Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Height of Conspicuous Consumption: Cipriani's Dinner in the Sky

There's no shortage of cranes in Venice, but only one with a (very small) load of diners
Behold, above, the newest ride at Veniceland!

At least that's been the reaction of many Venetians to the "Dinner in the Sky" rig suspended 164 feet (50 meters) above the pool of Hotel Cipriani and promising fine dining on a rotating platform. Actually, the little promotional video on the Cipriani website promises nothing less than flight itself with the following "poetical" lines and soaring Broadway strains (in every sense of that word):

Once you have learned how to fly
You will walk on earth looking up at the sky
Because it's there you have been
And there you will wish to return to

(I find myself hoping this is a bad translation of what sounded better in the original Italian, but I doubt it.)

More mundanely, it will run you 50 euro per person to have a crane--pardon the construction worker phrasing, but it's apt--haul your ass skyward, where you'll be allowed to dangle for 30 minutes enjoying "apertifs and finger food." Which I suppose is much better than bird feed, but that "finger food" is a bit of a let-down after the celestial overtures of the promo.

Or for 250 euro per person you'll be treated to a three-course dinner, with wines, while you gaze down on the amusement park Magic Kingdom state fair legendary city below. You'll have one hour up there among the stars, beside the industrial crane, and you'll be seat-belted into your seat. You can forget about slipping away to the restroom to powder your nose or attend to any other needs. 


Like others "attractions" of this sort, Dinner in the Sky is only here temporarily (from 19-23 June) and, like any other carnival ride, has traveled widely. It's done previous stints in Paris, London, Dubai, Las Vegas, Sydney, Monaco and Brussels. None of which stops (not even London or Paris) will in any way soothe the injured pride of a Venetian worried that his city has basically been turned into Atlantic City, as a true Venetian (even 200 years after the collapse of its toothless Republic) will readily admit that he or she considers every non-Venetian un campagnolo (a peasant, rube, or hick)--including Parisians and Londoners.


What surprised me last night, when I took these photos during the 8 pm feeding (there's a second one at 9:30), was how very few people looked to be seated around the table. I don't have a zoom lens, but based upon the cropped photo above (taken from the #2 vaporetto), and the cropped photo at bottom (taken on foot some distance behind the church of Zitelle), the chef and two waiters equal or nearly equal the number of diners.

Hotel Cipriani diners at the edge of the Giudecca Canal and in the air above
Suetonius, in his biographies of the Caesars, describes how Roman emperors loved to be entertained as they ate, and as the empire became increasingly more unsustainable and the emperors more and more erratic, these entertainments became more extreme, involving live sex acts, torture, and murder. I suspect that in the infamously-decadent Venice of the 18th-century it might not have been too difficult to arrange for people to, ahem, perform while one ate. Venice these days is no longer the erotic inferno it once was: more Coney Island than Caligula. But there's little comfort in that. What many Venetians fear is that what the diners suspended above Hotel Cipriani are paying to observe while they eat is the sight of a once-great city in its death throes--the silly rotating rig they're strapped into just another of the fatal symptoms.

It's lonely at the top--and with no chance that someone interesting might slide into the empty seat beside you

19 comments:

  1. The good folks at venessia.com will no doubt come up with one of their satirical rejoinders to this latest bit of buffoonery.

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  2. ah ah, that's really "over the top" in such a bad way... yeah, can't wait to see what the venessia.com will make of this.

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    1. Yvonne & Tania: I saw some satire of it somewhere--maybe it originated on Venessia.com--that showed a large roller coaster in the foreground and Venice in the background, and had an Italian text about the fine meal that would be served to one while one rode the roller coaster. I think at least one commenter was unsure whether it was a joke or not; and after the silly thing at the Cipriani, I can understand why they would be unsure.

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  3. I can just think of SO many better ways to spend 250 euro (or even the 50 euros) in Venice

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    1. Good point, Mary, much better and more interesting ways. (Though given my fear of heights, simply burning it would count as better in my book.)

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  4. I think the hotels have to employ such gimmicks to keep the clients happy, because posing as a refined grand dame of VIP-tourism is no longer an option.

    I remember seeing the suites in the Capri Palace hotel - Audrey Hepburn Suite, Maria Calls Suite, all of them are tastefully decorated and should appeal to the high class of clientelle.

    At the shelves in these rooms were the paperbacks left by the recent guests. Not Plutarch or Petrach. There was a "100 Sexiest SMS", a couple of books of the Russian cut-rate Frédéric Beigbeder - Sergey Minaev (who writes in a prose you'll wonder how THIS can be published), some other mindless trash.

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    1. Trash books in expensive suites don't surprise me--though Plutarch or Petrarch would be a complete shock--but it's hard to believe that there's no place nowhere that do without trash gimmicks. Is it possible that everyone everywhere, regardless of how much money they have to burn, wants to be treated as if they're in Las Vegas?

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    2. Just a couple days ago I saw the documentary The Queen Of Versailles.
      The people there, a timeshare mogul and his "trophy wife" seem to be perfectly content with living immersed in kitsch. They don't plan to send their 8 children to some school to learn good manners and upgrade culturally. They are happy the way they are. And there is a lot of people out there who doesn't feel inferior because they like consuming trash things and experiences.

      I'm a travel agents, and some of my clients stay at Cipriani, I know the profile of these people. They'd see nothing weird in this "sky dining".

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    3. I hadn't heard of The Queen of Versailles, but have looked it up, Sasha... Having, unfortunately, seen smaller-scale versions of it all-too-often in the US, I don't think I'll watch it, but it's good to know about it. Aside from all the other things one might say about people like those building their own Versailles (and isn't it amazing what a complete ignorance of history allows one to do & say?), it's remarkable how their projects so often fail even on their own hedonistic terms: that is, they don't really seem to ENJOY anything.

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  5. Definetely too many objects travelling around in the air where in principle only birds should enjoy this rights. This new game allows people to feel like some kind of "drones". I still hope seagulls and pigeons in Venice will revolt against this further invasion of their space.

    I am still afraid about the next invasion, the infamous Cardin tower.

    Hope to see you soon in venice.

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    1. I'm afraid it's hard to avoid being a "drone" of one kind or another these days, Francesco, but, actually a concerted effort by pigeons and/or seagulls easily would have allowed them to reclaim their airspace from the few diners above Hotel Cipriani.

      But the Cardin tower, it was just announced, has been called off! It will not be built.

      Forse a presto...

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    2. I just read your good news about the Cardin tower and my day is definetely brighter! (well, here where I actually live the sky is the same color as usual - shades of grey - but that's another story). See you soon.

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    3. Your comment, Francesco, makes me think that it's largely thanks to metaphor that we can tolerate the climate of certain places. A presto.

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  6. Great post, wonderful photos:) Greetings

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    1. I'm glad you liked it, ZM, thanks for your comment.

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  7. That is so sad. If it weren't that I grew up there and my family and friends are still there, I wouldn't visit Venice any longer, it is becoming a circus act. The only time it come somehow close to the amazing city I grew up in is just before Christmas when most people don't travel.

    Just found your blog, I will now go read more.

    Thank you!

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    1. It means a lot to me, Laura, that someone who was born and raised in Venice might find something of interest in my blog, so thanks very much to you for your comments.

      It seems to be harder and harder for Venice and its culture to survive and yet, on the edges, I think it does in some ways, don't you? There are still Venetians here--a small colony within what should be and is their own city--but it's almost as if they must live "underground", almost like fugitives in their own home.

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    2. Just read your response...

      I have to say that it makes me happy to read blogs like yours because it shoes that life goes on, like in the case of the tango in Sant'Elena, what a trip! Last time we were in Venice and went sailing with my dad, I noticed how that part of Venice was almost void of tourists, and I thought that if I ever consider owning property there I would give Sant'Elena some consideration.

      Keep on writing, I love reading your posts.

      Grazie!

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    3. Yes, Laura, Sant' Elena is one place not (yet) over-run by tourists. To keep it that way I sometimes think they should post sentry boxes by the fermata stop and on each of the 2 bridges leading to it to limit the number of non-residents who enter it on foot: only so many people who speak no Italian are allowed each day... Luckily it is the "new" Venice and of little interest to most people who come here. Unfortunately, real estate is still expensive here!

      Thank you again for your kind remarks and encouragement!

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