In my work as a businessman I travel a great deal; sometimes on long journeys with a tight schedule of meetings, and at other times with a quick dash that is over in twenty-four hours. In this type of travel, travel for work, that is, you never have as much time as you would like to visit the attractions of a place, yet I think it is nevertheless a privileged form of travel because it opens doors and offers unexpected points of view and allows you to enter into the spirit of a place directly. In these years I have been lucky enough to be able to enrich my horizons with experiences that have opened my mind and allowed me to get to know some wonderful cities, rich in culture and innovation.
It is said that Venice is unique and that the cities that are usually associated with it recall some physical aspects, its canals most of all, so we have the various – numerous – “Venices” located at the four corners of our planet.
And yet on these trips, I have happened to recognise Venice in extremely different cities, in modern cities with futuristic skyscrapers like New York or Dubai, or cities rich in traditions, like Istanbul. All cities at the origin of which and in whose history one can read that same lucid folly and ambition that led to the birth and the flourishing of Venice, that dream on water.
In this stone city rising against every sort of logic from small and swampy islands, I see some sort of spirit of affinity with Dubai, an artificial metropolis that appears like a mirage in the desert, with New York and its striving towards the sky, with the cosmopolitan Istanbul with which the Serenissima contended for trade for so many centuries.
This commonality of spirit with cities so different in size, political importance and economic weight suggests a reflection on what Venice can now represent for the world beyond its cultural value, and that is, as a model city for livability.
Some features of Venetian life taken for granted here could be answers to the problems of contemporary life in large cities, which are marked by the lack of sociality and identity and the impoverishment of relationships and sense of community.
In Venice, sociality is the style of life inherent in a pedestrian and aquatic reality; it is a small city in which you can meet people from all over the world and, thanks to its particular shape, these all interact with each other. Life in the shops, in the bacari and in the taverns, in the market and in the campi and streets is a real and genuine life, the sort of life that is lacking in modern socially dependent societies.
But the Venetian heritage is one of a humanity made fragile by the depopulation under way since the 1970s, due on the one hand to an economy reduced almost only to tourism, and on the other to the lack of a visionary and courageous vision.
Being inhabited and alive is an essential condition for Venice and the peculiarity of its daily life to be able to constitute a model of livability for the cities of the new millennium.
In the past the lagoon city was an economic power and even now it needs a strong outward-looking thrust in order to stay alive; not one steeped with nostalgia for an anachronistic model but taking advantage of new opportunities that can be adapted to the size of this city.
I believe that today this marvellous place needs a courageous revitalisation project that creates alternative activities to tourism in the historic city spaces, associated with other productive activities in the hinterland. The idea is to attract the establishment of innovative realities, perhaps thanks to a policy able to create special conditions to attract new investments. In this sense, a special status will probably be the way to go, together with a transport system that allows fast connections with the entire territory, primarily between the airport and the city centre. A diversified and innovative economy, together with the ease of moving between the workplace, home and the rest of the world would be the key to filling homes again in Venice, creating a virtuous circle.
A contemporary Venice that looks to tomorrow cannot think of surviving by exploiting its own myth and forgetting that lucid folly that saw its first rise and which must continue to nourish it. I hope that the spirit of this city of merchants, navigators and dreamers will return to set off on new routes.
Born in Venice in 1981, Marco Vidal is the CEO of the artistic perfume brand The Merchant of Venice and sales manager of the family company, Mavive SpA. He curated the Perfume Section for the Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo and recently received the Confartigianato Leone di Vetro 2019 award.