Frequently Asked Questions

How the restoration money gets spent

How much longer for Venice?

What does Venice in Peril do?

Why do we need to spend money on restoration?

What research work does Venice in Peril support?

How can I help?

What are the benefits of Venice in Peril membership?

How much does Venice in Peril membership cost?

How the restoration money gets spent
Venice in Peril is one of the 50 or so Private Committees working for Venice. All the restoration projects carried out by Venice in Peril take place through the "UNESCO-Private Committees Programme for the Safeguarding of Venice". This Programme relies on the close collaboration of three main partners:

The Superintendencies, the local organs of the Ministry of Culture and so responsible for conservation of the city's architectural, environmental, artistic, historical and archaeological heritage. The Superintendencies' architects and art experts plan and direct restorations themselves when the work is financed from the ministerial budget; otherwise their job is to supervise work planned and directed by others. In the case of projects sponsored under the UNESCO-Private Committees Programme, the Superintendencies provide comprehensive planning and direction of all work (as if they were using State funds). This exceptional service provides a guarantee to the Italian people that the work is done to standards set by the Italian authorities themselves. It also represents substantial savings to the sponsors. Every year the Superintendencies propose a number of restoration projects to the Programme, ranging widely in type, scale, cost and location. The Superintendencies may also agree to plan and direct restorations proposed by the Programme.

The Private Committees select and provide finance for the Programme's projects, singly or in ad hoc groupings. Committees are entirely free to choose the projects they wish to finance. There are a few simple prerequisites: the object of the restoration is not normally privately owned; it should be of some monumental, artistic, historical or cultural importance; no other finance is available; it must, at least after the restoration, be accessible to the general public.
 
UNESCO provides the administrative framework for the Programme and acts as a kind of international trustee. In return for an absolute guarantee that all necessary funds will be placed in a tied UNESCO bank account, the Organization agrees to provide sponsorship for specific projects. This formality triggers the relationship with the Superintendencies described above and UNESCO becomes the legal commissioner of all work and the recipient of all invoices. Because of the Organization's inter-governmental status, the invoices do not attract Value Added Tax. Invoices are paid when the Superintendency and the financing Committee concerned declare that the work has been satisfactorily completed.
 
How much longer for Venice?
Venice and its lagoon are an ecologically fragile man-made habitat that has always required careful intervention to survive. The conditions are now much less favourable than in the past because of centuries-long, ongoing subsidence-about 8cm  (3 inches) a century- that means the water is now too high in the city and will rise higher. As you go down the Grand Canal, notice how many of the steps up to the entrances of the palazzi are now unusable because they are submerged.

The lagoon is also deeper and stormier than in the past due to its ecological degradation. And then there will be sea level rise, and while no one knows yet how this will affect the Adriatic, it is highly unlikely to be good news for Venice.

The mobile barriers currently under construction (estimated completion date 2014) will protect the city against any extreme weather events and the current, frequent small floods, but cannot mitigate this chronic problem, for which a solution has yet to be devised. Unless there is the political will for long term investment of money and research into this, Venice will gradually suffer more and more costly structural damage from the water.  It might well become largely uninhabitable in the next century.

What does Venice in Peril do?
Since it was created after the great flood of 1966, when the waters rose to nearly two metres above the mean water-level, the Venice in Peril Fund has disbursed millions of pounds for the restoration of Venetian monuments, buildings and works of art. The Fund is also committed to ensuring the sustainability of Venice, acting as a lobby group and working to find answers to some of the critical ecological, demographic and socio-economic issues facing the city.

Why do we need to spend money on restoration?

Italy is certainly not a poor country, but its artistic and built heritage is so great that there is never enough money to go round. The Venice lagoon is a uniquely complex environmental system, deeply affected by modern life itself: pollution, climate change and economic choices. The water that makes this lovely city what it is will also kill it unless we are endlessly vigilant and active in its defence. Venice in Peril tries to reach parts of the problem that might otherwise get neglected. For example, we have completely restored the exquisite 1530s Capella Emiliani with its 37 different marbles, because, being on the cemetery island of San Michele and hardly visited by tourists, it might easily have been neglected.

Our campaigns have frequently included special research or scientific exchanges. For example, the Gothic stained-glass window in SS Giovanni e Paolo was tested prior to restoration by the experts at Canterbury Cathedral and the glass laboratory on Murano.  The Loggetta at the base of the Campanile of St Mark's was restored by the expert at the Victoria & Albert Museum using pioneering techniques.

What research work does Venice in Peril support?
Our most recent publication is "The Venice Report" (2009), which investigates how many tourists can fit into Venice without overcrowding how many people really live in Venice (it is not nearly as moribond as it suits some interested parties to say); how much public money is made available by Italy for the city and on what basis, and  how the use of buildings is changing in the city was financed by Venice in Peril and compiled with the University of Cambridge. 

The issue of greatest concern to us, though,  is that there is no longterm plan on the part of the authorities for the protection of Venice from the waters, and as Dr Tom Spencer, head of the Coastal Research Unit of Cambridge University and an expert on  the threat to Venice,  has written to us, "I suspect a reactive model for Venice quickly leads to no Venice as we know it."  A further research project is being carried out with the University of Cambridge 'Why the health of the lagoon has serious implications for the City's heritage' and is due to be published in the autumn 2010. 

Between 2001 and 2004 we financed a research project at the University of Cambridge and the Consortium for the Coordination of Research into the Venetian Lagoon (CoRiLa), to bring together all the scientific work done on the flooding of Venice since 1966 and to examine the solutions proposed. The project culminated in a conference held in 2003 at Churchill College, Cambridge, where over a 130 scientists from Venice, the rest of Italy, the Netherlands, England, St Petersburg, New Orleans and elsewhere, met for three days to discuss their findings.

Their conclusion was that the city definitely needed mobile barriers at the openings between the Adriatic and lagoon, but that these only bought time, and that we all need to be planning as far ahead as 2100.

The project led to the production of an authoritative but accessible book in English and Italian editions for the layman, The Science of Saving Venice ( La Scienza per Venezia) ( Umberto Allemandi e C. 2004), We sent a copy of this to all Italian members of parliament, as well as representatives of local government. The papers of the conference have been published as  Flooding and Environmental Challenges for Venice and its Lagoon: State of Knowledge edited by C.A. Fletcher and T. Spencer (Cambridge University Press 2005).

Another book of ours, Un Restauro per Venezia (Mazzotta 2006), is a by-product of a different innovative form of cooperation between the Venice in Peril Fund and the public sector. It is the record of the restoration of an ordinary c.1800 house in Venice, the kind of building that makes up 90% of the housing stock yet is barely protected by building regulations. Venice in Peril set out to prove that a historically sensitive job could be done, using original materials and details, and still not cost more than the more usual ugly "commercial" job. The four good flats that were made have gone to people on the council's housing list.

How can I help?
If you have been happy in Venice, have experienced her magic, feel the world would be a diminished place without her; if, in short, you want to help save Venice, then please send us a donation or become a member or remember us in your will.  Alternatively you can come to one of our public events and to find out more about these, please click here.

What are the benefits of Venice in Peril membership?
Venice in Peril members enjoy a wide range of events throughout the year. Lectures, debates, conferences, gala evenings, concerts and receptions all educate, inspire and raise money for the vital work of the Fund. Members receive preferential invitations to many of these events, and members' rates on ticket prices.

How much does Venice in Peril membership cost?
All we ask for is a minimum annual donation of £50. For more about membership, and to join, click here.

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