There were several stories during the year that I mentioned on the blog and now might be a good time to recap where they stand as of now.
First, we have the infamous 4th bridge over the Grand Canal. Back in July I think it was, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to get a glimpse of the curved arch of the bridge being transported down the Grand Canal. Almost a decade behind in completion and uncountable millions of euros over budget, it was due to be finished by December 1 last year. Here we are at the end of April and it is still unknown when the first person will be able to walk over it. Despite the insanity of it all, they seem to be concerned now about the fact that all the steps are in glass and someone might just camp out under the bridge to look up girls skirts! How about we try to finish the bridge before we worry about silly things like that?
Second, we have the never-ending vermin problem (i.e. pigeons) in St. Marks Square. The seed vendors were to be out of there by April 1 and as of today, they are still happily selling to tourists. They have lost their appeal and are to be shut down (again) by May 1. This, of course, remains to be seen. The interesting part of this case is that the government has said they would pay the vendors the cost of lost revenue for putting them out of business!!!!! How does one calculate that (because I can assure you that they arent keeping records) and for what period of time does one get reimbursed (for 1 year, for 20 years, until you die)?
Third, last September, Venice initiated a new card for monthly vaporetto travel. Its called IMOB. And by November of last year, everyone was to have this new monthly pass type credit card and be swiping it on the newly installed machines at every vaporetto stop. Well, November has come and gone, not everyone has the pass, the literature explaining how the machines work hasnt even been printed to distribute and there are only 2 (count them 2) techs in the whole city who can install, fix, explain whatever about the machines! The electronic tickets can only be purchased at certain places because those 2 techs havent made it around to all the tobacco shops (who normally sell these sort of things) to install and train them. The new deadline of May 1 doesnt really seem plausible now does it? I guess they will be using paper tickets for a while yet, eh?
Fourth, the elusive street vendors strike again! It really is a comedy routine. You have all of these African men hawking fake Prada and Gucci bags to tourists and once in a blue moon you will see a 'sting' operation where the police will half-heartedly go after these guys making them disperse in all directions and possibly nabbing one (only to release him in a few minutes) and a few bags in the process (which I imagine they take home to their mom or wife or girlfriend). Then weeks and weeks go by with the police turning the other way as they walk past these illegal sellers. Now, surprisingly, the Guardia di Finanzia (the special police force in charge of business regulations) has informed us (the public) that these men are selling illegally made goods! Egads, say it isnt so! Is there a point to this story? Probably not, other than to say that it goes much deeper than the surface picture. These guys will be selling here forever because someone is making money off of them somewhere and in good Italian style, officials are being corrupted and paid off to make sure the illicit bags will remain.
And finally, my internet. As you have probably guessed by now, I still have the connection! I mailed them a letter describing in detail the events of the last 6 weeks (i.e. how I have tried to end my service and return their modem) and also explained to them that I would not be paying the charge they tried to put on my credit card for service through May 2008! I wonder how long I will have to keep denying charges on my card before they figure it out?
So there you have it....some things change but not in Venice...or at least not very quickly. A year has come and gone and so much has been seen and experienced by my eyes and yet, so much remains the same. But as frustrating as some of it can be, its also part of the charm of the place I have called home for the last year.