Friday, July 12, 2013

Teatro Marinoni Revisited, Part 1

A view of Teatro Marinoni from its balcony
A lot has changed at Teatro Marinoni on Lido since I first wrote a post about it in January 2012 ( nothing has changed.

Teatro Marinoni is a part of the large Ospedale al Mare medical complex on the northeastern end of Lido. Devoted to the treatment of tubercular patients for most of the 20th Century, a very few of the buildings were still in use--my son saw an optometrist there just over a year ago--when the city of Venice sold the whole property to Est Capital in 2010 for 94 million euro.  Est Capital had previously bought the famous Hotel Des Bains (the setting of Mann's Death in Venice) in order to convert it into luxury condos (still in process), and has similarly "exclusive" beach-front development plans for the ex-Ospedale.

The problem with these plans, and the sale, is that the hospital complex includes Teatro Marinoni, pictured above, which was funded by Dr Mario Marinoni and designated as a gift to the residents of Venice to be used in the interests of the public good. Therefore, a group of Venetians has argued since the fall of 2011, Teatro Marinoni cannot be sold to a private developer without expressly violating the terms of Dr Marinoni's bequest.

Late in 2011 some Venetians began occupying Teatro Marinoni, not only living in it as "squatters," but developing an entire program of free public events--musical performances, dance, theater, and workshops of every kind for both adults and children--that would be in keeping with Marinoni's original vision of the space as dedicated to public well-being and community building. These events continue and the group's commitment to them is unchanged.

One of the things that has changed since I first wrote of the place is those few buildings that were still in use at the time of my original post have now been abandoned as well. And I mean abandoned as people are wont to abandon buildings when a tidal wave is heading their way, or a zombie apocalypse, with all kinds of personal and medical materials left behind (including x-rays and records), as you can see in the recently-taken photos on the following Polish blog:

The western exterior of Teatro Marinoni at high noon, with its recently boarded-up windows
Another thing that has changed is that the large garden courtyard and driveway to the west of Teatro Marinoni was torn up last spring, as you can see in the photos above and below. Depending upon whom you talk to, this was done either because there was a legitimate concern that the area might be contaminated with asbestos, or because the premise of such contamination was an excellent way of funneling a huge contract for the job to a well-connected company. Either way, no contamination was discovered and the area now serves as a sunken campground.

Tent, beach chair, and a salvaged massage table in the middle of what was once a garden courtyard
A third thing that has changed is that the windows on the ground floor of the building where the theater is situated were boarded up by il comune for reasons of "security." I'm not sure exactly how city officials would have defined this "security," but a young woman I spoke to who lives in Teatro Marinoni said that if all those boards ruined the view from the theater, they at least gave the squatters a sense of privacy and even of protection.

Some of the derelict buildings of the ex-Ospedale al Mare
Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Teatro Marinoni have been busy themselves. When I first visited, their focus was, understandably enough, on fixing up the inside of the building, but in recent months they've cultivated the eastern side, or sea side, of the property. With neither running water nor electricity inside the building, all food preparation and cooking is done outside, near a kitchen sink constructed beside the property's only water spigot, and a vegetable garden. The photos below show the outdoor accommodations, constructed in an area I remember as being an inhospitable mess of scrub. 

But for all of the changes I've mentioned, nothing about the status of Teatro Marinoni has changed since I first wrote of it in January 2012. The property remains in private hands and the residents occupy it illegally, tolerated by the police--who regularly pass by the property at night--and by city officials. But more about that, along with photos of the inside of the building, in the next post, Part 2.

The view east, toward the Adriatic

The outdoor kitchen sink
The outdoor dining room, which includes a gas stove
"Banano, Banano," the sign says, "qui cresci forte e sano." [Banano, Banano, here you grow strong and healthy]


  1. so you think the inhabitation is a productive....or not.

    1. I think it is productive, Teri, in the sense that they do put on free events that are worthwhile and are of interest and even benefit to the community--which is hugely different from what Est Capital plans to do with the property. Also, in spite of their lack of funds, they really have made the area much nicer than it was.

  2. When we were in New York in May, an building that has become sort of communal (but not as far as squatters like these) and popular with the locals--Five Pointz in Brooklyn--has just been purchased by a businessman with a view to turning into high-end condos (it has a view of Manhattan). It is a stunning example of "aerosol art" and kept my husband and I busy for more than an hour taking photo after photo. While this building has no intrinsic worth, as does your Teatro, it does seem like this cycle goes on everywhere, yes?

    I really enjoy your blog. Because of you, when we were in Venice last November, we went to see the "most beautiful painting" in Venice, and really enjoyed ourselves. (

    Elizabeth E.

    1. It certainly does seem to go on everywhere, Elizabeth. Of course in NYC, for example, luxury condos which were formerly the site of artistic activity seem especially popular as they come with an "artsy aura" about them. Never mind that anything artistic, as well as the artists themselves, have been eradicated by the developer... It's ridiculous.

      I'm very happy to hear that you liked the "most beautiful painting"--it's always a relief to find I didn't give someone a "bum steer"--and thanks for your kind comments.

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