Venice – Not drowning but suffocating (Part I)

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Venice – Not drowning but suffocating (Part II)

Venice – Not drowning but suffocating (Part III)

[Reading level: C2 – Mastery]

Some cities you go to for the galleries, some for the restaurants, some for the nightlife. You visit Venice to stroll through the alleys, bridges and squares that make up the most beautiful public space in the world. The walk that is richest in architectural delights and historical significance follows the route from the Rialto Bridge to St Mark’s Square. The bridge was the hub of the trading empire that brought in the booty and paid for the city’s unique concentration of artistic masterpieces. The merchants of Venice hung around the bridge for information on promising deals and lost cargoes. “What news on the Rialto?” asks Shylock.

 

Wiggle eastwards from the business district of the ancient city through the narrow passageways and sotoporteghi (alleys that pass through buildings) and you emerge through the great arch at the base of the 15th-century clock tower and into Venice’s political and religious heart – St Mark’s Square. The walk is a little more than half a mile, and shouldn’t take you longer than ten minutes. It will, though. Much longer. For during the warm months of the year the route is jammed with a slow-moving flotilla of tourists. Many are oblivious to those around them, having tuned out to listen to their guide through their headsets. You become wedged, unable to go forwards or back.

 

When rain falls and umbrellas sprout, which is often, new problems arise. Venetian alleys are wide enough to allow two people to pass comfortably – but not two umbrellas. Someone must give way. Venetians have rules for this: an informal arrangement whereby people drop and tilt their umbrellas in unison. But visitors don’t know these rules, so tourist umbrellas lock and fight. The pushing and shoving, the bags and the body odour quickly dispel the thrill of being in Venice. The city’s delicate mystery cannot survive the crush.

 

Over the past decade visitor numbers have grown by 5% annually, meaning that they double every 14 years. Paolo Costa, an economics professor, former mayor and now the boss of the nearby Venice Port, estimated in 1988 that the physical capacity of the historic centre was 20,000 visitors daily. The average daily flow now is 80,000 – more at the height of summer.

 

Vast cruise ships ply their trade in the lagoon and tower over the city. UNESCO dithers about putting Venice on its list of endangered sites unless they are banned. In an unofficial referendum last month, Venetians voted overwhelmingly to ban cruise ships from the centre. But even if all the 700,000 cruise passengers who use the port annually were to visit the historic city – and most don’t – it would be only ten days’ worth of the annual tourist total. The real problem is bus and train passengers, and the seemingly unstoppable increase in those arrivals.

 

As the global middle class grows, and annual foreign holidays become routine, the world’s most popular destinations face a tourism tsunami. At present only 4% of the Chinese population, 55m people, own a passport. When passport ownership in China reaches the Japanese rate, 340m Chinese people will have passports; when it reaches the American rate, 450m will.

 

“Venice is a laboratory – what happens here will happen elsewhere,” says Vincenzo Casali, an architect who lives and works by the Rialto. Certainly the flood of aspiring travellers means problems, as well as opportunities, for the world’s most popular tourist destinations. But Venice is particularly vulnerable because it is exceptionally lovely, fragile, cramped and badly run. A referendum in October, on giving the old city self-rule, may be the last chance to save it.

 

Source: https://www.1843magazine.com/features/not-drowning-but-suffocating

WORD BANK:

alley /ˈæl.i/ (n): con hẻm

hub /hʌb/ (n): trung tâm

masterpiece /ˈmɑː.stə.piːs/ [C2] (n): kiệt tác

booty /ˈbuː.ti/ (n): chiến lợi phẩm

merchant /ˈmɜː.tʃənt/ (n): thương gia

wiggle /ˈwɪɡ.əl/ (v): đi qua đi lại

emerge /ɪˈmɜːdʒ/ [B2] (v): xuất hiện, hiện ra

arch /ɑːtʃ/ [C2] (n): mái vòm

jammed with sth /dʒæmd/ (adj): bị kẹt, bị tắc bởi cái gì

flotilla /fləˈtɪl.ə/ (n): hạm đội

oblivious to sth/sb /əˈblɪv.i.əs/ (adj): không biết đến ai/cái gì

wedged /wedʒd/ (adj): bị nêm chặt

sprout /spraʊt/ (v): nảy mầm, đâm chồi

arise /əˈraɪz/ [C1] (v): nổi lên, xuất hiện

tilt /tɪlt/ (v): nghiêng

in unison /ˈjuː.nɪ.sən/ (adv): cùng lúc

body odour /ˈbɑː.di ˌoʊ.dɚ/ (n): mùi cơ thể

dispel /dɪˈspel (v): xua tan

thrill /θrɪl/ [C1] (n): niềm vui

delicate /ˈdel.ɪ.kət/ [B2] (adj): tinh tế

mystery /ˈmɪs.tər.i/ [B1] (n): sự bí ẩn

crush /krʌʃ/ (v, n): chèn ép

ply one’s trade (v): đón khách, bắt khách

lagoon /ləˈɡuːn/ (n): đầm phá

dither /ˈdɪð.ər/ (v): lo lắng về điều gì

referendum /ˌref.əˈren.dəm/ [C2] (n): trưng cầu dân

overwhelmingly /ˌəʊ.vəˈwel.mɪŋ.li/ (adv): một cách áp đảo

aspiring /əˈspaɪə.rɪŋ/ (adj): khao khát

vulnerable /ˈvʌl.nər.ə.bəl/ [C2] (adj): dễ bị tổn thương

exceptional /ɪkˈsep.ʃən.əl/ [B2] (adj): đặc biệt, cực kỳ

fragile /ˈfrædʒ.aɪl/ [C2] (adj): mong manh

cramped /kræmpt/ (adj): chật chội


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