Behind Venice’s Ads, the Restoration of Its Heritage
By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO
Published: September 18, 2010
VENICE — Legend has it that the Bridge of Sighs, which connects the Palazzo Ducale here to an ancient prison, got its name because it gave convicts on the way to serve their sentences a last glimpse of the limpid lagoon.
The view today, however, is more likely to be a gargantuan billboard on a blue sky of tarpaulin touting Bulgari or Coca-Cola.
Behind the cloud-studded blue are the facades of fragile monuments under restoration; those structures are also the beneficiaries of the advertising revenue.
But when the Coke billboards went up this summer on buildings that abut the Piazza San Marco — the historic and, perhaps more to the point, touristic, heart of Venice — there was an explosion from outraged Venetians.
“We couldn’t stay quiet,” said Maria Camilla Bianchini d’Alberigo, president of a heritage protection association. “Too much is too much.” Her organization, the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, denounced the intrusiveness of the ads, setting off the public debate.
“What’s missing is a set of criteria that makes the advertising compatible with the environment so that the buildings are not offended, and so that they are still visible,” she said.