New Venice hotels on mainland, not in palaces
Another Venetian palace was put up for sale on 31 March 2011. Palazzo Stern is being sold by the Italian Health Authority ASL, as reported by Massimo Scattolin in the newspaper La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre (31 March 2011). This decision followed recent announcements that three other Venetian palaces (Dubois, Bacchini and Corner) would be converted into hotels (La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre, 25 March 2011, Alberto Vitucci). As it happens, Palazzo Stern had already been functioning as a hotel since 2003 under the management of the Dazzo family, who had rented it from ASL. Yet the sale of Palazzo Stern follows a pattern of Venetian palaces being sold and potentially restructured as high-class hotels.
The following palaces have been sold for this purpose: Palazzo Garzoni, Palazzo Genovese, Palazzo Nani Mocenigo, Palazzo Ruzzini Priuli, Palazzo Sagredo and Palazzo Soranzo Piovene. A new hotel Pesaro Palace recently opened in the Palazzo Rava Giustinian at Ca’ D’Oro and the Ca’ da Mosto Palace has also been earmarked to become a hotel. Most of these palaces are situated on the Grand Canal. To become hotels, they require major internal restructuring, including the construction of bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, meaning that part of Venice’s heritage will be lost forever. The restructuring of palaces to become hotels should be rejected. If individuals cannot afford the upkeep of palaces, the state or consortia of investors could fund their use as offices, museums, galleries, libraries or educational institutions.
Venice does need new hotels if the city is going to take advantage of growing numbers of tourists visiting the city as a vital source of revenue to improve. However, new hotels can be constructed on the mainland bordering the lagoon. From there tourism could be spread from central Venice to islands throughout the lagoon, along the waterways of the 600km (373 miles) Litoranea Veneta, to Treviso, Vicenza, Padua and Palladian villas across the countryside. There is great a proposal to build a 65-metre-high hotel in the area vincolata dal Palav on the mainland near the lagoon. But Venice’s Safeguarding Commission announced it would block this hotel project (La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre, 16 March 2011, Enrico Tantucci).
Conservationist organisations, traditions and laws have meant not enough accommodation has been built in Venice. These organisations, traditions and laws are adding to pressure on companies to transform Venetian palaces into hotels.
It is a sad irony that conservationist opposition to building new hotels is leading to the loss of ancient palaces and the concentration of tourism in Venice’s historical center. We propose constructing new hotels on the mainland near the lagoon to develop tourism, while finding new roles for Venice’s ancient palaces. It is perfectly possible to combine preserving Venice’s ancient heritage with modernisation.