the people square

a community serious about adventuring

Walk the Plank and Mind your Pigeons – Venice

 A visit to northern Italy would leave us singing the lines to Tragically Hip’s “New Orleans is Sinking”, only this time it would be Venice.

It’s a fact, Venice has been slowly sinking over the past hundreds of years. The mean level of the land has lowered while the sea levels have risen. Being built on a salt marshland doesn’t help much either. In has not been made certain or not whether or not the city is still currently declining, but there are still high waters (acqua alta). To help the problem the city lays out planks for visitors to keep their feet dry. That, or you can opt for buying a pair of their interestingly constructed zip-tie bag boots.

Local businesses stay fully operable during these times; buying your gelato is still possible, it just might take you a few treads to get there so you might want to brush up on your treading water skills. Patio tables and chairs may still be sitting in feets of water, but your server will still be right at your service equipped with menus and sporting thigh high fisherman’s boots, even possibliy a life jacket or dingy. It’s a shame the water wasn’t at a safe diving level because it would have been an all too perfect time to practice some swan diving.

Flooding regularly occurs between November and March. It has become such a problem that in many old houses the former staircases used by people to unload goods are now flooded, rendering the former ground floor uninhabitable. But don’t fret, there are less than 20 plumbers in the city of Venice.

St. Mark’s Square is full of tourists…and pigeons. There are an estimated 100,000 birds and roughly 60,000 human residents in Venice. This is the only place in Venice where you are allowed to feed these flying rodents. Doing so otherwise could be asking authorities to issue you a large fine. This is illegal under a decree that the Comune di Venezia issued late in 1997.

“The direct administration of food to feral pigeons ‘Columba livia forma domestica’ is prohibited throughout the City Council area. … Contravention of the regulations contained in this ordinance involves an administrative sanction of 1,000,000 lire [€516.45].”

The City of Venice issues a select few with licences to sell the seeds, and these licences are handed down from one generation to the next within the same family. Locals tell tales of pigeons swooping out of the air aggressively and colliding with human heads, leaving victimes bloodies and wounded. Pigeon roosts are also harming the buildings and monuments.  To avoid city pigeons going Alfred Hitchcock on the people, Venice’s mayor is looking into a similar move made by London in order to rid its city of the winged vermon. Mayor Ken Livingstone attempted to starve out thousands of tame pigeons in the Trafalgar Square area in 2000-2001, but when the rate of pigeon deaths wasn’t high even to his liking, Livingstone ordered falconers to patrol the Square and use hawks to attack any pigeon that tried to feed.
Any thoughts or comments? Mayor Cacciari can be contacted at the following:

Comune di Venezia
Ca Farsetti
San Marco 4136

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This entry was posted on December 14, 2010 by in Italy, Venice.
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