Something fishy going on in Venice?

Rumours are spreading that Venice’s famous fish market in the Rialto area of the city could be closed.
These rumours prompted a demonstration on 14 March 2011 by approximately 200 people, who were mainly merchants from the market. The demonstrators sought assurances that the fish market will not be shut. The protest was organised by a Venetian citizens’ group called ‘Venessia,’ which also staged a high-profile funeral procession declaring the death of Venice as a living city in 2009.
The threat to the Rialto fish market relates to plans to close the nearby wholesale fish market at Tronchetto, which is under redevelopment. Tronchetto is about 400 metres from the Rialto market. There is a debate about moving the wholesale fish market from Tronchetto to Fusina, which is on the mainland side of the Venetian lagoon. A new port area for cruise ships is already planned for Fusina. Merchants claim it would take two hours to transport fish by boat from Fusina to Rialto compared with the short trip to Tronchetto’s wholesale market. They believe this longer journey would drive up the price of fish and make selling fish in Rialto uneconomical.
The Mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, made a statement promising “the fish market of Tronchetto will not be moved,” which was quoted in Venice’s daily newspaper Il Gazzettino di Venezia on 10 March 2011. But protesters cast doubt on this promise with one sign on Monday’s demonstration proclaiming “Mayor’s word, sailor’s word?” In Italy, sailors are often considered untrustworthy.
Do you think the wholesale fish market should be moved from Tronchetto to Fusina? Would this threaten the fish market at Rialto? Join the debate!
Further details about the protest on Monday 14 March 2011 can be found on the ANSA website at: Venice up in arms over threat to Rialto fish market

4 Responses to “Something fishy going on in Venice?”
  1. Sharmini says:

    Hi Dominic,

    I am acquainted with a similar discussion here in Dalston, Hackney which is a host city for next years Olympics and which has been undergoing regeneration for the past year with heated opposition to many of the local Mayor’s initiatives. Some people will lose their business and livelihoods and others will miss the old familiar smells and look of the place. But there are many who welcome cleaner, more hygienic conditions, up-market shopping and eating out facilities and better public transport links. Stallholders of the busy Ridley Road market and their community supporters want to protect local business and diversity, respect local and historic character, create green open space and build high-density, low rise, affordable family housing on a human scale rather than the plush 2-bed towers dominating the new skyline. These values are debatable and I don’t necessarily agree with them. The problem is the Council espouses the same values and concerns yet in practice appears to do the opposite. This leads to accusations of hypocrisy and development for financial cost-cutting benefits rather than the needs of the community it is supposed to serve. Modernization is disruptive but often necessary. I am in favour of modernization where necessary but the issues need to be debated openly and passionately within the community, outlining the possible benefits of any new development and making sure it is carried out to the highest standards possible. Unfortunately, the modernizers are hampered by their own lack of confidence in modernization and often the community ends up with a bodged compromise that is neither modern nor appealing and creates opposition to further development down the line.

  2. Dominic Standish says:

    It is interesting to know that similar issues are relevant in a city like London, even though it is so different from Venice. I also strongly favour modernization, whether it is in London or Venice. Indeed, the development of both cities to expand through sporting or cultural events and tourism is a great opportunity for rejuvenation. With growing numbers of tourists, especially from the East, stagnating European cities can prosper by restructuring around attracting more visitors. Modernization does raise difficult challenges for city residents. Overall, I also believe residents and local city councils should embrace modernization, even if this means losing traditions such as local markets. If local people don’t want their cities to decay, they may need to put up with losing familiar sights and smells, even fishy smells!

    • Sharmini says:

      One of the arguments against developing an old city is that it is precisely those particular features like the fish market or the network of canals in Venice – smelly or otherwise, the warren of souks in old Marrakesh rather than the new town of Gueliz, the noisy ethnic markets or the 16th century facades in Hackney that draw people to these places and that modernisation often leads to sanitization and uniformity leaving an area with no distinct personality and like any other modern city. Another argument is that development is not just for tourists but also for the people who live and work in the area. I have some sympathy with these views and why I think developing an area requires a proper debate with the local community so we don’t lose what is a particular attraction. My main bugbear with town planners and developers today is that they are often mean-spirited rather than inspirational, sustainable and limiting in their horizons rather than ambitious and so even when an area requires wholesale development, what they offer may not be better. This also makes them avoid debate with the local community because they aren’t confident about winning them over.

  3. Dominic Standish says:

    I agree these issues need to be discussed for Venice and many cities worldwide, which is why your comments are helpful. In particular, you are right that it is not as simple as a straightforward defence of modernisation. Instead, many local factors need to be taken into consideration for each project and vary enormously from city to city. The more examples we can add to the discussion, the better.

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