Thursday, February 6, 2014

Long Time No See: Ala Napoleonica, Piazza San Marco

I believe it was less than a month ago that I saw two headlines in a local newspaper about the large billboard covering much of the Ala Napoleonica wing at the western end of Piazza San Marco. The larger of the two announced what everyone in Venice has long known: that work behind it was completed and the scaffolding was (over)due to come down. A second slightly smaller headline a bit further down the page declared that the director of the Museo Correr had suggested that the scaffolding and billboard might remain anyway, as the museum needed the revenue it provided.

The first headline gave me a few moments of hope that after four years of being hidden behind ugly advertisements the western end of the Piazza would finally be uncovered. The second was enough to reaffirm my belief that in spite of vocal and ongoing objections to the billboard by prominent groups and individuals, it would remain forever.

So imagine my surprise when I entered Piazza San Marco this morning and saw the above sight. I imagined at first that they were simply in the process of changing the billboard from one gross garishness to another, but, no, upon closer inspection I found the scaffolding really was being taken down.

Though I've lived here since November 2010, and visited at the beginning of that same year, I hadn't seen the Piazza without the billboard since my prior visit to the city, way back in the early 1990s. Jen and Sandro, having first seen the Piazza during that February 2010 visit and having lived here for over 3 years, had never seen the Piazza without a billboard.

After so many uninterrupted days of rain, the long-awaited reappearance of the sun today seemed almost miraculous--but nothing compared to the reappearance of the western end of the Piazza San Marco from behind its massive billboard. The rain is forecast to be back tomorrow; here's hoping that all billboards in the Piazza are gone for good.

One can finally see the empty spot at the center of the Napoleon Wing where a statue of the French conqueror was supposed to go
A worker lowers a piece of the scaffolding to his colleagues below


  1. You're lucky at only four years. It was ten years before my wife and I saw the clock tower!

    1. Well, Tom, that does put it in perspective. But as I believe there were no massive ads on the clock tower scaffolding as it was being renovated, can I claim that the huge billboard on the Ala Napoleonica made it seem twice as long as it was?

  2. I am on the same page as Tom in re the clock tower. It was scaffolded on my first trip in 2002. On our last visit in 2012, we took the tour and would recommend it to anyone. Great photos from that viewpoint.

    Am glad to see that awful ad coming down but it looks as though some stage is being erected in Piazza San Marco - at least according to the Hotel Concordia webcam.

    1. I've still never been inside the clock tower, Chris, your comment is a very good reminder to go. I'll have to do it soon.

      The stage they're putting up is for Carnevale festivities, which is kind of funny, as one of the first thoughts I had when I saw them taking down the billboard was how lucky those coming for Carnevale would be this year to finally see the Piazza without huge obstructions. I forgot about the stage, whose massive videoscreen often loops commercials during the course of Carnevale. Sometimes even during the course of onstage performances, which is a little odd.