The Traders In Tat’).
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers an unrivalled selection of luxury hotels in Venice.
The centrepiece of this year’s Venice Carnival will be a formal Renaissance garden in St Mark’s Square. Nearly 4,000 plants will be laid out amid hedges and walks.
Carnevale Di Venezia 2009 takes place from February 14-24 and includes processions, concerts, theatrical performances, art shows and food displays. The end of the Carnival marks the beginning of Lent.
Masks and elaborate costumes are always central features. “The secret of wearing a mask is to invent a personality for yourself and interact with the people around you,” said master maskmaker Guerrino Lovato, whose papier-mâché creations were worn by Nicole Kidman in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.
The organisers expect between 800,000 and a million visitors this year. The city’s Mayor, Massimo Cacciari, underlined the economic importance of the event, given the financial downturn. “We’ve got a hard year ahead of us and the authorities have to work together to do everything to help out what is the most important industry of our region – tourism.”
Financial backing includes 1.5 million euros (£1.3 million / $1.9 million) from the city’s marketing agency and another 4 million euros (£3.5 million / $5.1 million) from commercial partnerships.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re thinking of taking part in the mystery and passion of Carnival, Luxique can offer a top-notch selection of luxury Venice hotels, including the renowned Cipriani, Gritti Palace and Danieli.
Already feeling the pinch are the world-famous glass-blowers who have been fashioning exquisite items on the Venetian islands of Murano for centuries. There’s a warning that the industry could be on the verge of collapse.
A report from the union that represents the craftsmen says 300 of its 800 members have been laid off and the situation is likely to worsen in the New Year. The pre-Christmas sales boom didn’t happen – in fact, there was a 25 per cent slump.
The cluster of islands north of the centre of Venice, collectively known as Murano, are home to 120 workshops large and small, all dedicated to turning out the delicate, richly coloured glassware that has traditionally been one of Venice’s most celebrated products. But orders are patchy and the mood in Murano is said to be grim.
I suppose it’s no surprise to learn that the Champagne industry has also lost some of its fizz. The latest figures from France’s champagne wine board, the CIVC, show a 23 per cent fall in the number of bottles leaving the main cellars in October compared with the same month in 2007.
A spokesman said this was probably to be expected in the current climate, although he added, rather hopefully, that champagne might help to soothe our economic ills. Or, as Winston Churchill once said of his favourite vintage tipple, Pol Roger: “In victory, we deserve it and in defeat we need it.”
by Andy Moreton
Choose from 27 luxury hotels in Venice and get the best deals through Luxique. And if you’re visiting the Champagne-Ardennes region of France, try the Champ des Oiseaux, an historic and charming hotel in Troyes.
The drive by the authorities in Venice to improve the city’s image goes on relentlessly.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about moves to encourage boorish tourists to show more respect. Now the target is the souvenir stalls which cluster around churches and piazzas.
The stalls sell a range of cheap mementoes from gondola key rings to replica Carnival masks and fridge magnets. “We’re going to get these tacky stalls to clean up their act,” said the city’s cultural heritage superintendent, Renata Codello.
She said the vendors represented “fully-fledged examples of urban decay” and would in future have to keep a greater distance from churches and other tourist attractions.
A reader recently asked the travel expert at the Times newspaper in London about the prospects of an affordable journey to Venice by train.
I pass on the information that there’s a very good overnight service from Paris called the Artesia Stendhal (www.artesia.eu), which means that you can leave London’s St Pancras on the Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) after lunch, depart Paris at 7.42pm and arrive in Venice the following morning at a civilised 9.39am. There are four-berth couchettes as well as one- two- and three-berth sleeper cabins and full catering facilities.
The train arrives at the Santa Lucia station in Venice, which is right on the Grand Canal. Water taxis and water bus stops are immediately outside down the wide flight of steps.
One of the more unsung of the luxury hotels in Venice has deservedly been winning prestigious travel industry awards recently and is now established as one of the best in Europe. The San Clemente Palace – situated on a private island – is available to book through Luxique. It’s currently running a series of special offers.
by Andy Moreton