Monday, May 12, 2014

Today is Your Last Chance to Buy a Venetian Island for 99 Euro

"We show our faces, but Mr X doesn't": A recent post on the Poveglia Per Tutti Facebook page contrasts the transparent and communal aims of the group to the unknown aims and identity of the higher bidder for Poveglia
What is supposed to be the final stage of the auction of the abandoned lagoon island of Poveglia a short distance west of Lido will take place tomorrow, and I'm sorry to have been so busy lately as not to have posted something sooner.

Two bidders for the island emerged from the first part of the auction on May 6: the civic group Poveglia per Tutti (Poveglia for Everyone), with an initial bid of 160,000 euro, and an anonymous bidder known only as "User_10801a9e" who offered 513,000 euro. A couple of different identities have been put forth about the exact identity of this larger bidder, and in both cases "Mr X" or "Mr 513" (as the local papers now call him) is in the business of building luxury hotels.

Of course the fear of yet another private luxury tourist destination is what spurred the creation of Poveglia per Tutti. (Incidentally, about a year and half ago I saw a headline in the local paper that announced that the 5 star San Clemente Palace on the lagoon island of that name was going belly up, lest anyone be too quick to believe the popular fantasy that any luxury development in this New Gilded Age of ours is bound to be a rousing success. A Turkish firm purchased it in fall 2013).

Within three days after the first stage of the auction, Poveglia per Tutti had nearly doubled its bankroll, with contributions not just from city residents, but from people around the world. But as of today it still seems to have some ways to go to reach the baseline bid of 513,000 euro with which tomorrow's auction will begin.

For more about the auction, the island, and the bidders, see yesterday's piece in the NY Times:

A lot of Venetians I encounter are heartened by the efforts of Poveglia per Tutti. It seems all-too-easy for Venetians to believe that many of their fellow residents have given up hope of retaining any part of the city for themselves, have succumbed to the necessity of earning a living in a relentlessly touristic monoculture, have simply been worn down by forces that seem far too massive and relentless to oppose. After all, it seem that the selling off of public lands to private or corporate interests has been the goal, and is now the crowning achievement, of the last 30 or 40 years of international political and economic policy.

If you want to take a stand with Poveglia per Tutti, you can read about their project (in English, Italian, French, Russian, Spanish or German) and make a contribution at:

If the group is not successful in its bid for the island, your contribution less 19 euro will be returned to you.

Another recent post on the Poveglia per Tutti Facebook page shows the increase in contributions after the May 6 auction and asks "Mr 513" why he has not revealed his own plans for the island


  1. I wish they had asked for a range of donations. I can't afford 99€ but would have offered a lesser amount. I hope they achieve their goal and thwart another exclusive development.

    1. I think it's too late for donations now, but in the end they actually did make it possible for a range of donations through PayPal, allowing donors to donate directly to the auction fund and bypass association membership. In the event that the auction be lost, the donation (minus paypal fees) will be refunded to the donor using PayPal's refunding system.

      Let me just add that the question of whether to allow smaller donations was a much debated issue within the group. There were different camps of thought -- there were those who wanted to allow smaller donations from the beginning, in a sort of kickstarter spirit, so as to broaden the pool of donors and get more people on board. But there were others who were concerned that opening the door to small donations would amount, in practice, to an increase on the order of tens of thousands of euros, which wouldn't make a significant difference to any winning strategy for the auction (especially if bidding against an entity capable of bidding millions), but would be a potential can of worms for the association in the event of a failed bid, leaving the association with loose funds kicking around without a clear purpose. The goal was just to keep Poveglia public, it wasn't to fundraise for the sake of fundraising. And at the level of political influence the idea was that behind every membership should be a person who felt strongly enough about the issue that they invested upwards of 99 euros of their own money into it, so that the sheer number of members would make a powerful statement putting pressure on local and national elected officials. On this front, they've been quite successful.

    2. Correction: not quite too late yet. Direct donations (of any size) to the auction fund via PayPal are possible up until 11am (Italy time) May 13th at
      Membership subscriptions are also possible up to the same deadline, at

    3. Thanks Luisa. Will donate a little now.

    4. Thanks so much, Luisa, for your very informative replies to Andrew, and thank you, Andrew, for raising a very good question.