Vene­tian is­lands re­vamp tra­di­tions

Antelope Valley Press - - SECOND FRONT - By COLLEEN BARRY

VENICE, Italy — The Vene­tian is­land of Bu­rano’s charms are rooted in its fish­ing legacy: the col­or­ful fish­er­men’s cot­tages, the tra­di­tional but­ter cook­ies that kept fish­er­men go­ing at sea and the del­i­cate lace hand-stitched by their women.

But as the is­land’s pop­u­la­tion dwin­dles, like that of Venice it­self a 40-minute boat ride away, so do the num­bers of skilled ar­ti­sans who keep the tra­di­tions and econ­omy alive.

To counter the trend, Venezia Na­tiva, an as­so­ci­a­tion of en­trepreneur­s on Bu­rano and two neigh­bor­ing is­lands, is try­ing to breathe fresh life into old trades to at­tract new res­i­dents and per­suade young is­lan­ders to stay.

Domenico Rossi, 49, is a crab fish­er­man, like his an­ces­tors back to the glory days of the Vene­tian Re­pub­lic.

But that way of life is dy­ing. When Rossi was a boy, about 100 fish­er­men plied the North­ern Vene­tian la­goon for soft-shell crabs. Now, he’s the youngest of the 20 still op­er­at­ing, and he fig­ures in a cou­ple of decades there will be none left.

“Once we dis­ap­pear, Venice dis­ap­pears,’’ the Bu­rano na­tive said.

Still, he has for­bid­den his 18-year-old son to take up the trade, seek­ing to pro­tect him from long hours, un­cer­tain prof­its and the threat of tight­en­ing fish­ing reg­u­la­tions.

His son is train­ing to be a chef. And Rossi is trans­form­ing his own work into a tourist at­trac­tion, bring­ing small groups on boat tours in the off-sea­son.

Venice has long sounded the alarm about be­ing re­duced to a liv­ing mu­seum, as tourism mush­rooms and pop­u­la­tion lev­els shrink, threat­en­ing the city’s vi­a­bil­ity. Per­ma­nent res­i­dents in the his­toric cen­ter — which in­cludes St. Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal — have sunk to 53,000, down by a third in one gen­er­a­tion.

About 1,000 peo­ple leave each year for cheaper, eas­ier liv­ing in the city’s main­land dis­tricts. With them, the so­cial fab­ric of the city wears, the num­ber of neigh­bor­hood stores of­fer­ing sta­ples dwin­dles — as do public ser­vices.

On Bu­rano and its two neigh­bor­ing is­lands of Maz­zorbo and Tor­cello, the im­pact of de­pop­u­la­tion is even more ev­i­dent. Res­i­dents cur­rently num­ber 2,700, drop­ping by 60 a year.

Just 40 years ago, there were two el­e­men­tary schools with about 120 chil­dren in each grade. Each now has no more than a dozen.

About 30 is­land busi­ness own­ers are try­ing to se­cure the North­ern la­goon’s fu­ture by re­launch­ing lo­cal trades and en­cour­ag­ing sus­tain­able tourism.


In this im­age taken on Thurs­day, peo­ple walk at the Bu­rano is­land, Italy.

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