Manifesto for Venice: Nine International Experts Put Forward A Series of Proposals For the City and Its Lagoon

January '17

Manifesto for Venice: Nine International Experts Put Forward A Series of Proposals For the City and Its Lagoon

Nine leading international experts from disciplines such as economics, ecology, politics, tourism and town planning have signed a Manifesto for Venice, an important programmatic document for use by citizens and administrators. The document consists of fourteen suggestions for safeguarding the lagoon city and guaranteeing its future. The promoters exchanged and developed ideas during the workshop on Sustainability of local commons with a global value: the case of Venice and its lagoon, held at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini on 4-5 November 2016 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the 1966 flood and aimed at analysing Venice's problems and finding feasible, practical solutions.



  1. First, a strong commitment of all interested parties (local and national officials, international groups and institutions) to a long-term strategy of both conservation and development. Setting very clear priorities and making courageous choices is a political imperative.
  2. To finalize the high water protection works, including MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, Experimental Electromechanical Module) and to implement a sound maintenance and management plan as soon as possible. Once in operation these works should make Venice and its lagoon among the best protected low lying coastal area worldwide.
  3. Elaborating a strategic plan encompassing not only the city but also its natural environment is urgent. Venice in the past was not an isolated island but a jewel both protected by and dependent upon its lagoon and “terraferma”. This milieu must be reconstructed in policy and institutional terms.
  4. A full assessment of the value that Venice represents as a public good belonging not only to its inhabitants but also to humanity as a whole, and to explore the options to mobilize international support to conserve the city.
  5. A radical policy to revive the centrality of the historic city (after all, this is what visitors and tourists come for) while allowing resources and visitors to disperse onto the “terraferma” part (including distributing tourist flows better).
  6. The flood of tourists is an emergency but it can be better managed. As temporary residents, all tourists should contribute to running, conserving and developing the city by paying a daily charge. Venice is not a museum but a living city. It needs resources to preserve its heritage and the contemporary culture and creativity it supports. It is legitimate that visitors pay their fair share to the costly running and preservation of this delicate ecosystem. At present the tourism mono-industry rewards a few private beneficiaries while the costs are unevenly distributed on local and national taxpayers. A mix of positive and negative incentives should encourage cultural tourism and longer-staying high spending guests, and minimize the damage to the city due to day tourists.
  7. It is important to go beyond the long-standing dichotomy between the historic city and its mainland (Mestre). The needs of the “two cities” should not conflict. The historic city will regain its splendor only if the mainland is also valued and “engaged with”. The solution to managing the historic centre lies in developing its surroundings. Some initiatives have to be taken: large scale investments in low cost housing both on the mainland and the historic city, well integrated into existing urban morphologies; a greater emphasis on explaining the ecological uniqueness of the lagoon in the tourist experience; investing in the infrastructure and landscape of the larger area around the lagoon; establishing centers of excellence in suburban areas; cooperating with other port authorities in the Adriatic Sea in developing the port of Venice.
  8. Venice needs new blood. Building for the future means first of all to bet and invest on the young generations. It must regenerate itself by engaging residents more and also by stimulating a new influx of permanent or quasi-permanent (students) residents.
  9. Bringing young people and families into the city requires a radical overhaul of present policies (or lack of policies) such as creating campuses in the historic city, an ambitious program of social housing and housing renovation, and allocating housing to people who cannot afford to buy or rent under the present market conditions.
  10. Venice needs to communicate differently with a focus on what it can do for the young and how the city can help them make their ambitions come true. It implies developing attractive research centers and creating incubators for start-ups and spin-offs. The underused spaces of the ‘Arsenale’, for example, could become a vast incubation center for start-ups connection to the universities and research centers.
  11. Venice can draw inspiration from cities such as Amsterdam, which built their strategies around three key elements: transportation infrastructure, the presence of world class research industries and attracting young people in the creative and technology industries. In setting up a strategy for the future, Venice has to value its cultural, natural and historical uniqueness. It should fully exploit the resources from its glorious past in art, design, restoration, craft skills, maritime heritage and culinary traditions. These should be given a new lease of life thanks to the digital revolution and creative tourism. There is no need to look for “additional” economic sectors but rather to build on historic capacities that make use of the tourist flows. The city has always been the meeting point between East and West, South and North and it should aim to recover this vocation through education, research and innovation.
  12. Last but not least, a renovated system of governance is needed to manage such a complex and fragile ecological and cultural heritage. These governing bodies require the proper instruments to protect and develop this “local commons with a global value”.
  13. A national authority in charge of regulating and overseeing the protection of the main Italian cities belonging to World Heritage (Rome, Florence, Venice) should be set up and facilitate the fight against the negative effects of an excessive tourism mono-industry.
  14. Finally, a new institution, the “Greater City of Venice” should replace the present “Metropolitan City” whose powers are minimal and unused. A proper institutional setting should be designed and implemented to give the city, the lagoon and its natural environment efficient tools of governance that reconcile the values of democracy with the need to protect and develop a world public good.

The Manifesto has been signed by Bonnie Burnham, President Emerita, World Monuments Fund; Joan Busquets, Urban Planner, Harvard University; Charles Landry, Urbanologist and Writer; Simon Levin, Ecologist, Princeton University; Yves Mény, President, Scuola Universitaria Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa; Charles Perrings, Environmental Economist, Arizona State University; Greg W. Richards, Professor of Leisure Studies, Tilburg University; Richard Sennett, Sociologist, London School of Economics; and Pier Vellinga, Climate Impact Scientist, Wageningen University.


You can find the full text of manifesto and press release here.