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The Venice Syndrome

A Requiem for a city that's still grand.

In Andreas Pichler’s The Venice Syndrome, you can’t see the pigeons in Piazza San Marco for the tourists. The moment the first morning barge arrives, the cobblestone streets and Rialto bridge are thronged, not with the dwindling 58,000 residents but with an equal number of daily visitors (in 2012, 20 million tourists took in the sinking city’s sights). Today locals gather at a cantina, one much less picturesque than those with inflated prices that cater to the bustling day trade. Elderly resident Tiziano reminisces about the days when people travelled less to cross sights off their bucket lists than to imbibe a culture and place, when two-week visits were the norm. Nowadays, he says, Venice day-trippers, ‘take a quick look around and go back home.’ There is no longer an off-season. Only before the first and after the last tourist boat, in the blue hour, does Venice revert to the tranquil domain of its locals. Daily preparations begin at dawn with an influx of supplies: cases of Campari and Aperol are plentiful but the residents remark that there is no longer anywhere to buy milk at night. The sinking morale due to tourism is metaphorical, but the physical effects of the island’s decay are not. Physically, the once-grand and gilded palazzi are crumbling and damaged in part due to slipshod and inept restoration efforts, and a local realtor worries about the hypocrisy of what he is selling. Venice may be sinking and progressively wetter, but its property market is on fire. Cantankerous countess Tudy Sammartini explains how she only goes to St. Mark’s at night because during the day it is full of ‘barbarians’, while in the next breath, bitterly admits that even she had to rent out the main apartment of her palazzo to tourists in order to be able to stay in her hometown. Excessive tourism can erode the soul of a place as surely as crumbling mortar. – Nathalie Atkinson, The National PostOfficial Trailer
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Directed by: 
Andreas Pichler
Running Time: 
Italian and German with English Subtitles
Screenplay by: 
Andreas Pichler, Thomas Tielsch

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