Venice, in common with many beautiful places, is subject to a terrible paradox: it needs a stream of visitors to fund its upkeep, but those visitors, their feet and fingers, their breath and sweat, are partly to blame for making the upkeep necessary. So it’s little wonder that the city’s inhabitants and elected officials have a somewhat ambivalent attitude to the camera-toting grockles who come to gawp at the loveliness. The mayor, Giorgio Orsini, seems to have decided that, all things considered, the bloody tourists are more trouble than they’re worth, hitting back at those who complain that many of the best bits are hidden by giant billboards. “What difference does it make if the scaffolding shows a picture of the building underneath or an advert,” he asks. “If people want to see the building they should go home and look at a picture of it in a book.”
Maybe he’d rather they went to the Venetian in Las Vegas, that Simulacrum of Sighs, the Likeness of Lagoons in the middle of a bloody desert. Or, better still, the version in Macao, which copies the Vegas Venice rather than the Venice Venice. And doubtless, in the coming years, a succession of Venetians in Rio and Riyadh and Reykjavik, anti-Xeroxes, each one brighter and sharper and more hyperreal than the last. While the real Venice, the first Venice, sinks beneath the water, forsaken and forgotten, the last sound to come from it being a bubbly entreaty from Mayor Orsini, trying to sell you one last overpriced postcard.