Venice is cracking up, say worried gondoliers
VENICE'S historic buildings and canals are riven with so many cracks and holes that the city resembles a giant piece of Swiss cheese, gondoliers have said.
Canal banks are crumbling and cracks are appearing in palaces along the Grand Canal, the boat operators claim.
"You only have to take a tour of the canals by boat to realise straightaway that the historic centre is like a lump of gruyere," said Aldo Reato, the head of the gondoliers' association.
He said the city was suffering because of cuts in the special grant it used to receive from Rome.
Reato's warning came after a section of canal bank close to Piazzale Roma, one of the city's main squares, collapsed.
Heritage campaigners blamed the building of a new hotel nearby.
The erosion of Venice's canal banks has been blamed in part on the increasing number of giant cruise ships which visit the World Heritage site.
An international group of heritage experts, authors and academics this week wrote an open letter to Mario Monti, the prime minister, calling for ships of more than 40,000 tons to be banned from St Mark's Basin and the Giudecca Canal.
They said the city's unique architectural fabric was damaged by "the increasing, invasive and uncontrolled presence" of enormous cruise liners in the lagoon.
Partha Dasgupta, a professor of economics at Cambridge University and a signatory of the appeal, said: "Venetians have to have some capability of controlling visitors, as is done in the Galapagos Islands." (© Daily Telegraph, London)