The last cruise ship in Venice

The last cruise ship in Venice

The law.

Tuesday the 27th of July 2021, the Italian parliament passed a law prohibiting ships larger than 25.000 gross tonnage, a length greater than 180 meters, or a height greater than 35 meters to pass through the Canale della Giudecca. That’s practically all of the big cruise ships docking in Venice today. Future cruising could be done only with ships that are much smaller than the floating skyscrapers that have zig-zagged the Mediterranean until now.

There was quite a bit of arguing and many thought the limit should be set to 40.000 tonnes. But the Minister for Cultural Heritage, Dario Franceschini was stubborn and insisted. The president of the Venice Port Authority, Paolo Costa, has declared his desire to ban the big ships from Venice repeatedly. And so have many other authorities… Not to mention the general public, the organized protesters, and the common fellow at the bar.

The protests.

The Protests against the huge cruise ships have been many. Various organizations such as No Grandi Navi, and Ambiente Venezia have protested for years with large demonstrations at the docks of Zattere and other places in Venice.

venice aliens

It’s actually quite funny seeing the demonstrators with their flags and banners while the cruise ship passengers wave their hands, saluting what some of them interpret as a friendly goodbye from the Venetians.

And the Venetians are actually in a seldom-seen agreement on this particular issue. It is not difficult to understand, even if the arguments sometimes are less convincing. Anyone who has seen one of these huge boats, some of which are twice as long as the full length of Piazza San Marco, can easily understand the problem. Venice is just not capable of hosting them.

In 2017 the “No Grandi Navi” organized a referendum. The question was: Would you like the big cruise ships to stay out of the lagoon? Totally unofficial and with no legislative power whatsoever, of about 20.000 votes, 17.894 voted yes. 

The protests on the other side.

After the new law was ratified, many websites and newspapers had headlines like mixed reactions, or Venice divided, indicating that many in the floating city would rather keep the ships inside the historical city. That’s just not true. 

It is obvious that those who have their outcome from tourism and in particular from the cruise ship business, are not happy. 

Venezia 1937, the biggest cooperative for porters in Venice, would rather see the ban starting from late autumn, and not in the middle of the summer season.

  – “… It’s a crime against the workers!” they stated in an indignant tone.

But apart from those who lose their jobs and income overnight, I can honestly say that nobody in Venice opposes the idea of stopping the mega-ships from passing on the Giudecca-canal. And it’s not actually overnight either…

The last cruise ship in Venice

The controversies have gone on for years, decades even. As far back as 2012, a decree prohibited all ships over 40.000 tonnes to pass through the Giudecca-canal. Unfortunately, the text was: “…this prohibition applies, starting from the availability of viable navigation routes…”, and of course, nothing happened.

The incidents.

On June 2, 2019, the MSC Opera, a cruise ship of 275 meters and 65.000 gross tonnage smashed into a smaller river cruise boat at San Basilio.

On July 7, 2019, the Costa Deliziosa, 294 meters, and 93.000 gross tonnage, almost hit a yacht and almost continued into Giardini when strong winds made her miss the trajectory at the right turn in front of the Doge’s palace.

In May 2018 Marella Discovery, 264 meters and 69.000 gross tonnages drifted out of control for half an hour in the Giudecca canal before the tugs were able to pull her away. 

… And there have been many others.

The Major.

The Venice Major, Luigi Brugnaro, is a prosperous businessman, something he’s never tried to hide. In this particular case, he is the proud owner of 42 hectares (104 acres) of land right where the future Marghera cruise terminal could become a reality. To better explain how he’s involved, it is clear that 100 acres in a total area of almost 4000 acres aren’t much. But his land is right where the bridge to Venice begins, on your right-hand side… And it’s edifiable, that is, there’s nothing on it. Unlike most of the rest of Porto Marghera, his 104 acres is a Wasteland. As he is the man in charge, it is obvious that he sits on two different chairs, with conflicting interests. 

The last cruise ship in Venice
The area within the red line is the property of the Major.

To his defense, his financial decisions are in the hands of a blind trust (supposedly the only example of that kind of a solution for politicians in Italy.). Still, he could benefit quite a bit from a cruise terminal in Marghera.

And now, where do they dock?

The idea is to have them dock at the commercial harbor, Porto Marghera. From there it’s no more than a ten minutes ride by bus to Piazzale Rome, or thirty minutes by boat. It could be a reasonable solution.

It’s just that nothing is prepared. Even if we’ve been arguing for ages, and the protests from the Venetian public, national, and international authorities have continued, nobody has prepared for the transfer. So, as the ships arrive at Venice, the cruisers will have to look out over cranes and warehouses instead of the most beautiful city on earth.

Or maybe it’s not that big of an issue after all…

In Venice, the ships docked at the cruise terminal at Tronchetto, and that is not very different from a commercial harbor. You don’t actually see the center of Venice from there. All you probably see are the other cruise ships. Further away there’s the lagoon and that could be more pleasant than looking at the industries and factories at Marghera. But the difference isn’t all that crucial. 

The transport is faster in Venice with the People Mover going from the port to the city every seven minutes. But a shuttle bus could be an acceptable alternative. The route from Marghera is fast and not very heavily trafficked.

Lastly, the ship offers every commodity and everything you need. Cruise ship passengers normally do not venture away from the boat. They don’t go strolling around the harbor to find something to buy or to eat. They stay on board for most of the time. And if they do, then Marghera or Tronchetto could be comparable. 

The last cruise ship in Venice
Courtesy of LenDog64

Some figures.  

The Ministry of Infrastructure has foreseen cruise ships arriving at the Venice passenger terminal in 2021. After the cruise ship ban, they have tried to calculate how the cruise lines will adapt. 

  • The total number of ships was predicted to be 248 ships, before the cruise ship ban (40% less than in 2019 caused by the pandemic.).
  • Of these 128 are predicted to abandon Venice completely.
  • 120 are predicted to accept the Marghera solution. 


The whole of Venice, as well as the whole lagoon, is on UNICEF’s world heritage list. In June 2021, they said they would examine a proposal to put Venice on their List of World Heritage in Danger if the lagoon city does not issue a permanent ban on cruise ships docking there. 

Unesco stated they would discuss the matter at their plenary session on July 16-31. It is not controversial to assume that this statement was the push that finally changed the many words into action. A month later, the government announced the new law.  

Venice’s streets and their strangeness.

venice streets

The streets of Venice are strange and mysterious. The city is floating on water, it has no cars, just boats. The Canals and Rii are her streets, and what’s left on land, is more or less just very narrow paths between the withering house walls. 

Once upon a time, most of the Venetians moved around on the water, in Gondola or in something else that was floating in the middle of the bigger waterways. The dark backstreets were mostly for service purposes, and of course all the different kinds of trade that are better done in the shadows. 

So, if the streets in Venice were the canals, what were the land-streets called?

The land-streets in Venice are called Calli, or Calle in singular. The word means path and it’s divided into Calletta or Callesella if it’s a small path. A big, important path is called Salizada, and if it has a lot of shops and other business institutions, it’s called a Ruga. A small, blind alley is called Ramo. Only Strada Nova and Via Garivìbaldi are named with the normal label for street and way.

venice streets

Le Pissotte – The mysterious triangle in the corners of the streets of Venice.

So, if you have ventured into the incredible labyrinth of the Calli, Callette, and Rami of the Venice Street landscape, you surely have noticed the strange, triangular shapes in the corners. Peculiar forms, like a quarter of an upside-down teacup. They can be in Istrian stone or some other precious material, but mostly they’re in concrete or even iron. 

They are small, like a chair. But if you would try to sit on one, you would inevitably fall off. No, they are not for sitting. They are actually for nothing like sitting, standing, or even getting close… They are there to keep you away.

There were two distinctive reasons for them…

So, imagine a city in the 15th century… Any city. There was no electricity. The only light that could ever be obtained was from oil-lamps, candles, fires, and stoves, and such. And those weak lights were all inside the domestic sphere. In some cities they may have had some sort of illumination even in the main square, but more than that, it was mostly dark. 

In Venice, there were no street lights, and the Calli were dark… Dark as darkness in the middle of a forest at night. And the outdoors in Venice were nothing like you see it today. People had animals, they grew crops in their backyards, even horses were common. The Venetians actually used to ride in the streets of Venice, just like anywhere else at the time. 

streets in venice

In 1287 a law dictated that no riding on horseback was allowed in the area between Saint Mark’s and Rialto. Only newly arrived in the city were excluded. But apart from that limitation, riding in the Venice streets continued for hundreds of years.

The streets in Venice used to hide many dangers.

The darkness concealed many other hazards, apart from the horses. Robbers, bandits, and molesters were everywhere. And what better spot to hide while waiting for their victims, or simply to get away from any law enforcement… than the darkest part of the streets of Venice, the corners. 

And the corners were everywhere. It doesn’t need to be more than a small difference in thickness of the wall to create a recess of a foot or two. That’s enough to hide a criminal waiting for its victim.

This brings us to the common name of these things. Gobbe Antibandito, they are called, meaning Anti-bandit-hump. Made to block the corner and force anyone who tries to evade the glances of the passersby out in the open.    

And lastly… The name Pissotte?

Venice streets

There is another name associated with these stone triangles, namely Pissotte or Pissabraghe. Well, the first part of the word, piss is not difficult to understand for an English-speaking audience. Braghe is the Venetian word for pants. And there you might guess what the second reason for putting up these strange moldings is. You should also be able to speculate why the inclination of the Pissotta is the way it is…

And stopping people from urinating in the corners is a valid motivation even today. If you look around, you can even find a few that are not very old at all. They are set up even in our times, and they are still serving the citizens and visitors of Venice helping with keeping the city clean. 

Nowadays, not many bandits roam the streets of Venice at night. But men who desperately need to take a wee, are getting increasingly frequent…

streets of venice

How old is Venice?

how old is venice
how old is venice

Venice is not 1600 years old.

How old is Venice?

Venice started out very modestly probably in the mid-400. That’s when Aquileia fell to Attila the Hun. But it wasn’t until the 7th century that something that could be called a town was present where Venice is today. At that time it was called Rialto, and there weren’t any grand palaces or churches in stone. At the beginning of 800, she became the capital of the republic, and after another few hundred years, she was one of the strongest and wealthiest maritime nations in the Mediterranean.

These days she celebrates her 1600th birthday. On national Tv, there was an hour and a half of beautiful images, music with chorus, orchestra, and soloists from Teatro La Fenice, and narration by the excellent Italian actor, Alessio Boni. He rides the Gondola through the deserted canals, there is drone footage (…nowadays mandatory.) over Saint Mark’s Square, and the clear, blue water is reflecting the yellowish light of the setting sun.

It’s awesome. I would never in my life criticize an initiative like that, Nor could I possibly have anything against a legitimate reason for partying, be it somewhat sober and silent partying in these times of total lockdown. It’s still an excellent way to honor my wonderful city.

So, how old is Venice?

She is supposed to be born on March 25, 421. That’s what the tradition says. We here all know that it’s not true, but we like to celebrate that precise day just the same. And why not? Nobody knows for sure when it all started. And it can’t be done… Determining one single day for the birth of the lagoon city. That’s just not the way it was.

venice gondolasSo, we know it’s wrong… But do you?

So I checked some of the featured snippets on Google and a few websites, and I was astonished about how many of them stated that precise day, March 25, 421, as the day when Venice was founded. And not only English sites, Italians too. On that specific day, three consuls from Padova were supposed to have decided to build a metropolis in the middle of the shallow water and then succeeded in doing it.

That just didn’t happen.

But how old is Venice?

Venice was not founded as early as 421. The transfer towards the lagoon from the surrounding cities was slow and gradual, starting probably from the middle of the 5th century. In 697 the first Doge was declared in Heraclia on the landside north of Venice, In 775 the bishopry was moved to the lagoon city. In 810 the state administration was brought there, and with that, it became the undisputed capital of the republic.

And I figured something has to be done here… 

So I called the producers at Rai, the state television, and said:

–  We have to debunk this idea. Everybody thinks it’s true… That Venice was born in 421…

  –  Naw, they said… Who could ever believe that? It’s just a party. Everybody knows that… Or don’t they?

Well, obviously they don’t. 

rialto bridgeNo, Venice was not born in 421… Not even close.

But where does this idea come from?

First of all… The history of Venice is not easily determined. We don’t have written testimonies, royal decrees, and legal articles. All we have are archeological findings and historically documented facts from the surrounding areas.

  • Chronicon Altinate is a manuscript from the 13th century, telling something of the history of the Veneti, the people of the region. It determines the birth of the city to 421.
  • The Doge Marin Sanudo wrote in 1514 after a devastating fire at Rialto. “Only the church of San Giacomo di Rialto survived the flames. This church was the first church constructed in Venice on March 25, 421.
  • In 1801 a priest from Pernumia writes a book about history, and he answers the question: How old is Venice? He states that three diplomats from Padova founded La Serenissima. And he even has their names… Publio Galieno, Simeone dei Lanconi, and Antonio di Calvo. The date is, of course, March 25, 421.

The year 421 was at the very end of the history of the Roman Empire. The Imperial forces had a very hard time defending the vast borders. The barbarians started to become a serious threat and soon they would have the upper hand. But it wasn’t until 452 when Attila the Hun entered Italy, that the Romans had to give up land more than temporarily. And it wasn’t until then, that there would be any reason for anybody to even think of starting building churches and palaces in the lagoon. That would have been completely absurd in 421.

how old is veniceAltino – The Roman stronghold. 

Altino just inside the northern part of the lagoon was sacced in 452. So was Aquileia, some 100 miles to the east. And Aquileia was a big fortress, one of the biggest in the Empire. After that, most of the inland towns fell. And from there the region of Veneto was no more a safe haven.

The Altinians moved out into the lagoon, to Torcello the port settlement. And probably many other islands in the lagoon saw refugees fleeing the Huns. But that is 30 years after 421, and they most certainly weren’t there to build churches. They were there to survive, hide and then go back to where they came from to rebuild and revive.

The birth of Venice can’t be pinned down to a year and a day.

So why did they invent that precise day?

We don’t know for sure how old Venice is. Because, as stated before, we don’t have the documents. If they ever existed they were lost in fires during the ages.

One plausible theory is this:

Venice invaded and conquered Padova again in 1405, like on so many occasions before. This time, though, it seems the Padovanes were in particular discomfort with Venetian superiority. They wanted their freedom. 

In this atmosphere, a few illustrious characters in Padova, Jacopo Dondi, Michele Savonarola, and others sort of collectively created a situation where it was actually Padova who invaded Venice and not the other way around. Because Venice was created by Padova. It was Padova who had sent their ambassadors to Rialto and them who had created the oldest and most beautiful of Venice’s churches… San Giacometo di Rialto.  

But, still… We have no idea.

how old is venice
San Giacomo di Rialto.

San Giacomo di Rialto.

It is from the 11th century. The church isn’t older than that.

–  But what if there’s another church underneath? Another building on top of which the new San Giacomo was constructed?

Nope, not even that is true. It has been thoroughly examined. The Venetians want to know if their city is as old as they say, obviously. With x-ray equipment, they’ve checked, and there’s nothing underneath, other than the piles, and mud.

Documents from the 900th and the 1000s don’t tell of any church there. It was a market area, not full of palaces like today. So, no the San Giacometo is not from 421.

But how could they have kept the myth alive for so long?

I think it was convenient.

For the Padovanes, but also for the Venetians.

Venice was a major player in Europe and the Orient for half a Millenium. And it was convenient to have a start, a date, a reason. So, instead of centuries of migrants from the surrounding lands, peasants, and hillbillies, settling on the sandbanks, they got three ambassadors, a church, and God himself. That’s different. And it’s a much more suitable beginning for the most beautiful city in the world.

… And none of this means we can’t celebrate the birth of the city on March 25.

venice saint mark's square

Venice Museums and their strange opening hours.

Palazzo Venier dei Leoni

venice museums

This Post is out of date. From March 2021 Venice is in lockdown. All Museums, Theaters, Cinemas, etc. are closed until further notice.

Venice Museums

In these troublesome days with continuing and substantial spread of the stupid virus, I figured I should do a list of the Venice Museums… Those that are actually open. And that was kind of an easy task. They’re almost all still closed, waiting in the shadows for the return of the tourists.

The new variants have made our politicians choke on the morning coffee. We were doing so well, but now it seems that we’re not doing at all as well as it seemed before. And people are tired. The motivation is dropping, and many lower the guard. 

On top of that, we’ve had a Government crisis. The former Government based on the biggest party in the last election, the Five-star movement, fell. A small part of the coalition walked out and suddenly they didn’t have the majority anymore. 

But they tried and tried to tie something together, but as time went by maybe they all started to address possible gain in ratings. So, the various political forces within the parliament started to accuse each other and shoot and stab in every direction.

venice muesums
Prime Minister Mario Draghi Courtesy of Presidenza della Repubblica
(The presidency of the republic)

It wasn’t until the President, Mattarella, took them by the ear and told them to stop fighting and get their act together…

  –  We will lose billions, he said.

Meaning that if they didn’t fix a functioning Government by April, a whole lot of money from the European Union would not be available anymore. And so we got a Government with Mario Draghi at the wheel. He’s a Bank-guy, an economist, and should be perfect for the job. Time will tell… 

Anyway, that’s not what I was going to write about.

I was going to tell you that among all the closed museums, there are a few that are not.

In February some of the Venice Museums opened. It was an extraordinary opening in connection to the absent Carnival. Just a few days, but many hoped that it would mean a first step on the long and winding road back to normality. It doesn’t look that way anymore. The last days have brought a distinct setback in the falling trend of the Covid-19 in Italy. We don’t know where it will go from here.

From Rome, now there are new directives, and the Museums can open. Only on weekdays, and only under certain conditions, but still. In Venice, the big, most famous sites are still closed. That includes Palazzo Ducale, The Belltower, and the Saint Mark’s Basilica. But there are others. 

the golden palace in venice
Cà D’Oro

And here’s the short list

You would do well in checking the various websites frequently. These things change, and often the rules and regulations from Rome change from one day to another depending on the spread of the disease and R-values. To that comes a reasonable autonomy for the Regions to decide for them selves. It all comes down to repeated variations of opening hours.

The Venice Museums that are closed.

  • Palazzo Ducale  –  closed
  • Basilica di San Marco  –  closed
  • The Belltower  –  closed
  • The Correr Museum  –  closed
  • The Naval History museum  –  closed
  • Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana  –  closed
  • Natural History Museum  –  closed
  • Cà Rezzonico  –  closed

… and the open ones:

That’s it for now.


the bell tower

Hotel Bargains!

Piazza San Marco

How about starting a new career?

How about actually gaining something from the pandemic instead of just losing… And waiting? The bad days are not over, not by a longshot. The vaccines are rolling out much more slowly than we had hoped. And although at least here in Italy, the numbers are giving us hope, our leaders say that it will take at least until summer, maybe even into fall, before we see anything that could even resemble normality. Still, those days will come, and Venice will again welcome the tourists for a week or a weekend of magic.

Some of the links to the hotels for sale are affiliates. Not that I believe anyone will make any traveling in these dark times. But still, if you should book through my link, I will get a small commission, at no extra cost for you

So, how about planning ahead?

How about starting a new career?… As a hotel-owner? It’s not difficult to imagine what a full year without tourists has done for the travel industry in Venice. The economy in Italy, just as everywhere else, has suffered a lot. But the travel business took the hardest blow. And in a city like Venice, There’s not much else that drives the commerce.

An old saying goes something like this: If someone loses, someone else wins. If hotel owners are bankrupt, maybe here’s an occasion for anyone who has money and is interested in making the deal of a lifetime? Maybe right now is the time for investing in a new career… To become a hotel manager in Venice?

Hotels for sale.

hotels for sale
baglioni hotel luna

There are more than 50 hotels for sale, right now, beginning of February 2021, in Venice. And prices should be very low.

One of the most luxurious hotels in Venice was recently sold for the very low sum of €100.000.000.  The British Reuben Brothers, who have made a fortune in the aluminum business, became the happy owners of the Luna Baglioni hotel. No, the management is the same as before. It’s just the ownership that changed, the building, the walls. Possibly the Reubens saw an opportunity and seized it.

But if you don’t have a hundred million, or you just came in too late, I have good news for you. Because there are many more hotels for sale. And most of them are smaller, cheaper, and a whole lot easier to manage. Here are some examples of bargains that I’ve found…

If you’re filthy rich and just can’t figure out what to do with all your gold…

Then you should consider this offer. 

A package of three 4-star hotels, and two 3-star hotels. To that, they’ve thrown in 6 residence structures with luxury suites, apartments, and studios. All of a total of 420 rooms/apartments. As a bonus, you will have four restaurants and a bar. The package is on sale for a meager 436.000.000 euros… Negotiable. (… I figure).

Link to the real estate agent.

If you’re filthy rich but don’t want to spend it all on hotels…

hotels for saleFor 15 million euros, you can become the owner of Palazzo Contarini della Porta di Ferro. It was built in the 1400s as a residence for a branch of the Contarini family. Then it traveled through Venetian history until it became a 3-star hotel in modern times. It has 22 units divided into double rooms, suites, and bigger apartments, the largest is a huge 6 room-floor of 180 m2. It’s a very well-known label, and the rating is excellent.

When checking out hotels for sale, that’s a very important issue. Starting out by working up the ratings, compared to already have loads of stars at Bookings, Tripadvisor, and Google, is a very different path.

It has a beautiful private garden and a private dock at the canal. No restaurant, but a Breakfast lounge, so you won’t have to worry about hiring chefs and service personnel for dining. You at the reception, your wife/husband managing bookings, your son and daughter working with the PR, and a couple of guys for the breakfast and the cleaning. Yes, you could run it all by yourself on a reasonable budget.

Link to the real estate agent

If even that is too steep…

hotels for saleThen you could purchase the 3-star Cà Marinella for 4.500.000. It’s a bit less fancy, but it’s a reasonably respectable hotel. 9 rooms, doubles, and triples in a pleasant 1800-style. All have heating and Air Conditioning and the wi-fi system reaches throughout the structure.

This hotel is now co-managed with the 4-star Hotel Santa Marina. The reception of the latter is used for check-in and service. As is other facilities, like breakfast. Cà Marinella doesn’t have a kitchen or a lounge. I can’t say how these things could be arranged if you decide to buy, and not collaborate with the neighboring hotel. But as I see it, this could be an even easier step into the Hotel-business…

You run it as a B&B, with the second B in the form of a Breakfast basket on the door of the guests, or something similar. That way, and with only nine rooms, you could practically run it yourself. You prepare the baskets, your wife/husband still does the booking (… but one could manage that in a few hours, having only nine rooms). Your children does the cleaning (… they too could do that in a couple of hours between the lessons at the university). And the running-cost should be ridiculously low.

Link to the real estate agent

san polo veniceIf you’re on a really tight budget, and you can’t come up with any substantial seed money. 

Don’t let that be an obstacle. You can buy only the business, and rent the structure. That way you will not have to put up with millions. You will have to pay rent every month, but you will avoid interests on the loans. There are quite a few hotels for sale under these conditions around these days.

One is the small, but nice 2-star Hotel Henry. For 300.000 you can get your hands on the license. 6300 euro+taxes/month is the rent, but you should be able to make much more than that from bookings… At least if we get out of the lockdowns in a near future. You’ll have to make your own calculations. It just shows that even without lots of cash, you can still venture into the hotel business, and make a great new career out of it.

Link to the real estate agent

Last but not least…

They’re selling the Johnny Depp Palace. 

johnny depp's house in veniceNo, he never bought it. But rumours had it that he should, or was thinking about it, or didn’t… Or something like that. Anyway, the beautiful Palazzo Donà, or Palazzetto Sangiantoffetti Donà is for sale.

This is not a hotel. You will just live there and park your cruiser in front of the main entrance from Canal Grande. So, buying Cà Donà, you will still need another line of work. How about real estate?

The price tag is not known.

Link to the real estate agent