Away from Venice's tourist flood, there is an unusual number of one particular type of shop: bathroom storesby Alexis Self / November 15, 2019 / Leave a comment
During the annual Fèsta de ła Sènsa (Feast of the Ascension) in Venice–which began in the year 1000–the Doge used to throw a consecrated ring into the Adriatic, symbolising the city’s marriage to the sea. As he did so he would utter the Latin: desponsamus te, mare, in signum veri perpetuique domini (We wed thee, sea, as a sign of true and everlasting domination). Venetians had cause to be humble. Though they established fairly effective management of the tides early in the city’s history, regular flooding reminded them who really wore the trousers.
The ceremony still takes place every May, though since 1965 the Doge’s role has been taken by the elected mayor, and the whole festival has a less religious, more performative feel to it. Perhaps this is because after 1966, when terrible flooding caused canal waters to rise by nearly two metres, leading to huge international relief efforts, the city seemed to have a handle on Mother Nature’s whims. Or that, during the same time, Venice has become less a city and more a theme park—a place to visit, not live.
Thousands of Venetians leave the city every year, and its population has declined from 175,000 in the 1940s to just over 50,000 today. Its first inhabitants picked this seemingly inhospitable location because it afforded them protection from marauding Germanic tribes sacking what remained of the Roman Empire. Today’s residents fear domination by that modern horde: tourists. Two years ago, those that remained voted overwhelmingly to ban from the lagoon cruise ships which launch thousands of faces onto the fragile archipelago every day. But even those most vehemently opposed to Venice’s touristification know they cannot break what is now a Faustian pact.
You must travel to the periphery of the main island to encounter much more than endless shops selling tatt or bars and restaurants catering almost exclusively to tourists. I visited the city for the first time two weeks ago and couldn’t help but notice the unusual number of one particular type of shop in those areas that still retain a semblance of normal Venetian life: bathroom stores.
Every one of these has a window or two proudly displaying row upon row of taps. Advertising space on the city’s water bus network isn’t exactly abundant, but…