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Work Underway (Torcello)


I saw a "Work Underway" sign at the vaporetto landing on Torcello, but I didn’t know that this work was so controversial until I read the book, Venice: The Tourist Maze , and learned about what the locals refer to as "lo scempio di Torcello" (the ruination of Torcello). In 1999, a plan was unveiled to widen the vaporetto landing and the fondamenta along the main canal and rebuild them with modern materials. The book reports that by May 2000, posters were plastered all over Venice and other lagoon islands that read:

"Goodbye Torcello! The Magistrato alle Acque is spending 28 billion lire to devastate the island with cyclopian works in steel and reinforced concrete. Of the very ancient charm of the island there will not remain a trace. Visit it while you can, because before too long you won't recognize it anymore."


The protestors were afraid that the main motivation for the canal improvements was not to allow visitors to stroll more safely or to protect the island from high water, but rather to allow water taxis and motor boats to haul people down to the piazza. That was NOT happening in December 2008, thank goodness, and in fact, I didn’t have to walk very far to see a “Rio Chiuso” (canal closed) sign.

“The Tourist Maze” says that these protests got the work halted but much had already been done. The book was published in 2004, and I don't know what happened in between then and now but there was definitely work going on in winter of 2008. Well, there wasn't any actual work happening the day I was there, but there were signs of work (scaffolding and piles of materials laying around). In addition to the work on the canals, the famous Ponte del Diavolo or Devil’s Bridge (a bridge with no parapets) was covered with scaffolding as was the campanile of the church and the exterior of the museum. The old palazzo in the first photo above seemed to have something going on too.

A couple of views of "the cyclopian works in steel and reinforced concrete" ~



The red sidewalk IS kind of icky but the canal looks more scenic and less modern as you get closer to the piazza:



For now, I don't think that Torcello has been ruined. But if they do end up allowing motor boats in that canal, it will truly be the pits. I hope it doesn't happen.


The sign says that they are "undertaking a programme of work on Torcello to protect the island from high waters and improve the environment. The work does not affect access to the monumental area where you can visit the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the church of Santa Fosca, and the Museum of Torcello. Shops and restaurants are also open as normal. We apologise for any inconvenience...."

Venice - The Tourist Maze.
A Cultural Critique of the World's Most Touristed City

by Robert C. Davis and Garry R. Marvin

I enjoyed this book, by the way, especially the parts about the early days of Venetian tourism (in medieval times).

More about Torcello coming soon...

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Comments (11)


Wow, I will have to read that book!


As you say,Annie, the red brick is a little 'icky' but it made the walk to the centre very comfortable. I remember years ago on our first trip to La Serenissima that the paths on Torcello were dirt tracks - quite romantic but mucky! Isn't it a strange place? Very bleak and, I think, full of ghostly spirits. Regards Andrew

Between the literary descriptions and the photos, this place is one on my must see lists. Thanks for the book reference too.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, interesting post. Come to think of it I did see some equipment across the canal and wondered about that. I too think it would be bad to re-construct and give Torcello (any part of it) a new look and it would really not be good to allow the boats to travel through the canal. I enjoyed the walk from the the Vaporetto stop to the main center and as you said it wasn't that far of a walk . I say leave the charm of Torcello alone.

I really love the photos that you took. Thanks for sharing and I am looking forward to your next entry. Have a great day today!

Thanks for your comments everyone.

LB, I think you'll enjoy the book!

Andrew, thanks! That is so interesting to learn that it used to have mucky trails. Love the idea of ghostly spirits around - they are benign spirits for sure (I really love Torcello!).

Menuhune, I think you will love Torcello and hope you get there soon.

Kathy, I agree. I can understand that some improvements are needed but it's a fine line. So far, Torcello remains very charming (and I hope it stays that way). No motorboats!


Interesting! I'm pretty cynical so I'd find it easy to suspect the worst, and worry that these works are for more than simply environmental improvements!

I love the use of the word, cyclopian. I haven't seen it used before, but it certainly conjures up the image of something huge and ghastly.

The book, offering a cultural critique, also sounds very interesting, I'll have to see if I can find it at the library.

Interesting post and photos! I hope to visit Torcello while it still possible to walk to the main piazza without motorboats roaring on the canal.

Sandra, I love that word too - very effective plus something about it makes me laugh.

Maria, me too. It's so peaceful there; I would hate to see that ruined. If they feel the need to offer boat rides to visitors, they could just use gondolas!

Thanks for the book recommendation. Wow, more reasons to go see Torcello!

I would also be among the protesters, I hate it when they "mess" with beautiful sites.I always find it hard to believe their reasons.

Love the photos.

Very interesting post, although I have never been there I sure hope they don't start allowing lots of motor boats going up those small canals!

Gorgeous photos! I really love the 2nd and the 6th ones with the building reflected in the water. I hope Torcello stays protected. That would be so sad if it was ruined by the motor boats and to many people.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 20, 2009 2:21 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Sunday Small Bites: Pecans.

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